Inside a former Nazi concentration camp
Before I start, I must apologise for the following entry I have written for this particular experience.
I am afraid that there are not enough words in our language to sufficiently and accurately portray what I felt when I visited the infamous Auschwitz-Birkenau death camps to pay my respects to those who perished there.
Walking through the campsites was a traumatic and overwhelming experience, and I was reduced to tears on several occasions.
The most difficult sights to see included a long windowed room filled from floor to ceiling with hundreds of thousands of bunches of human hair, which had me shaking with heart-wracking sobs; the photographs of innocent children being lead to the gas chambers, completely unaware of the horrific fate that awaited them; and the windowed room display of children’s tiny shoes. It was truly a heartbreaking moment.
The final part of the tour lead me into an actual crematorium and gas chamber within Auschwitz, a dark place in which so many people were so mercilessly slaughtered.
I actually touched the wall in the gas chamber, running my fingers over the claw marks dug there by the frantic fingers of the dying, and the experience sent shivers down my spine, and once again, brought tears to my eyes.
I imagined the pain, the horror, and the sheer terror that those poor people must have felt in this terrible dark place and I whispered, “I’m so sorry”, over and over again.
Visiting the Birkenau site was just as sad; acres and acres of unforgiving barbed wire; the cold and barren barracks; and the remains of chimneys coming out of the ground, a permanent and sobering reminder of what occurred in this terrible place during one of the darkest times in modern history.
Coming face to face with a place such as Auschwitz-Birkenau causes a person to examine the fragility of life and to seriously consider the immense responsibility we have to each other as global citizens.
It serves as a powerful reminder that we must never let such atrocities happen again, that we must always learn from the past so that we are not doomed to repeat it, and that we must be eternally grateful for the peaceful and beautiful lives we have been granted, in memory of those who had theirs so horribly and cruelly stolen.