Chris-Y12- Reflection of Auschwitz-Birkenau.

On the 4th April 2017 at 7 am, Tione and myself boarded a trip taking us to Krakow, Poland where we would spend the day travelling to and looking around Auschwitz-Birkenau. If I was to describe how I was feeling before I got on the plane, tired would be a fairly accurate word to use, but afterwards, it became merely an understatement. Upon arrival, we grouped together and went off in our separate groups. We first visited Oświęcim where we went to the town square in order to gain an understanding of how life was like for the Jews before the Nazi regime and the imprisonment of the Jewish community. This was seemingly necessary and made the trip to Auschwitz-Birkenau even more overwhelming.

Following this, we travelled to Auschwitz via coach with the organisers of the trip and the other students. I'd already heard about what was there from a friend who visited the museum with his parents earlier on in the year, so when I arrived I knew what to expect, I knew about the shoes, the hair, the personal belongings that had been stored there. One thing I wasn't aware of, however, was the actual scale of it all. To see that over one tonne of hair had been removed from the heads of people whose only crime was following Judaism was infuriating, to me, it was completely obscene that something like this was actually possible and nobody said anything to stop this from happening. It really was eye opening to see that things like this had happened on such a large scale, of course I had knowledge of what had happened, but just learning about it in a classroom from a teacher doesn't do it justice, to see it and to see what had happened really made it much more realistic, statistics became people and it instantly became more personal.

After the trip to Auschwitz, we travelled to Birkenau, the extermination camp. The scale of this was huge in comparison to Auschwitz, making it look tiny by comparison. The first thing you see, of course, is the very famous railway line which took millions of innocent, unaware Jewish people to their very painful death.Though much of Birkenau was destroyed, it was evident that this was used for much more than Auschwitz was, there were more and bigger gas chambers for a start. This side of the trip was a lot more emotional than the first I found, it was seemingly more personal and morbid. The pictures of the people who had died there especially made it feel this way.

I imagine when people visit this museum they say it was heartbreaking, personally, this wasn't the effect it had on me, I was more overwhelmed than anything. Maybe I was too tired to appreciate it to the point where I was heartbroken, but where I wasn't feeling upset over what happened, it was more anger. Seeing the scale of everything really opened my eyes to the actual scale of the persecution that the Jews were faced with at the time and knowing that all of this had been conducted through the ideas of one man made it all worse. History, quite unfortunately in some circumstances, has a tendency to repeat itself, all we can hope is that the exhibitions within this museum stop that in this instance and we aren't faced with such a mass genocide again.

Tione-Y12- Lessons from Auschwitz.

April the 4th, a 5am start. The first thing I thought was ‘wow I’m exhausted’, we’ve all been there. We complain that we have to go to school by taking the bus or our parents driving us. We say that we’re starving because we haven’t eaten breakfast and have to wait two hours for lunch. We take these things we have for granted, but for many men, women and children these were considered privileges. Basic human rights were taken away from them and I got just a glimpse into their lives and it’s an experience I will take with me for the rest of my life.

I went to Oswiecim, Poland to visit Auschwitz Birkenau and Auschwitz II. You initially walk into the Birkenau museum and it seems ordinary, what you’d expect  a museum. But the minute you walk in through those famous gates, the reality hits. This was a work camp where thousands of prisoners were worked until their death, men, women and children. We’ve all heard the stories of how they were taken, worked and eventually killed. But to see it is something else. To see the rooms stacked full of lost belongings; shoes, bags, hair brushes, to see the cases full of human hair, to walk the halls filled with the forgotten faces, row after row. You can only imagine the pain, you can only imagine the grief. On the site of Auschwitz Birkenau, the first, and only remaining gas chamber of Auschwitz that was later used as a bomb shelter.

 

Auschwitz II is what you expect of a concentration camp. A wide-open landscape, prison blocks as far as the eye can see. The famous railroad track that many marched along, unknowingly towards their death. One of the greatest graveyards in history. There’s nothing much to tell of Auschwitz II because most of it was destroyed as an attempt to hide the horrific things that occurred there, an attempt to erase what they had done and ease their guilt. But such devastating acts cannot be forgotten. Being on site of where so many lost their lives, where so many dreams and hopes were killed before they were given a chance to grow. It has an effect on you, walking in the footsteps of prisoners most of them only committing the crime of being Jewish. There is so much emotion that demands to be felt and you walk out of those gates with a heavy heart for those who never did. There’s a blissful serenity of Auschwitz II, the silence is comforting and sombre because everyone there with you is having the same experience. Reflection, sorrow, empathy are among the things we take from Auschwitz. It’s hard to ignore the warning signs that Auschwitz shows us, it shows us what happens when humanity goes wrong.

Visiting Auschwitz Birkenau and Auschwitz II, it stops being a figure. It stops just being one and a half million people who were killed by the Nazis. It becomes much more personal. You begin to comprehend that one and a half million lives were lost, their dreams never realised, their stories never told, their faces and names forever forgotten. Auschwitz is here to ensure that their deaths are never forgotten. That the brutality of what happened less than a century ago is never forgotten. History has a way of repeating itself, Auschwitz stands as a lesson to humanity, to the generations yet to come, to us.