Richard Paladin - Moncton Forums Staff
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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.