auschwitz birkenau

Monday, August 22, 2011

Before visiting Auschwitz – Birkenau, I expected an emotional experience, but didn't expect to cry.    I’ve visited concentration camps before, with friends who sobbed from room to room, in shock and disbelief of the horror that took place there, but for some reason, that has never been me.  I have just assumed that the thought of millions (millions!) of Jews, Poles, handicapped, homosexuals, etc. dying at the hands of Nazi monsters is almost too much to truly grasp, emotionally.

When we walked up to the camp grounds, though, we were all alone, without a fellow onlooker in sight.  We saw a lone train cart and approached the tracks.  These tracks were the very tracks upon which trainload after trainload of prisoners arrived.  This train cart was indeed one of many carts into which displaced Poles were pushed, kicked and shoved, after being yanked from homes to which they’d never return.  Knowing that perhaps a girl of the same age once stood here with the same ominous work camp stretched out before her – her fate very different from mine – was haunting.  Imagining that  prisoners once looked out upon this same horizon – not knowing exactly what was in store for them but most likely innately sensing the looming prospect of misery and death – made me shiver.  Already, I felt more emotional than I had felt at any other concentration camp exhibit, museum or memorial. 

And then I glanced down at my feet and noticed dozens of rocks covered in writing – various German words scrawled across white rocks in black permanent marker.  If I had to guess, I would have said a group of German students came here on a class trip and left these rocks behind; their small offering lined along the railroad tracks.  On one rock, I noticed the word “Freiheit” (freedom), on another “Klarheit” (clarity).  I read German word after German word and then noticed one in English.  Written in small black letters were the words, "I’m so sorry”.  For whatever reason, it touched me like nothing else and, silently, I began to cry.  And the weirdest part of all is that nothing else I saw that day moved me as much as that one little rock on the tracks.

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20 comments:

Susanne said...

I have always wanted to visit this place, it pushes me to go there everytime it comes to my mind... it mind sound strange but I will hopefully visit it one day.

nova said...

It really is beyond the scope of my imagination. I'd definitely be a crier if I actually made it there one day.

Meg said...

I have tears in my eyes after reading this post. So perfectly written.

kimberly rae said...

this post gave me chills. it is absolutely almost too much to wrap your brain around ... i never thought i was a crier either but then i went to the anne frank house and it was just too much !

Jeneric Generation said...

Major chills. I cry at the Holocaust museum here in DC. I can't help it--it is so overwhelming.

Bay Park Dream said...

My grandma is a survivor Auschwitz. Thanks for sharing this post, it's important and brought me to tears.

~Tammy

leigh said...

Wow. I had goosebumps just looking at the pictures. I cannot imagine actually being there.

Gentri said...

Wow. Thank you for sharing this.

Gentri said...

Wow. Thank you for sharing this.

L!$@ said...

The power of a few words! I want to visit there one day but I think I'll be one of the criers.

Alex said...

This gave me chills.

jackiek said...

Oh goodness this gave me chills, especially the last picture. I cried my eyes out at the Holocaust museum in Washington DC. I'm taking a class this semester all on Nazi Germany and the making of a monster {Hitler} and I have a feeling it's going to be very emotional.

Abby said...

I was kind of scared to read this post... visiting Dachu was more than I could handle. I couldn't even listen to the head set tour, I just felt like I was in a dark cloud. *chills* I know it is very important to learn about the past good and bad, and so I am glad I had that experience. But I don't know if I could do it again.

Antoinette said...

Wow I got chills reading this post. My hubby was born in Auschwitz so this hit pretty close to home for me. His grandfather was forced to fight for Germany during the war or his whole family would be killed. Before touring the grounds I didn't have any idea how much it would hit me. I didn't actually cry for some reason but I felt such a deep sadness. The overall presence and atmosphere was very overwhelming.

The Michelle Show said...

Overwhelming and really sad. As I said before I think, my Grandpa was a toddler and left an orphan in Germany as his family was killed off and tortured for being Jews. It means so much to our family to go back there, and know that it personally affected our family (and not very far back in generations either). What cousins, uncles and aunts could we have been blessed with? How many other families could be doubled in size had there not been such a massive, massive loss.

Kelsey said...

Wow I'm getting tears in my eyes just imagining that. I went to Dachau in Germany and it was such a surreal experience. I remember getting emotional, but never really cried. It's hard to imagine something so terrible and gut-wrenching actually happen. I have such a weird interest in the Holocaust and always love learning and seeing more about it. Thanks for sharing!

xo

Jasmine said...

I got goose bumps while reading this. I would have cried to, such a sad part of history :(

Lauren and Tom said...

I've been there before. It's hard to even fathom what actually happened there. I'm glad I was able to see this terrible but big part of history.

Ashley said...

reading this brought tears to my eyes. i was reading this in class before it started and tears started rolling down my face...embarrassing? a little but your words are beautiful. and this moment is beautiful...thanks jenni for sharing.

Lindsay said...

Wow, this gave me the chills...