The Auschwitz Concentration Camps | What to see in Krakow

The Auschwitz Concentration Camps


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Is the past just another to assess the future?

Published by Dănilă Adriana

In philosophy they say that the world can’t exist without Evil, because Good is platonic, in the sense that it does not create. A world full of good is one that doesn't want to make any changes, a land where peace and everlasting happiness reign, where there is no more pain, the exact image of heaven that we have, nowadays. But such a human universe doesn’t need creation, it is based on maintaining the perfect equilibrium. That’s why, they say evil is necessary, why lack and pain must trouble us from time to time, because the “evil itself is good”, it makes people fight for their dreams, discover the value of live, realize the error of their ways,  be better! Thus, through this philosophical view we may understand a bit, not entirely why some terrible eveniments have darken the history of man.

Other rational thinkers say that good and evil are in fact inside our brain, that we as humans bare the hole responsibility for our actions. That society keeps us in line, but that in every human being there is a sleeping animal than can be awaken with the right tools. Through this other perspective we can understand that each and every one of us is weak, that given the right circumstances, the right reward, the illusion of the just cause, every person can do things that they condemned before.

A third opinion concerning people’s behavior comes from religion. The men of cloth  say that when someone is willingly committing bad deeds that person is in the Devil’s service or is possessed by him. I really wonder if good deeds come from God and bad ones from the Devil? I doubt that, I think that people are responsible for their actions, because like we love to repeat “we are at the top of the food chain because we can think”. Well, since we say that it is clear who is responsible.

All in all, although we can chose the perspective through which we can analyze an event, we definitely can’t change the results. It is time we go to Krakow and from there to make a trip, to some places that hide behind their contemporary empty walls, a world of pain, where even sorrow feels afraid.

An imaginative story

His big green eyes looked over the enormous field. He had a sort of a tear in his pocket, but he did not want to take it out and putted on his wrinkled face. No, he was a man, a man that saw many things, that was supposed to an example for the younger women and man. His beautiful white hair was ravaged and his black hat had a big hole on the right side. Dressed with his black pants and wearing his brown coat, he seemed to always be gazing at a place that wasn't there. It was as if he held in his old, still warm hand a truth that others could not see.
His beard was long and it had a white silver color, like someone played on it with a painting brush. You could presume just from his appearance that he used to be an important man. Judging his firm and straight forward look, you saw that he imposed respect and that he was capable of telling you so many things you did not have the key to…

The train was so full, so full, too full for the amount of space that was needed to travel comfortably. He had to breathe rarely. He wanted to avoid the sad, grey, empty faces in front of him, women holding their children tight, men watching over their spouses and kids. Nearly 160 eyes were talking without saying anything. Fear slipped into their shoes and found a very comfortable home, pain took over their clothes and grabbed on with strength, while sorrow went up, up, in their eyes promising never to leave.

His big green eyes were shrinking. A big and endless darkness was covering the light. It was as if, an unseen hand told him, “it is time to close the brightness”, it’s time to go to bed. His eyelashes were blinking slower and slower, his hands touched for one last time, his 70 years or more, face, he closed the light…

This man was considered a lucky one, he died during the exhausting journey to the Auschwitz Concentration Camps.

We are returning to a dark period, an era where the idea of simply existing was a problem. The Nazi Germany under the leadership of the “Great Fuhrer” wanted to reach its full potential, in order to make “The third Reich” an international power, one in front of which everyone will bow.

The main enemy of the Germans was considered the “Jew”. It had flourished after the First World War, “it” was robbing Germany from the money and riches that it rightfully deserved. It was time for the Germans to regain their national honor and international power, to take back everything that was stolen after the defeat suffered in 1918.

“The enemy – the Jew” had to be punished, to be enslaved and even killed. Hitler’s anti-Semitic ideo-theology took over the world and soon all the Jews from different parts of Europe started to be deported and treated like animals, not even like an animals, for an animal gets pitty, whereas the Jews got none.

Where were they supposed to keep all of this “poison”? What to do with the “garbage”? Of, course, one must take it out…

37 miles west of Krakow, Poland.

Here the Nazi regime established three concentration camps, one in May 1940 called Auschwitz I, another in 1942 named Auschwitz-Birkenau and the last, Auschwitz III - Monowitz, in October 1942.

Going to Krakow I went to see for myself the awful places where history was written in blood and where the paper was the human body. Why? Because I had to see with my own eyes the evil that I have heard about only from books and movies. I thought, I could understand better what happened then. A good researcher would have told me, history can be completely understood if you participate in the making of it, otherwise you have to presume and interpret and your result, your “truth” may be false. Even so, I wanted to understand, as a person how could the nazi regime kill freely some many people. Where was the spirit of justice, then?

“Arbeit macht frei” – Work frees you! This is the inscription that you can see at the main gate of Auschwitz I. Millions of Jews were brought here under the false pretext that they will work for the Nazi regime and be paid for the work they will do. In fact, the only things waiting from them here were starvation, forced labour and certain death for the old and the “too” young, who couldn’t serve Germany in any way.

This camp like its syblings from Germany had a gas chamber in the basement of the prison block 11 and a crematorium.  People were told that they had to “shower”, so they left all of their clothes at the entry of the gas chamber. After entering, gas, not water bathed their body. To leave no trace they were quickly  thrown in the crematorium. Gone. They weren’t there…

I saw this chamber and for a moment I closed my eyes and saw the young people and elders crying and being so scared, while leaving this world. I saw the clothes and shoes that the Germans took from the Jews, wanting to retransforme them, in recycling plants. Even the hair of the men, women and children was cut off and transformed into coats, material for "soft beds" or “wool” socks.
The gravity of the facts hits you in the face when you look at the small shoes shown in the today’s Auschwitz I Museum. Those little feet, those small shaved heads, those lives that never got to see their dreams flying like red balloons towards the serene sky. What you feel while being there makes you detest yourself, it makes you think about others, about pain like you never did before. But, that only happens if you fully comprehend the gravity of what you are seeing. This museum was a place of horror, we as tourists should understand it or know about it before going. Bare in mind that in that place, thousands of people went, but never returned to their families.

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Here, you can also see the “Black Wall”, I called it the “Evil’s Wall”.  In this part of Auschwitz I, soldiers tied up prisoners and left them without water and food for days or until they died and also, executed them. They made people stay in a row with their faces against the wall and then with a Mauser shot them in the back of the brain.

Another thing you learn at Auschwitz I, is the story about Dr. Josef Mengele. I wouldn't call him doctor, this profession is done in the name of good, what he did is outrageous. He used to select twin children (and normal ones) from the camp and performed medical experiments on them. Most often, the kids were deformed and finaly died, or they were killed.

The tourist guide tells you everything about the process that the Germans used to “eradicate the evil” and you feel your head spinning. You are grateful that you live in today’s society.

While I was at Auschwitz I, I saw an avalanche of people, from kids to elders. They all came to visit the camp, maybe because “seeing is believing”, or maybe they wanted to find out more details about something they never lived, or maybe they were curious, either the reason I am more than sure they left with a changed heart, with a bag of sorrow in their own souls. That’s what Auschwitz does to you, it makes you feel sad that your own kind could do such horrible things and it makes you wonder, what if this would happen again? Could it happen again? Could people repeat the past knowingly and willingly?

A sea of questions comes flooding your brain.

At Auschwitz II - Birkenau, the overwhelming thoughts persist. This camp had the biggest prisoner population, it was so big that they decided to divided into over dozen sections separated by barbed wire fences. It had the largest gas chamber, here the Nazi regime could kill over 2000 people at once with the infamous gas, “Zyklon B”. Trains with the deported Jews came everyday because at Auschwitz II there was a train line and the last stop was “labour and death”.

Today, we can still see the train line and the chambers were the Jews had to stay. Over 800 people had to live in a room designed for maximum 50 people. They slept eight or 10 on one bed, rooms like these had no heating system and no bathroom accommodation.
They worked all day, and got only two meals, if you can call them meals, a piece of bread with something that should have been a soup and a kind of bad, old porridge. You can see the actual “food” displayed at the Auschwitz Museum I. Many of them died, as you can imagine, from starvation, dysentery and other bacterial diseases. They were allowed to wash once a week if they were lucky, but generally they washed once a month. The people who got ill and could not work were shot or gassed. The level of human atrocity can’t be described in words.

Auschwitz III – Monowitz was mostly used for industrialization purposes, the forced labour from here had the “obligation to do the best, possible” while manufacturing synthetic rubber and fuels.  It had the same characteristic as the two previously described.

My journey in the history of the Auschwitz Concentration Camps ends here, if you want more information search online, read, find and after you do, if you think you would like to see the real places, go. An organized tour is about 100 zloti from any good agency from Krakow.

I leave you would this question: “Is the past another form to asses the future?” I, for one, hope not, for I believe in the latin saying “Memento mori!” (Remember you are nothing, but mortal) and I believe that good should be done if you can do it!

 

(Pictures made by my dear friend, Giorgiana Astefanei) 

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