I was always a very good student and a topper till ninth standard and then I regained my crown in my bachelors of mass communication where I was topper and a gold medalist…
oh thank you…thank you for all the applause :😄
Well I never liked history and maths, any supporters here ? :)🤔
Anyways, when I first read about Hitler and Holocaust , I was not very affected as whole aim was to mug up those chapters and score well and I did that successfully.
When I went to college, I started to realise that what actually Hitler did was inhuman and unwanted – I wish one day I could see that place where he did all these atrocities.
But coming from a middle class family, we were not even encouraged to dream of a Europe tour.
(All youngsters here….you guys are super privileged that you have got all the means and supportive parents who encourages you to dream big and see them turning into reality)
So, when in September 2011, I got an opportunity to visit Poland, my first request was to visit Krakow and then see this camp.
(A brief- From 2009-2014, I travelled to 13 countries, across their various cities and almost always as the guest of the foreign or defense ministry of the respective countries. I always travelled individually, never a part of any group of Indians, except on one occasion where I was the only girl in a group of seven men invited from India by NATO…..can be another post I guess )
I am not going to bore you guys by my travel itinerary and will come directly to the point.
(If at all anyone is interested to hear about my travel stories and adventures plz contact me directly and pandey ji will happily share her haseen kisse with all the masala ;)😂
Alright, so we arrived , (we bole to I, my hubby, our host and driver) at Auschwitz and my first impression was, when we were out from the parking and about to take ticket, that it looks so normal…… on the main road, counters and public like any normal tourist spot…
May be our books teach us to expect the reality different than what actually it is.
In 1942, Auschwitz was made up of 3 main camps – Auschwitz I, Auschwitz II-Birkenau, and Monowitz. They became the sites of the worst systematic genocide in history with an estimate of 1.3 million Jews tortured and killed here – in total, about 58% of all Jews in Europe were murdered during the Holocaust.
But arriving in the place where it all happened and walking through those gates made me realise I didn’t know anything. That knowing the facts doesn’t mean you know the story. And that even the facts take on a different aspect when you’re standing in the spot where it all took place.
What few people know is that, after Polish and Russian Jews, more Hungarian Jews were killed during the Holocaust than any other European population, a fact I came to know after reading the book – The Choice by Edith Eger.
Auschwitz concentration camp is not exactly the kind of place you want to visit. Yet, it’s important to be prepared to be shocked and saddened – probably even for a few days after your visit. It’s a deeply interesting place but at the same time, deeply disturbing.
And because the history of Holocaust is not very ancient types, you can’t help imagining how you would have coped if you had been there in their place – would hunger, cold and disease have seen you off before the gas chamber did, or would you be one of the few that made it through? Because in among all the horror there are stories of defiance and survival, of people who made it through despite the odds.
While walking through the brick cottages and between those barbed wires I was having a hard time understanding, how could humans do such horrible things to each other? Didn’t the German soldiers feel any remorse and compassion? What made them think this was all okay?
I could only visit Auschwitz 1 camp due to time constraint. Here the prison blocks now house exhibitions and tributes to various nationalities that were incarcerated here. Prison barracks, barbed wire fences, sentry towers, the wall of Death where prisoners were shot, the gas chambers and crematorium – visitors see all these chilling and gruesome structures.
In the courtyard, located between blocks 10 and 11, visitors come upon the Wall of Death, where the SS shot inmates. In the yard in front of block 11, Nazis flogged and hanged the incarcerated to punish them for crimes they had committed at the camp. People could be punished for anything, even for urinating during work hours
In Room 4 the order of events leading to the prisoners’ deaths in gas chambers is explained. First, about 2,000 victims are ushered into an underground changing room and told to undress as they have been assured that they will be taking showers. Then they are forced into a second underground area measuring about 210 square meters where there are showers, though no water runs from them. The doors close, condemning the prisoners to their blood-curdling fates. Nazis pour Cyclon B into the room through holes in the ceiling. It takes 15 to 20 minutes of slow suffocation and seemingly never-ending agony for the inmates to die.
When I entered the gas chamber -a place haunted by memories of genocide and sadness- I felt suffocated, dizzy and nauseated…..a feeling that can still trigger when I think of it.
When I came across the book -Man’s search of meaning by Victor Frankl, I was shocked to know the first hand experience of how it felt to be inside this camp. And the book by Edith Eger also gave me an insight that how people could and could not fathom or thrive in life once out of this Nazi camp.
Few victims and their families who survived will never see justice because many of the Germans soldiers who fled or died and could never be tried in a court for their crimes.
And I could absolutely understand this frustration when Edith Eger mentions in her book that how she wished to be disguised as an American journalist wanted to visit Paraguay to confront Dr Mengele, who killed her mother and many people, despite being a doctor who had taken Hippocratic oath.
I absolutely can’t imagine my life, my dreams destroyed forever by some Hitler, I can’t imagine my whole life thinking about taking revenge from people who killed my family or left me with not much choice in life. I can’t imagine myself thrown out of my country or living in absolute uncertainty starting a life from scratch.
I cannot imagine to be separated from my daughter or my family to be killed in any camp and never to meet again.
And I can’t imagine whether I would have been able to come out of the trauma like many survivors successfully did.
Auschwitz is where the worst human atrocities in history unfolded. There is no good feeling about being here. Then why visit a place so symbolic of torture, genocide and sadness? Because it’s important. For so many reasons. And I realise them now at this stage of my life.
It reminds me about gratitude, compassion, and perspective. Today, most of us live in warm houses, we can take clean showers, and eat a hot meal. We know peace, freedom and human rights. We don’t need to fight for a piece of bread or go to sleep in a muddy room with so many people or corpses.
If we look around we have so many things to be grateful in our life and I understand the real meaning of freedom- which definitely comes with responsibility.
Visiting Auschwitz- is something you’ll never forget.
You will have the opportunity to enter a gas chamber and get up very close to the place where many lives were taken.
Above the gate door, a sign ironically reads Arbeit Macht Frei (work will make you free). People were told they were coming to work, to support their families during wartime.
Thanks for reading.
Featured Image by Krzysztof Pluta from Pixabay