Since we visited Auschwitz in Poland last month, I have been agonizing over how to present this on the blog. I fully expected to be able to write about this trip as I do any other, the where’s and how’s, and some personal anecdotes and feelings thrown in for good measure.
How wrong I was.
Even now, almost five weeks later, I am at a loss. I have even avoided looking at my photos as they are just so difficult to see. However, today I did look at them, and I still don’t know what to say.
What adequately describes the site where some historians estimate that over one million people were exterminated? Where suffering and despair were palpable? Where heartbreak and fear had overtaken all other emotions?
I’ve decided to make this post a photo essay instead. I’ve selected some of the images that startled me, and saddened me, and enraged me.
I think they speak for themselves, which is a good thing, because I have no words.
Mug shots lined the hallways.
The prosthetics, crutches and other aids that were taken from the prisoners.
The shoes that were taken from the babies and children.
Xyklon B canisters.
The suitcases they packed.
One of many gas chambers. The prisoners were told these were showers.
Nowhere to run.
End of the line.
People would hide in the latrine for some peace and quiet.
Six or more people slept here at one time.
Beautiful countryside with an ugly past.
These trees bore witness.
No way out.
Have you visited Auschwitz or someplace like it? How did you feel? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment sections below.
Jeremy Crouch says
Never been to a place like that. My kids and I watched a documentary not to long ago about the subject. They are 12 and 13. I wasn’t sure how they would take it or if I should let them watch it at all. It’s a subject everyone should be aware of. We all watched it in silence. Lots of questions afterwards some of which I did not know how to answer.
Great pictures. They say it all Cate.
Lovely pictures, lovely piece. You might want to reword the 6 million statement, because (as I’m sure you know) that’s one of the figures for the total number killed in the Holocaust, rather than those specifically killed at Auschwitz and associated camps.
Thanks Theodora. I did have that in my notes, I just wasn’t thinking.
I like the way you presented this. Everyone who sees it can have their private experience, very good. I especially like the photo of the trees, as they did bear witness to such a horrible event in history,
I felt exactly the same that when I visited the Killing fields and the S21 prison in Cambodia. It brought tears to me eyes to see what kind of gruesome activities humans are capable of doing. I think it is important to visit those type of sites though, as it educates you and raises awareness about the horrific things that happened in a country.
Joanne Joseph says
I may have the opportunity to visit Poland next May and I am on the fence as to whether or not I want to visit Auschwitz. Outside of morbid curiosity and a hope it will never again be repeated, I don’t know if the lingering sadness, negative emotions, as well as facing the brutal reality is worth it.
Joanne, it’s worth it.
Travel with Pedro says
Hi Cate, I totally understand why it’s so difficult to write about this place. It represents the ugliest things human being can do to each other… I was in Krakow a few years ago but didn’t make it there.
However I was in Iraq recently and I visit the building where Saddam Hussein used to torture Kurds. It’s a horrible place, even some school children who were visiting at the same time started crying because of what the place means to them. It’s taking me some time to write about it as well, but I hope I’ll do it this week.
Great blog, by the way!
Yes, it was very hard, and I really felt that I couldn’t do Auschwitz justice no matter what I said, but I was okay with that. Iraq, wow. I can’t wait to read your take on something so powerful, and so recent. I liked your facebook page so hopefully I can catch it when it gets posted!