so much has happened in the past few days. some of them scare me. some of them will never pass again.
yes, i've been to poland. stayed in a nice cheap makeshift residence hostel in kraków, ate in late 19th century underground restaurants that make your heart swell and pull your purse for the interior alone, purchased some wilde books and an eastern european biblical icon for my grandmother. but that's not it.
i've been to auschwitz. suddenly i feel like i've seen life, sucked out her passion and her charm, broken through some kind of safe shell which was once all mine. israeli people had collected at the entrance that said 'arbeit macht frei' and were waving their flags, there were pictures of emaciated children against the walls inside the crumbling buildings, stains of blood still visible on the wall used for random shootings. auschwitz I, the first camp, wasn't at all that bad, more like a village, be it a very grey and cold one with a merciless climate that freezes in winter and boils in summer. it was used only until 1941, a small barb wired vicinity in which poles were kept for inhumane works and in which the first executions using zyklon b and gas chambers were carried out. because of the experimental ignorance, the nazis used concentrations of the gas too low to instantly kill their prisoners, who sometimes suffered for a couple of days before they were finally asphyxiated. also horrible medical experiments, fasts and miscellaneous punishments were forced upon the trapped.
when auschwitz I had become too small to host all prisoners and the policy of 'final solution' had been declared, auschwitz II birkenau was built not three kilometers from the initial camp site. this is the auschwitz we actually see in movies, the one we read about in the annals of history, fully barb wire-and electric wire -enclosed, provided with towers for supervision and a ground surface of nothing but mud. jews were lured into trains with the lie of 're-location' in eastern europe for work and living. doctors carried their medical kits, convinced they were starting up elsewhere. however, the trains lacked light, water and sanitation, and people were so tightly stacked together they could only sleep standing upright in the excrements of their neighbours. train journeys could last up to several days without food, causing the captured exhaustion only at the arrival in the destruction centre. immediately on stepping out of the train, head officers separated the arrived into two groups; the first consisted of young children, the elderly, pregnant woman, the handicapped and the sick, who were immediately dragged to the gas chambers. the last group were those capable of campsite work; they were stripped of all their money, clothing and valuables and put into grey-blue striped rags and shoes too small to walk in. all their hair was violently cut, and this was then put into packages and sold abroad to make so-called hair cloth. when they were finally ready for work, they were unrecognisable.
prisoners had to work up to 12 hours a day, sorting out the valuables of the arrivals, expanding the camp, digging canals and divisions, or getting rid of the many corpses of their own people. they slept in wooden or stone barracks with no comfort to speak of, lying in the dark in a stable used for 52 horses which now had to host up to 400 jews, asocials, homosexuals, roma and slavic people. food only contained 1500 calories a day, and combined with the heavy work it caused healthy people to wither away and perish within a month. those who were unfit or hesitant to fulfill camp work were told to undress and 'take a shower'. the nazis went so far as to tell the prisoners to remember where they had put their pile of clothes for later collection and fake showers without water supply were sticking out of the wall to make believe it was really a showering order. as soon as the chamber was entered, all lights were turned off and tiny solid zyklon b grains were dropped from the ceiling. under the heat produced by the mass of hysteric, sweating bodies they slowly dissolved into poison gas which radiated through the chamber. it took approximately 15 to 20 minutes to kill 2,000 people in this way.
there is more i could tell to illustrate the horrors of the extermination camps but the bottom line for me is that i am negatively shaken by what i've seen, recalling the vivid images and the mud under my own shoes. this is something we must never forget. i am speechless. last night, i couldn't sleep, for i kept on going over the recollections in my head. i am not a religious person, and up until now i was always one to fondly read history books objectively and curiously. from now on, i think i'll be much more personally involved with the capriciosities of the world, and changed, in some way.
everyone must see auschwitz. live to tell.~
ps. my literature teacher has luckily been fired after all the hard work we put into it. the day after tomorrow we'll meet the new prof ^__^.