Tuesday, September 17, 2019

A Somber Day.....In Auschwitz, Poland.....

From the moment we left our hotel for our trip to Auschwitz the mood was being set for this life changing experience. Clyde and I were the last two to be picked up. We entered an over-stuffed van that was full of tourists like ourselves. Inside the long van was dark with barely enough light to make our way down the narrow aisle. It was SO dark that we could not even see IF there were any empty seats left. Clyde made his way to the rear and asked those nearby if there were any seats?

We were left with no choice but to sit in the very rear of the van, next to an oversized couple from the US. Tighter than airplane seats, there was literally no room for our legs or other stuff. But we made the best of things, since there was no other choice. Then we found out from our guide that it would take about 90 minutes before we reached Auschwitz, the first concentration camp that we would visit.

Fortunately our seat mates were visiting Poland from New Jersey, a place that I know all too well having grown up there. The conversation made the sardine like conditions of the van bareable and before we knew it, we had arrived.

The gray sky, damp drizzle and cool breeze added to the bleak atmosphere of this place. The ground was wet with puddles from last nights' rain and the terrain was uneven and muddy, as we followed closely behind our guide. Rows of people marched in unison behind their leaders and I could only imagine that this was how it looked as a full working concentration camp back in 1940. But today they were just tourists, trying to understand why and how such a horrible thing could have ever happened, yet it did.

As we entered through the gates that promised, "Arbeit Macht Frei," which translates to, "work sets you free," reality set in. I was walking through the gates where 1.6 million people were put to death, just because Adolph Hitler said so.



According to our guide, NO one, ever, was rewarded in this horrible place for hard work. That was just a ploy to make people believe this was someplace good. 

Our guide told us that 90% of those that died were Polish, just because Hitler had NO use for them. "Poles were considered to be as insignificant as insects. Totally unnecessary, and easy enough to kill." This comment hit me hard because I am Polish and it was hard to swallow that an entire race needed to be exterminated, according to one man.



Yet people were taken from their homes, moved into ghetto's, then onto cattle trains. Over 100 people were stuffed into cattle wagons with standing room only, no food, water or toilets. The trains travelled for days or weeks to their final destination at one of these death camps. 



Children were useless and killed immediately and woman were not far behind. Once off the train, prisoners were told to strip out of their clothes and walk naked to the showers. All of their worldy possessions that they brought with them were taken and they were given one prison outfit to wear. Men and women were separated, hair was cut or shaved and used for other reasons. 



As one women left the train she was told to leave her child right there on the dirt, and she refused. She was killed immediately along with her child for all to see. 

Although there are thousands of tourists every day that tour Auschwitz the guides keep the lines moving and the spirit somber. With the help of audio guides we could hear our guide talk yet he did not have to yell. There was not a smile in the place, just serious, sad faces of disbelief and not a word was uttered other than from the tour guides.

I wonderered IF or WHY we really needed to visit this place but am so thankful that we did. We learned so much, not just today but over the last few weeks on our Poland adventure. "Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it." Perhaps I am here today because my ancestors escaped from Poland many years ago?  

We are never too old to learn, explore and have more adventures as we travel......along the gringo trail.

BELOW ARE THE REST OF THE PICTURES




Our Guide












Heads Were Shaved With Razors To Cause More Pain and Humiliation

Prisoners Were Given A Number That Was Tattooed On
They No Longer Had Names

















Small Tunnels For Air Raid Protection For Guards Only






Temporary Barracks to Await Death
Chimneys Were Added As Propaganda To Make It Seem Like Prisoners Were Cared For








Ten Women Per Each Layer Of Bed
A Total Of 30 People