AUSCHWITZ

This post has been really difficult to write. Auschwitz was not an enjoyable experience, it was harrowing and humbling and surreal. It was the most grounded I felt in a long time and this is why going to Auschwitz is so important.

It is easy to get caught up in our own little bubble and complain about things that aren’t satisfactory to us in today’s society. Visiting a place where 1.1 million people were savagely and calculatedly murdered puts a lot into perspective, whether you are interested in the history of it or not.

Arbeit macht frei. ‘Work sets you free’.

Wandering the grounds of the original Auschwitz camp, and entering the buildings and crematoria where people were beaten, tortured, diseased and killed was a truly eerie experience. The camp is now a museum which has been curated for visitors to methodically work their way through the history of Auschwitz, from its beginnings in 1940 right through to its Soviet liberation in 1945.

It is surreal to witness the changes in the camp from its sort of trial and error approach to imprisonment and slave labour, to its careful organisation and execution of mass murder. This became even clearer when we walked to Auschwitz II-Birkenau, the second camp built by prisoners on a tremendous scale (approximately 422 acres) to more efficiently exterminate hundreds of thousands of European Jews.

The entrance to Auschwitz II-Birkenau

Mostly, it is simply difficult to put into words what there is to see at Auschwitz, so here are some photographs which may provide some insight into my experience there.

Canisters of Zyklon B, the gas used to murder prisoners
Suitcases. Many prisoners didn’t realise what was waiting for them at Auschwitz.
An entire building was filled with the belongings of prisoners, including shoes, glasses and kitchenware.
The blocks at Birkenau, going on for miles
Chimneys remain where the Nazis blew up their crematoria, when they knew that the Soviets were coming to liberate the camps

I didn’t particularly want to take any photos in Auschwitz but I made myself take a few as a reminder of what I had witnessed. Some things, however, I categorically refused to take photos of as it would’ve felt disrespectful, such as the crematoria and gas chambers. I have also left all the photos unedited, as they show the bleakness of the place.

If you wish to visit Auschwitz, it is best to reserve a spot online at visit.auschwitz.org. It is free for independent visitors, or around £10 for a guided tour.

Published by Liv

Archaeology graduate and aspiring traveller 🌏

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