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Published: November 8th 2008
My first impression on Poland was not the most positive. I quote the page I wrote on my diary the day I crossed the Polish border. I apologize beforehand in case someone was to find it politically incorrect. Friday, October 3rd
"The weather has changed, this time the forecast was accurate. It drizzled all day, nothing unbearable, but annoying enough to make me end the day at Kostrzyn, Poland, 30 kms ahead of schedule.
Kostrzyn is one of the ugliest towns I’ve ever set foot in: the Soviet building-bunkers add up here not just to the 20%!o(MISSING)f the overall as it is in the former DDR, but to its 80%!i(MISSING)nstead.
In a bakery shop, while I was having a snack and dreaming of the huge tits of the blonde baker, a man walked in totally drunk, staggering, it took him ages to ask what he wanted, he stepped on my foot, apologized in three different languages, then wanted to shake hands, then wanted to embrace me, then hit me on the shoulder and finally punched me (quite hard, though done with friendly intentions) on my sternum. In the end I had to practically chase him out of the
place with great relief of the baker and her clerk (and mine).
Later on I found lodging in a horrific hotel for truckers and whores where the receptionist -another one blessed with unbelievably big breasts- made me believe that breakfast was included in the price, then, after paying, said that was not so. I smiled, good-natured. Years ago I would have started an endless story for something so trivial".
Then things changed and Poles proved to have majestic sense of hospitality and generosity. I don’t remember of being treated so well ever in any other country I’ve visited. Often similarities with the rural Italy of a few decades ago, the one now wiped out by empty materialism and selfishness, came to my mind. Even the smells, a key part in the travelling art are special in Poland. One for all, in the villages, coal, still used as fuel for heating in many homes. A strong fragrance that stings the nostrils and tinges the blue sky with shades of grey.
For the first time since the beginning of this trip, language proved a semi-impermeable barrier in many cases. Used (erroneously) to the general rule of english as lingua franca
I hadn’t even thought to get myself a Phrasebook or a pocket dictionary. Moreover, Polish language is of a disarming complexity, in both grammar and pronunciation. Several times I found myself engaged in talks between deaf people where everyone understood what he wanted instead of what the other had actually said. On one occasion, for example, talking to a girl in a bar, I understood (after more than half an hour of words, mime and drawings) that she was thinking of going to Rome with her boyfriend to visit the Pope, whereas she had said -thing understood only later on with the arrival of an occasional interpreter- that she would have never become a mother without first being married by a priest in front of God. Don’t ask me what gymkhana had my brain done to understand what it actually understood, but I recommend you, were we going to play mimes together sometime, not to take me in your team. Auschwitz
I have written it in bold for a practical reason: here ends the somehow playful part of this blog and starts a much more sad, perhaps even depressing one, but I don’t have the genius of Roberto Benigni
to comment on something so dramatic using lighter tones. You are warned, to you the choice to continue reading or not.
Again quoting from my diary: "I’ve been thrown out of bed at 7am and -down with hindsight- I’m happy about it. Yes, because the Auschwitz concentration camp at 8am was, considering the cold, the grey sky and the fact that there were still no groups of visitors, a sanctuary, a place of remembrance and recollection, not the kind of circus which it turned into after 10am with the arrival of hordes of students of every nationality and race grazed by teachers and guides among the remains of enormous horrors of a not too distant past. To say it all, most of these schoolchildren kept a praiseworthy behaviour despite their (often) immature age. But the crowd itself erases that sense of drama that was so tangible in the early morning walking alone among the dreary dark brick buildings the camp is made of".
After having annexed the western part of Poland to the Reich in the autumn 1939, German authorities seized the camp previously belonging to the now dissolved Polish army in Oswiencim (Auschwitz in German) and start
using those facilities to accommodate prisoners of all kinds: political prisoners, criminals, prisoners of war, Polish patriots, homosexuals, gypsies and especially Jews. From May 1940 till September 1941 Auschwitz was a common German prison camp, one of the many whose inhuman hard conditions made SS proud of. Prisoners were selected and separated on arrival depending on the nature of the committed crime
, all personal belongings confiscated and -one of the most abominable sides of this monstrous mechanism- separated by type and all goods ordered and meticulously stored in one of the many examples of German manufacturing capabilities. Even today in the camp museum heaps of tons of shoes, or bags, or shirts, or toothbrushes, or pants can be admired
. What insane mind eliminates a person but conserve his/her pants and toothbrush? Among the several mountains of personal belongings held today under glass, child shoes, a mere 7, 8 centimetres in length, catch one’s eye. How can someone coldly plan the elimination of someone so young and innocent to fit in those tiny shoes?
The one to Auschwitz was obviously a one-way trip, the prisoners themselves probably knew it, but even in this field the Nazi’s evil genius had worked
everything out beforehand and led them to feed false hopes summarized by the motto engraved on the entrance gate of the camp: Arbeit macht frei
, work makes you free! And so every day columns of prisoners left the camp at the rhythm of an orchestra for ten or twelve hours of backbreaking work that… made them free. From September 1941 onwards then, the SS command conceived a faster system to deploy freedom
to detainees: the gas chambers and the annexed ovens.
In the four operational years of the funereal complex, an unknown number of women and men (we are talking about estimations of between 1 and 3 million victims) suffered imprisonment, humiliation, deprivation, hunger, cold, cruelty, torture, medical experiments, slavery and death. When, at the surrender of the Third Reich, the Red Army soldiers reached Auschwitz, they found themselves facing a scene too raw even for eyes and minds like theirs, accustomed to war. The short film (in English) shown today in the museum at intervals of one hour is based on images taken by the astonished Soviet army men in that distant January 1945. The movie is very short, about twenty minutes only, but if you can watch
it without being moved to tears by so much torment you have a heart of stone. Eventually, Monica, a local girl, told me that this is not the integral version of the film, which used to be projected up to twenty years ago, as her mother recounts. But some scenes were so brutal that at every projection some spectator had to be carried out of the room senseless or prey of hysterical crisis.
I left the Auschwitz concentration camp with a weight on my stomach that didn’t go down for days. It hurts to think that certain things have really happened, it’s even more painful to think that a mere 60 years later still fascisms and fascists exist around the world. I rethought of my professor of modern history’s words at university when, in response to the question "Why did you choose to study history?" in the entry test at the beginning of the course I had written "Because knowing the past is the key not to repeat errors already committed by others before us”. Her comment was sepulchral: "This is a pious illusion". She was right.
October 6th: Zielona Gora - Legnica 113 Kms, 5h40', 19.9 Kms/h
October 7th: Legnica - Wroclaw 91 Kms, 4h48', 18.9 Kms/h
October 8th: Wroclaw 0 Kms
October 9th: Krakow 0 Kms
October 10th: Krakow - Auschwitz 65 Kms, 3h30', 18.5 Kms/h
October 11th: Auschwitz 0 Kms
October 12th: Auschwitz 0 Kms ITALIANO
La versione italiana di questo blog è disponibile sul sito Vagabondo.net
Link: Cavalcando Ronzinante IX: Auschwitz (Km 5891)
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