In 2010 I had the honour, I use this word as I feel the highest of respect should be shown to places like this, of visiting Auschwitz through a programme in my school where 2 of us were chosen to not only fly to Poland to visit the concentration camp, but also got the chance to attend numerous seminars and conferences on the holocaust. This isn’t my usual, happy travel experience so for that reason I completely understand if you stop reading here. But I feel like I should share.
Firstly I was start with Auschwitz. My first honest thought when entering the areas was my shock at how large and never ending the area is. You hear how many people were brutally taken to the camp, and many others like it, during the war. But hearing a number and seeing the scale of the number is 2 totally different things. I do not wish for this to be an upsetting post. So I will share some of the photos I took for my school at the time of the camp and leave my thoughts on the camp. If you can, get yourself to Auschwitz. It’s a very emotional place to go however I believe we must learn from our history. We must respect and mourn the thousands of souls who took their last breathes their, fighting for their freedom. The place, for lack of a better word, is magical. I had goosebumps the entire trip. The tour was spilt into 2 sections: one where they use to work which is now a museum which has belongings, such as the shoes and glasses of those was passed through, displayed here. Another reason why I believe it is important to go, some of the items are starting to disintegrate due to not being correctly stored in the past. The second part was where they use to live. One thing that I will share is throughout our tour of the massive camp (I really can’t get this across enough – thinking of the size and how in the war the camp was full constantly has me in shivers right now) we didn’t hear any animals. None, no birds, bugs or wildlife in the deep forest at all. At the end of the tour we were at the end of the train track coming into the camp, where we had a Rabbi say a pray before lighting candles to leave on the track. When we had done this a whole swarm of birds flew over us. Call it what you want but that’s some sort of magical to me.
Secondly I am going to write about Kitty Heart. Meeting this little elderly lady you would think she was just another cheery granny! You would never imagine that herself alongside her family were taken to Auschwitz with her and her mother surviving the camp (not without the scars though – physical and mental). This woman is incredible. She still has the tattoo of her number the Natzis put on her arm and refused to have cut off, such as her mother did when they got to England. She spoke in one of our seminars, nothing above a level that was more suitable for a 2 person conversation at a table, not a room filled with over 100 people. Each of us heard every single word she said however. She spoke of the importance of remembering the war and everything that happened, all the awful badness, in order to stop it from happening again. She’s such a fighter. I applaud her. I think that’s why I’m writing this. Kitty shared her story so we can share it in the future, to stop history repeating itself.
She wrote a book called “Returning To Auchwitz” which I found on amazon. If you are interested, I recommend this read. It’s a first hand perspective on the life inside a concentration camp and she doesn’t hold back!!! What’s even more interesting though, is her life after the war and her struggles to be accepted and to fit back in. This is scary as we can see this now with refuges running to countries for aid, just like Kitty did. I would love to know her views on what’s happening today. However, I digress. I don’t want to spoil anything but I will share that Kitty finds marriage and has children of whom she writes about with such love. It’s amazing to see how someone can go through all that she has and come out on the other end.
If you have been before I would love to know how you experienced Auschwitz. I also have over 200 photos of our trip which I can share if you are interested to see. Each one has a story behind it, so for that reason I didn’t want to add far to many and let them get lost in translation.