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22 September 2005

remembering auschwitz


a sickness began inside me as the bus neared our destination. a blurring of thoughts that i was trying desperately to sort out. a swirling of questions. through the distracting conversation of the past few months of my trip that i didn't want to discuss at that moment. please, just let me think. just a moment of silence to concentrate. but maybe she had a sickness too and that was her way of dealing with it.

is it wrong of me to visit a place where thousands of people were murdered? what are my reasons for visiting? this is not a tourist attraction. how could this have happened? how was this allowed to happen? i need to know every single detail about the events that led up to that moment. the victims in the train travelling sixty years ago and what they must have been thinking. and more the sickness and watery eyes.

she asked me if i wanted to split up and walk around separately. yes. i needed to be alone. to process.

not a word was muttered during the fifteen minute film. not one word.

and the day brilliant and warm didn't make me forget for an instant about what happened here and i owed it to them to constantly think sixty years ago. the barracks were brick; i didn't expect that. several barracks were open and contained exhibits.

an entire room filled with the shoes of victims.

an entire room filled with the shorn hair of victims.

pots and pans, clothing, brushes, eye glasses, luggage. all taken.

starvation cell. standing cell. in the basement i had to remind myself that there wasn't a long line of people waiting to enter each room sixty years ago. there was terror and fear and cruelty and inhumanity. complete inhumanity. in that building the first experimentation with zyklon b gas.

crematorium i where thousands of people were murdered. and i stand in the room and lean against one of the walls.

we meet and take the bus to auschwitz ii, birkenau. the scale of the camp completely staggers me. i had absolutely no idea. and i try to remember. as far as i could see, the barbed wire and barracks. the barracks were open and i walked through several. five to a pallette. the terror. a group of children are walking towards me on the rails carrying the flag of israel.

in the back of the camp, four crematoriums all demolished by the retreating nazis in an attempt to cover up their crime. but people are here remembering.

as i walk back towards the entrance, i turn right and walk through a gate and walk on a stone road. two men are working to conserve one of chimneys remaining from a barrack that was gone. at the end of the road i realize that there is not a gate to the main road. and i stop and stand there and just think for a few minutes before turning around to walk back. one of the workmen approaches and tells me there is a small opening to fit through. i return and find it.

back to the entrance. standing on the rails.

we're quiet during the bus ride back to krakow on this overwhelmingly heavy day filled with remembering.

posted by paul on Thu 22 Sep 2005 at 00:00:00 est (-05:00)


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