Weekend trip to Krakow turned out to be unexpectedly amazing. I saw snow for my first time, ate tons of perogis, tried their zapiekankas and their Polish sausages, danced the night away, and cured the terrible service of Ryanair with drinking games. However, I wanted to dedicate this entry to my experience at the Auschwitz concentration camps. I had so many mixed feelings about this trip… feelings of excitement to go out with friends and to see snow, yet bittersweet to see such a horrific part of history.
I have to remind you that this was my first time seeing snow and I don’t know if it is easy to relate to. It was like experiencing water for the first time because it is so intangible unless experienced first person. It was snowing right when we landed. I remember the snowflakes so gentle and delicate landing on my skin and melting. I tried to catch them on my tongue just like in the movies. The snowflakes were so tiny and I could barely feel them melt upon touching my tongue. It was so light and airy.
But what was most unique about the snow was the sound. When you touch it, it is light almost empty, but together it would silence the world. The way the snow blanketed every surface it was like a cushion so soft and fluffy, but when you stepped on it, it was solid. I remember most clearly the sound of stepping on the snow. It isn’t crunchy, nor is it soft, it is full of air. It felt like stepping on powdered sugar. That is the closest thing I could think of. I love it.
The interesting thing about snow is how it blankets every surface and makes it almost enchanting. At Auschwitz the snow lay strangely beautiful above all the pain and suffering.
I’ve chosen only a few photos to show here because I really believe that everyone should come to see it for themselves. It is life changing and an absolute must. I remember walking into the camp imagining that they were anyone like you or me that walked to their death. They were given a message of hope and freedom and were left behind the barbed wires to suffer.
It felt wrong to be able to walk freely right where they had once been alive, trapped, tortured, and disgraced as fellow human beings.
One part of the tour, our guide, which you can see her fingers on the left showed us a photo of the same moment that the “doctor”/general would instantly pick and choose who would live and who would die. To the right is the photo I took of about the same spot that photographer once stood to capture that moment about 70 years ago. I couldn’t believe where I was standing… like a ghostly witness.
The museum shows many of the belongings of the 1.1 million victims. They were children, moms, dads, uncles, grandfathers, friends, students, teachers, sisters, brothers….
The museum had created a memorial shaped like abstract coffins for all those that were killed and burned without any record or appropriate burial that they deserved.
There were flowers everywhere left for the victims. I couldn’t tell if it was beautiful how the roses were frozen and preserved or if it was a sign of an eternal loss.
This wall is located where people were executed.
As we walked out from the camp there were memorials in every language and this one in English. People placed rocks as mementos on top of each “gravestone.”
I hope everyone can see this for themselves one day. I am really speechless about most of what I saw. I would like to just leave you all with a very important quote:
“The one who does not remember history is bound to live through it again”