On Auschwitz I and II (Poland)

Forgetting them means letting them die again. (Elie Wiesel)

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Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. (George Santayana)

 

Night, night without end, no dawn comes. (Tadeusz Borowski)

 

We have to remember, always, but it’s never easy. (Alberto Israel)

 

Auschwitz cries out with the pain of immense suffering and pleads for a future of respect, peace, and encounters among people. (Pope Francis)

 

Forever let this place be a cry of despair and a warning to humanity. (on a plaque)

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It happened, therefore it can happen again. (Primo Levi)

 

Any denial of the facts is a denial of the truth (A. E. Samaan)

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Personal note: Everyone should visit Auschwitz I and II at least once in their life. I never realized that the two are a 5-minute ride apart. At Auschwitz I, exhibits as hair, suitcases, shoes, and belongs can rattle the soul – but the size of Auschwitz II (aka Birkenau) is staggering. For me, I’m glad we didn’t have a guide – therefore, at the chance to move and contemplate on our own.

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Next stop: Eger

Click here for past posts of this tour.

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63 thoughts on “On Auschwitz I and II (Poland)

    • Patti,
      If I correctly recall (but I could be incorrect), the Polish government decided (after the war) to keep them up as a reminder. For me, I didn’t think my words could do it justice – so that’s why I used quotes.

      Like

  1. I really don’t think I could be in either of those places Frank – though I respect very much that you could do it. Seeing the photos and reading the words you have here, tend to rip me open, the reality would be too much. As humans our inhumanity is beyond words sometimes.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Pauline,
      I understand your point – and on our tour – one could have stayed on the bus. Personally, I didn’t consider that. First of all, neither of us had seen Schlindler’s List. Because we knew we would visit the factory/museum (last post), we watched the movie about a week or two before the tour – So it was fresh on my mind! Once we arrived here, our guide said she would not give a tour to allow us to experience it in our own way (which was a brilliant idea). Nonetheless, it is eerie – yet I’m glad I got this chance.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Dad was medic who helped open those gates (after passing trainload of humans stacked in like firewood horizontally). He rarely talked about it until in retirement he heard so many saying it was all fake then he spoke to schools.
    We have letters and his photos from there. He, a farm boy, used to say the brutality, the evil, man can intentionality inflict on others is beyond belief. Lamp shades on the officer’s desk made from human flesh.
    And he asked the local Germans in the villages at the time, “How could you let this happen?”
    As you say, each should go there – and listen to those quotes

    Liked by 1 person

      • You know he always felt a little bad about walking around the corner and letting a couple of the camp “residents” have 10 minutes with one of the Nazi SS commanders in charge of that camp…but then again considering..
        They patched him up later (and ignored his loud commands that he was to be given special treatment/consideration because of his rank)

        Liked by 1 person

        • The camp commanders were SS who were captured once the US troops arrived.
          The commanders were quite surprised when the MPs with the US Rainbow division would not protect them…for at least 10 minutes. Dad said one of the MPs said “a small taste Wild West justice was justified” and that they would take the blame if anyone said anything. On US surgery/medic staff, they carried no weapons and gave med. aid to any brought to them – no matter which side.
          I met many of those soldiers in later years at reunions – some were only 15-17 years old and lied about their age to enlist. So young to witness such brutality. You taught. Would many of the same age now be up to such a task today, I wonder.
          Dangerous to let history be forgotten. Travel is important to understand the world.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. As it happens, Mollie and I recently acquired an old copy of the movie, Judgement at Nuremberg. Pertinent to the topic here, I submit, is this excerpt from the finding by character Judge Haywood (Spencer Tracy):

    Janning’s (German judge) record and his fate illuminate the most shattering truth that has emerged from this trial: If he and all of the other defendants had been degraded perverts, if all of the leaders of the Third Reich had been sadistic monsters and maniacs, then these events would have no more moral significance than an earthquake, or any other natural catastrophe. But this trial has shown that under a national crisis, ordinary — even able and extraordinary — men can delude themselves into the commission of crimes so vast and heinous that they beggar the imagination. No one who has sat at through trial can ever forget them: men sterilized because of political belief; a mockery made of friendship and faith; the murder of children. How easily it can happen. There are those in our own country too who today speak of the “protection of country” — of “survival.” A decision must be made in the life of every nation at the very moment when the grasp of the enemy is at its throat. Then, it seems that the only way to survive is to use the means of the enemy, to rest survival upon what is expedient — to look the other way.

    Well, the answer to that is “survival as what?” A country isn’t a rock. It’s not an extension of one’s self. It’s what it stands for. It’s what it stands for when standing for something is the most difficult!

    Before the people of the world, let it now be noted that here, in our decision, this is what we stand for: justice, truth, and the value of a single human being.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I, for one, am glad you brought us there. I can only imagine how solemn one must feel to walk those grounds. I think it is important to understand the evils of the past to stop them from occurring in the future – though let’s face it, there is much work to do/

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: Opinions in the Shorts: Vol. 383 – A Frank Angle

  6. I visited Auschwitz when I was 17, on a high school overseas trip. The place seeped into my soul and changed me for the rest of my life. Innocence was gone, but knowledge of what humans can do to each other seared me and made me want to exhibit kindness for the rest of my life. As you say, everyone should visit one of these concentration camps to realize the worst of what humans can be, so we can strive to be the opposite.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. When I was a very little girl I found a 1945 Year Book in my grandparents’ library and I more or less accidentally found photos of the liberation of Auschwitz. I can remember seeing the skeletal bodies and haunted images and being disturbed and unable to make sense of what I was seeing. My grandmother sat me down and gave me my first history lesson. You were on hallowed ground. I can’t imagine the emotion.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Debra,
      Very much hallowed ground. Auschwitz was smaller than I expected – well – therefore the reason why Birkenau was so massive. Haunting thoughts as I walked around. Cheers to your grandmother setting the stage for what would be one of your passions.

      Liked by 1 person

      • It had to be an incredible experience, Frank. I hope younger generations of Americans are as motivated to choose this destination. So many people seem inclined to avoid anything so deeply dark and disturbing, but like you’ve referenced, this isn’t a piece of history we should avoid. I’m very glad you had the opportunity.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Powerful post, Frank. I am like Pauline in that I am not sure I could visit Auschwitz without falling apart. I did visit the Holocaust Museum in D.C. years ago (not long after it opened). M the Younger (or Youngest Son) had a friend who thought swastikas and Nazis were cool, and although my son was a little under the recommended age (I think the age recommended is 11 and he was 10 at the time) for a tour of the whole museum, I took him anyway. The self-guided tour starts (or did start — not sure if they still do it this way) by getting a passport of a victim or survivor of the holocaust, and you find out in the end what happened to your person. The part that really got to me was the room filled with shoes. The experience made a huge impression on M the Younger, one he has not forgotten. It got him interested in WWII and talking with his Grandpa who was a veteran of that war.

    I thought at the time, and maybe still think, that those of us in the U.S. (especially those not likely to travel overseas) ought to take their children, at the appropriate age of course, to visit the Holocaust Museum.

    I was reading PhilospherMouse’s comment and was reminded of my grandmother. She was an equal opportunity bigot and hated pretty much anyone who wasn’t German. She was convinced the Holocaust never happened and that the story was a Jewish conspiracy. There are still people who believe that today. 😦

    Liked by 1 person

    • Robin,
      Thanks for your excellent comment that contained so much. Recently, someone here (at home) told me about his Holocaust Museum experience with very similar words as yours. We haven’t been, but should go. I think in the OITS after this post, I stated that Auschwitz may be the one place I would want everyone in the world to visit. On a realistic note, people in the US could choose to visit this museum. Lessons learned are powerful – as with your son – then again, unfortunately some exist that just don’t want to understand.

      While at Auschwitz, of our group of 27 travelers, several decided to remain on the bus instead of going in. Personally, I’m not only glad I visited, but also watching Schindler’s List about 10 days before leaving on this trip. That movie was fresh in my head … .therefore very helpful (at least for me).

      Like

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