Krakow – Today I went to Auschwitz:
It’s actually 2 camps. I have so many stories and facts going through my mind, I am having trouble relaxing…..
How the Nazi’s came into Poland, changing the names of Polish cities to more German sounding names. Auschwitz 1 was an old Polish army barracks until they took it over so it’s actually brick buildings. There is one room in particular that affected me the most. It had 2 TONS, half a room full, of human hair behind a glass case, as the Nazi’s wanted to sell the hair of those who died. I had chill bumps all over. And then other rooms of suitcases (with people’s names on them), shoes, glasses, pots and pans. It’s all quite hard to picture what happened during the Holocaust when you are walking around these empty camps, but seeing this sort of stuff, their belongings, pictures of people in the camp with the dates they arrived and when they died. Some didn’t even make it one week! Pictures of children that were used for medical experiments.
The 2nd camp was much much bigger. Most buildings were made of wood, but there were a few brick buildings as well where the Germans forced the Polish people to demolish their own city’s buildings to have these bricks for the camp. 700-1,000 people in each building, people sleeping on triple bunks. The bottom bunk would be on the floor, so when it would rain and flood, people were sleeping in the mud. They would fight to have the best spot, on the top. A lot of the buildings were destroyed right after the war so there are only a few original buildings still standing. They have pits where they would burn bodies – then either dump the ashes into the nearby river or use as fertilizer. It would have been piles of 3 metres high or more of ashes.
And yet, the stories our tour guide told us were the most shocking from the walking tour in Auschwitz and in Krakow, through the Jewish quarters. They were both really good guides and seemed to know so much about the Holocaust and history of the city. I asked about some escape stories and she told us of a group of Jewish men working in the camps one Sunday afternoon, moving trash out to the bins. The SS had gone home and they were actually free to walk on and off the camps to dispose of the trash, but this time they broke into where they kept the cars and took some officer uniforms and drove off. Although if 1 person escaped, that would mean that 10 innocent people in the camp would die. This was to stop anyone from attempting to leave. This was the case for one 17 yr old Polish boy, studying to become a doctor; Within the camps were also punishment areas, for example, where they would tie your hands together and hang you from a hook – backwards! This would cause your arms to pop out of the sockets and you couldn’t move. It’s just cringeworthy; who would even think of this!!
I saw the ghettos where families were forced to live 7-8 families to one apartment, then moved to the working camps or straight to death. They were enclosed in the ghetto surround by walls shaped like tombstones. In some people’s diary’s they wrote asking why are the walls shaped this way??
As children were killed more frequently, mothers became desperate, putting their children into suitcases. But the Nazi’s were quick to realise what was happening and would just start stabbing their cases without even opening them. I just think this is all so sad. And it makes me feel sick how can other human beings do this to each other. I just hope that history would not repeat itself. Actually, what annoys me the most is that there are some people in the world that believe the Holocaust didn’t even happen!!!!
I’ve been in a bit of a depressed, down mood today. I don’t feel like talking too much. It’s been pretty exhausting too. I was up early to go to these camps, I even ended up falling asleep on the hour long bus ride back to the centre. On a not-so-sad note, I went for another run yesterday (13.5k). It was a beautiful day and so nice to run along the river. Also, I will be meeting up with Kurt (Belarus) tomorrow so that should be good. I am a little sad to be leaving Krakow because it is such a great city, but I am also beyond happy about going to Ukraine! My nightbus is tomorrow!!!!!!!