“We have to go into the despair and go beyond it, by working and doing for somebody else, by using it for something else.”
The title is a quote by Elie Wiesel and I use it because I’ve spent the last several weeks trying to write this post but failing, especially when it came to the title. I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night if I titled this a hillbilly travelogue, and what do you name a blog post about Auschwitz-Birkenau?
We had 3 days in Krakow, and set aside the first day for our trip to Auschwitz. This is something I have wanted to do for a very, very long time. I started reading about WWII and the Holocaust when I was 10 years old and have never stopped. It’s one of those things that you just can’t let go until you finally understand it, and I’ll never completely understand it.
So. There is a place in Poland called Oświęcim. The Germans called it Auschwitz back when they took over the old Polish Army barracks and turned it into hell on earth. First it was a concentration camp for Polish political prisoners, and gradually evolved into the death factory we know today.
We walked to the bus station in Krakow, and though Rupert usually deals with buying our tickets in foreign countries, I told him I wanted to handle this one. I needed to do it. But I couldn’t bring myself to say, “Two coach tickets to Auschwitz, please,” out loud. It sounds like you are asking for tickets to any old place, casually. So I kind of whispered/mumbled it, but the ticket-seller couldn’t hear me, and thus I took a deep breath and cleared my throat and even though I knew I was messing it up horribly and probably sounded like a fool, I said it with something like the proper Polish pronunciation, Oz-veech-yim.
She understood me, and I am sure I saw in her eyes some twinkle of pleased surprise that I had tried, and she smiled warmly at me as she gave the tickets. It is all about the trying sometimes.
We got on the bus at about 10 a.m. and that’s when my stomach started to turn to lead. How do you spend a lifetime dreading and anticipating the moment you will finally do something important to you, learning everything you can about one of the most revolting and massively evil things humanity has ever done, and not begin to shake when you’re finally on that bus?
CONTINUED WITH PICTORIAL GOODNESS