Friday, September 20, 2013

Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camps

2150hrs CEST

Wow. What a day. We visited to Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camps and Wieliczka Salt Mine today. The former is a metaphorical rock-bottom, no, more like 'Marianas Trench' bottom of what humans are capable of. The latter, is the absolute literal.

Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration camps

Aside from lessons on WWII in high school history, most of what I know about Holocaust is through Viktor Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning. It's a fascinating book. Please read it if you have not. And through Schindler's List, of course. I could not comprehend how humans can commit such atrocities on others systematically on a massive scale over a sustained period of time with utmost unconscientious conviction.

I still can't. I don't think I ever will.

It was a crisp sunny morning today, the road to Oświęcim was through a beautiful, green polish countryside. Ironic the same route was a road to hell seventy years back.

We joined English language tour at Auschwitz.

We went past rows and rows of black and white photos of victims, exhibits showing mountains of human hair, heap of spectacles, combs, suitcases etc; a block where grotesque medical experiments were conducted; another block which had lockups with no light or ventilation and an adjoining courtyard for hanging and exterminations; and finally the gas chamber and adjoining crematorium.

My head was a hurricane of thoughts, questions and emotions.This was horror, cruelty, profound sadness laid bare on a grand scale.

We were about to enter the gas chamber. Our tour guide told us to maintain silence to respect the many thousands of souls that had perished in that room. I gently ran my fingers on the walls of the gas chamber. I felt numb. Saturated.

In Birkenau, as per Jewish tradition, I placed a rock on the plaque to pay my respects.

It had been said before. I'll say it once more time: Never forget. Every human must visit Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camps to see the devastating power of hatred. Its ability to transform men to monsters. The power to bring forth the worst of mankind to cause immense sorrow and darkness to millions of us.

I read George Santayana's quote in the camp:

"The one who does not remember history is bound to live through it again"

So true. Lest we forget.

Gas Chamber

Photo Credits: Unknown.

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