The weather definitely changed today and instead of heat and humidity of the past 10 days we had rain, wind and cold. Just what you would expect for a trip to Auschwitz and Birkenau, the factories of death where 1.3 million people were deported.Yet when we arrived a little after 1 pm after taking a city tour of Krakow, the sun came out and there was a beautiful blue sky. I must admit being taken aback by all the hordes of visitors—it reminded me of the masses of humanity like you see at Disneyland on a summer day—it was an absolute zoo!
I momentarily got separated from my group since there were so many crowds of people. The first part of the tour took us through a museum with a number of large photographs of prisoners. We passed several huge mountains of shoes—110,000 in all, and then the horror of it all started to sink in. The museum also houses a collection of 3,800 suitcases and almost two tons of human hair which was shaved from women in the camp.
The question was, how was it these people took the trains to Auschwitz and willingly walked into the gas chambers? It was because they were promised a better life than the one they experienced in the ghetto. They were asked to pack their prized possessions only to have the Nazis steal it from them. Some people did not even survive the train trip in which people were packed in like cattle.
Surprisingly several people in our group have visited this place of horror before, and have come back to see it again.
It was impossible not to be affected by all this, so it was a relief to go back into town to have dinner in the old town square of Krakow. We peeked into St. Mary’s Basilica where we marveled at the colorful walls and ceiling.
Even though we had been here in the square this morning, I ended up retaking all my pictures since it had been gray and dismal and now it was sunny with blue skies.