Today we visited Auschwitz. This was my fourth visit to this camp but for many in my group it was their first. The expectations were set for this place to be the most intense on our trip and for many it was, including myself.
A lot of visitors exclaim how unbelievable it is, you can’t truly think that anyone would take part in such hideous crimes. A holocaust survivor on our tour mentioned that “this was the gas chamber I entered and managed to walk out of alive because of pure luck”.
Many people have asked why I keep coming back to a place like this. For me, I am still searching for some meaning in this horrible period of history. I find that each time I go, despite everything still being unbelievable, it becomes more believably unbelievable – if that makes any sense at all.
I genuinely can’t understand how the German Nazis could complete these disgusting actions, but I become less surprised by new revelations. The period of visiting gives me a time to reflect on my own life and inspires me to make sure I make the most of the opportunities I have.
One story that stands out from history, a survivor who documented his account fully after the liberation in many books for which he won many awards. However he succumb to his emotional wounds and killed himself in 1951. This idea than not only were people murdered in the camps mercilessly, but, should someone be lucky enough to survive, the damage lasted a lifetime.
This gave me an even deeper respect for the survivors, especially the ones I have met on this trip. I can only imagine giving up in their situation, and yet here they are today, walking beside us, teaching a new generation. This is an inspiration.
I noticed whilst walking through the gas chamber another group that seemed to be speed touring through the whole camp without much explanation of what they were witnessing and why they were there. Without a decent explanation of the site and no time for “processing” the overwhelming information, there is little meaning. The visit needs to be taken seriously.
There is much controversy over school children visiting from Poland, Germany and Israel for example. Suggesting that they could be too young at 15/16 to properly understand; in practise many kids will be messing around/not paying attention to the details and they may miss quite a lot. However, this age is the latest age that you have a state education to enforce everyone to visit. It is much better to get them to visit than to simply hope they will when they are older.