It took me a few days to decide to visit Oświęcim, the small town in south of Poland that was the very unfortunate home of the network of concentration camps known as Auschwitz. The internal debate was decided when thinking about the words of philosopher George Santayana.
“Arbeit macht frei” welcomed the prisoners at the first camp installation. Labour makes (you) free. I’ve watched movies, documentaries, read articles… nothing prepares you for that feeling that you’ve just walked through the gate that hosted the beginning of the largest act of genocide in our history.
The thought constantly reappearing in my mind was the fact that this is not ancient history. We’re not talking about something from the 10th century that is so removed that we can’t imagine being there. We’re talking about history that is only three generations away. My dad was a 2yr old boy when kids his age walked through this gate.
Auschwitz II - Birkenau
The sheer size of Birkenau was astonishing. I wasn’t prepared for seeing something so enormous, something so organized and clearly planned to every detail. For years part of me wanted to believe that only a few key people were involved, but after visiting Birkenau I now know that could not be the case.
By far the hardest part of the visit was looking through walls and walls of pictures, pictures of the mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, brothers & sisters who perished.
I recommend that you visit if you ever have an opportunity. Remember that those who do not remember history are bound to live through it.
Feel free to browse through all the pictures from my trip to Auschwitz I & Auschwitz II-Birkenau..