I arrived from Budapest that evening, exausted and ready for a little bit of a break. I grabbed my bags from the bus and meandered my way across the central square and the mall towards the Hostel. Gregg & Tomms. A short stay, long enough to get my bearings and see what I could. I wrote a little and crashed out around 1am before waking at 6 to eat breakfast and then head to Auschwitz and Birkenau.
I could only stay for one night at the hostel because the next evening was a city sponsered free concert by a Mr. Lenny Kravitz and everything was packed. Nervous and unsure of where I would stay, but sure that I wanted to take the time to see and really understand Auschwitz and Birkenau I arranged with one of the gentlemen working at the Hostel to Couch surf for the night at his apartment. After leaving my bags at the Hostel I headed for the tourist tour booth and picked up my ticket for the Tour.
Auchwitz is an experience that is hard to describe. My foto’s can only express a small portion of the combined atmosphere and understanding of how many thousands of people were executed and tortured there. Our bus pulled in after an hour long documentary shown on the ride over. The weather had turned from semi-sunny to dark, forboding, cold and rainy. Nasty weather for a nasty place.
Dark silver and black clouds rested over the complex as we passed through the electrified barbed wired fences and past the famous gate reading “Arbiet Macht Frei”
As we passed under the gate our guide began her description of the grounds and the daily proceedures. From daily public hangings to torture and suffering wrought for the slightest action Auschwitz was a place of horror. The feeling of that suffering has not been washed away.
Even as the rain poured down the brick, running clear and picking up the reddish colour of the brick it was clear that the suffering here will never be washed away.
we turned down the main block corridor and started entering the buildings, examining shoes, combs, suitcases with namesand addresses written on them and finally a room containing tons of grey and decaying hair. The Hair was used by the german war machine to make uniforms, socks, and felt… what was left over is perserved in the museum open and in braids. The very real pieces of the humans beings who were slaughtered and tortured there threw me over the edge.
We continued on to the prison barracks and inspected the standing, suffocation, and isolation rooms, as well as the death wall where the firing squad operated.
Finishing by walking through the gas chamber and undersized crematorium at the end of the camp we quietly climbed back on board our bus and headed to the Ruin of Birkenau. Auschwitz II Birkenau is mostly destroyed. The germans burned the warehouses holding all the prisoners belongings at Birkenau to the ground as well as detonating explosives in the giant crematoriums there in a desparate attempt to cover up their sins. they failed. the imported german stables- cheaper to reassemble there than build brick buildings – which housed 700 people in the space where you would fit 50 horses still stand, perserved as a museum complete with the barrack used as toilet and wash room. Five minutes for a total of 2000 people to use the facilities. Violators executed.
We made our way to the tower, made famous by Schindlers list and over looked the camp before boarding the bus and heading back to Krakow in somber reverence.
I left Krakow early the next morning taking an afternoon train to Warsaw.