Archive for April, 2015


Auschwitz

I recently took a trip to Poland and was told by more than one person that I trust, not to go without visiting Auschwitz. Now I have never really been into that period of history and the world wars aren’t something I have looked into a great deal outside of the usual school stuff. That being said I do believe that history has a lot to teach us and that it can show us a better way forward. I have never been so convinced of that as I am now!

 

I will not layer this post with the history of the place, the numbers that are barely even fathomable or the facts we all learned at school. If you are reading this I suspect you probably know these things better that I. This is just about my experience, one that I know will never leave me.

 

The first thing to strike me was the contrast. We arrived around 11 am, the sun was high in the sky, it was a beautiful warm day and there were no clouds in sight. It was almost peaceful.

As with most guided tours we wore headsets so that we could hear our guide. As we walked from one building to the next I found myself very grateful for the illusion of privacy and the escape from conversation. It’s hard to describe how it feels to walking down the dusty streets, between the rooms and exhibits but it reminded me of church when I was a child. The need to be quiet. Every noise seeming to echo to eternity.

I could recount the different displays, all of which told the scale of the atrocities perpetrated within the borders of these camps but that would need far more paragraphs than a simple blog lends itself too. 3 however stood out to me, not to say that the others weren’t equally as powerful but these are the ones that I have seen each night since before I sleep.

In the 4th building we visited, the opening hallway stretches out before you and runs the entire length of the building. Upon the walls at either side are row after row of pictures, singular portraits of those who entered the camp but never left. Under each one 2 dates are marked, the date on which they came to the camp and the date they died. Some dates were longer than others, the longest I saw was just under 2 years. The average though was around 3 months. Much like old portrait paintings whose eye’s seem to follow you around the room, these photographs have the same effect. Wherever you walked they appeared to be staring straight through you.

The final building in Auschwitz 1 is the only remaining gas chamber, all the rest having been destroyed by the Nazi’s. On entering the building there is a simple black marble head stone, 1 solitary marker for the countless lives taken. It stands next to a door almost as a sentry. On passing through the holding room you enter what can only be described as a bunker. Long and with a low roof. Looking up you can see the holes into which the gas pellets were poured. Nothing else marks the room out as what it was, only the feeling you get as you walk through. Passing into the other half of the building you are confronted with furnaces, in front of them rail tracks and tables. Their purpose obvious and so left unsaid. I had found myself at the back of the group by now and as I turned I saw I was alone in the room.

The entrance to Birkenau gives a view the full length of the camp. Through the gate in the grand arch you can see the path and to it’s side the railway line. A simple sight now with buildings either side and tourists walking its length. What struck me most about this was the inevitability, being able to see the end. Yet being completely unaware of what was to come. I am not sure if the site of a gated road will ever not now send a shiver down my spine.

 

As I said before, people I trusted told me I should go and they were all right. There are not many times I have been heard to say that something is life changing, but this was definitely one. If you ever find yourself in Poland this is something everyone should do.

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Inevitable Circle

 

Understand no sound will escape these lips
Now as then and ever more
When troubled mind tries to break free
Find long practised skill to ignore

From hours it grows to overcome days
Suffocates will and all self worth
Leaving no path free from it’s torment
It’s deadly eyes glittering with mirth

A circle complete but for one link
In pitch black will become whole
Enveloping life in all it’s forms
Till surrendered a now beaten soul

At the lowest point of deepest despair
Unable to stand, broken and lost
A rise now inevitable begins once more
The shadow of darkness silently crossed