Auschwitz and Birkenau

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.

700-1,000 people were housed in each of these barracks.

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.

 


It was at Birkenau, though, that when we walked through the gas chambers and saw the ovens that the inhumanity of it all hit me. 

The crematorium

Inside the gas chambers

Community toilets

The barracks

As I was taking pictures, my phone kept defaulting back to my home screen which has a picture of my sweet grand baby. The cruel irony of it all!

My home screen

Our guide said she has been giving tours here for 40 years!

We all wondered how our guide could come to work day after day and not let depression overtake her. She told us that it is important for her to show us this place to ensure that this kind of mass murder will never happen again. This was truly a place of hell on earth!

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. 


A pipe organ in the gallery


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.

About Katherine Crosier

In addition to playing the organ I am interested in documenting life's special moments through journaling, scrapbooking, photography and slideshow production. My family just groans.
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