This morning I was up relatively early, so I wandered around the rest of Old Town before heading back to Auschwitz.
I think one of my favourite (if not my favourite) things about Europe, is their Old Towns and the cafes/restaurants with outdoor patios everywhere you go. It's such a perfect way to pass an hour. Or two. Or five.
Anyway. I wandered around, took some more photos of the churches and other buildings, the Gate at Florienska and the Barbican.
I walked past a statue that had the word Grunewald on it... I couldn't help but think of Grindelwald and Harry Potter. Yes. Nerdom coming through, right there. Ahem.
From there I bussed back to Auschwitz to actually see the camp this time. Well worth the trip back. Unlike Birkenau, or Dachau to a lesser extent, Auschwitz is truly a museum now. The buildings are mostly all mini-exhibits, ranging every day life, to the brutal punishments they endured, to specific nations and their stories; it was truly all encompassing.
When you first walk in, you walk under the infamous "Arbeit Machy Frei" (Work Makes you Free) gate.
The first group of buildings focus on
the overall experience of Auschwitz, while the second half is more country specific. Just because of time constraints, I spent a lot more time in the first half, but both were equally informative.
The entire visit was moving, but three things stick out in my mind:
- in one of the buildings, there are pictures after pictures of the prisoners. The Nazis would document the prisoners, and so to see all those faces, all those mugshots, and again to know that what, maybe 10% of them survived?
- another building housed many of the items recovered after liberation. (When prisoners arrived, they had to surrender all their belongings) There was literally a room full of suitcases (many with names on them), a whole wing of the building full of shoes, easily over 1000 pairs of glasses, children's toys, brushes, etc. The most horrific though? A room full of women's hair...
- the Death Block, containing both the Execution Wall (sadly, self-explanatory) and the prison bunker underground... where the Nazis first decided to test their death-by-gas on Soviet POWs and sick Polish prisoners. In the prison, there were also death-by-starvation, -by-suffocation, and standing-units where four prisoners would have to stand
in a "room" where one man could barely comfortably fit. Prisons are a very nasty thing to see.
And at the end of the "tour" around Auschwitz, the Crematorium still stands. Walking in there, it's as if the air leaves your body... very much the same feeling I got in the gas chamber and crematorium at Dachau. Just cold, and empty.
It was a sombre day.... yet it was an odd feeling because it was so sunny and green out.
I'm not quite sure how to end this entry considering the heaviness of the topic. But here's a quote from the first exhibit hall: "The one who does not remember history is bound to live through it again" - George Santayana
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