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All five of us went,and it was a good 90 minutes journey,going through the snow covered Polish countryside.I didn't know what to expect,but the entrance was very modern and we were all given headphones to listen to our English speaking guide. The occasion was solemn to say the least and we entered the infamous gates of whom thousands never left.The buildings were still intact and we walked around them seeing pictures of young children leaving the trains,only to die later as those under 14 were of no use to the Nazis. We saw pictures of people with shaven heads:young and old. Pictures were taken in triplicate,but as that was proving to be costly,the tatooed numbers were introduced. The faces were of people having no future,but one picture still haunts me,of a woman who gave a small crack of a smile,perhaps trying to be defiant against the monsters of the death camp.In glass cages,there were the small shoes of children who died,the shoes of the adults,but most tellingly of all,were the mass piles of suitcase with people's names on them and their date of birth. The Nazis told them to paint their identities on the cases,so that they could identify their cases when they came to pick them up for leaving. It was of course a lie. They never picked their cases up again.We saw the commandant's home,a luxurious pad just outside the camp,where he lived with his wife and five children,one of whom was born there during his tenure. He escaped,but was later recaptured and after trial was hung inside the camp. His gallows was still there,as were the gallows of the inmates who tried to escape. We all saw the wall where inmates were shot. It was there where I took of my hat and bowed with a silent prayer,and at last a tear came through the numbness I was experiencing during the entire visit.We entered the gas chamber,where thousands breathed their last with the lethal Zyklon B gas canisters being thrown into the roof via a duct.We left Auschwitz and the taxi took us on a small trip to Birkenau,or Auschwitz 2,and that is where you see the infamous arch and tower where the trains entered.Birkenau was vast with a capacity I reckon to hold six soccer pitches. The snow was virgin and entering a hut where the inmates slept and lived,despite my thick coat,you could still feel the cold and you could not imagine what they felt in their flimsy tunics. The cold,the heat,the rats,the insects - their life was unbearable with only death to look forward to.After walking up to the memorial part of the camp,our guide asked the question why were these people killed. With bitterness he gave us the answer:"The Nazis thought they were the master race,and anyone beneath them were not worthy to live and therefore give impurity to the master race."Therefore Jews,Communists,Homosexuals,Disabled,Russians etc all died.War is evil,but in the theatre of battle,there is still some respect between adversaries. However,in Auschwitz and the other death camps,it gave licence to some to go out of the borders and do what they like to men,women and children.Some would argue that Auschwitz and the other death camps should have been destroyed,but I disagree. They should remain as a reminder of how low man could go and treat human beings. It was comforting that there younger people than me on the tour,including two girls circa twenty years old.Would I go again? Yes,as I have a great desire to go back to Krakow,and a trip back to Auschwitz would be a certainty.We all have our problems,but the trip to Auschwitz pales them all into insignifance.To the six million murdered.
A group of England players, led by the manager, Roy Hodgson, have made an emotional visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau and paid their respects to the estimated 1.3 million people murdered in the death camp by the Nazis during the second world war.The group were accompanied by the former Chelsea manager, Avram Grant, who spoke individually with each of the party as they were guided around the site and then addressed the gathering outside the ovens used by the Nazis to burn the dead. "It's very important you are here," said Grant, whose own family lost 15 members at Auschwitz. "People will see you have come here, and then others will follow. It's important to talk about this and spread the message of what happened here."The players – Wayne Rooney, Joe Hart, Phil Jagielka, Leighton Baines, Theo Walcott, Jack Butland and Andy Carroll – were visibly shaken as they were shown piles of children's shoes, medical prostheses, glasses and household items confiscated from prisoners on their arrival at the camp, and by heaps of the victims' hair.They read the labels tagged to suitcases owned by Klara Fochtmann, Herman Pasternak, Benjamin Lazarus and a two-year-old Petr Eisler, and were left in quiet contemplation as they took in the scene. Grant, Hodgson and the FA chairman, David Bernstein, concluded the visit – organised in conjunction with the Holocaust Educational Trust – by lighting candles on the tracks leading into the camp.Rooney said: "It's hard to understand, so tough. When you see the amount of children's clothes and shoes, it's such a sad experience. You have to see it first-hand to understand, and of course it puts football into perspective. It will never be forgotten. We know that kids nowadays are interested in footballers, and if a few more people understand what happened because we came here today then that has to be good."A second group of England players, led by the captain, Steven Gerrard, spent time at the former enamelware and munitions factory set up by Oskar Schindler, who is credited with saving more than 1,100 Jews from the Krakow ghetto by employing them at the plant. "You tend to look back on days like this as much as the tournament itself in the years to come," said Joleon Lescott, one of the 15 members of the squad to visit the factory. "It might take a while for it to sink in."
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