Wednesday, 26 May 2010
I don't know how to write this post. I don't know what to say. Shall I talk about my impressions or shall I talk about what you see.
This uncertainty means that it will evolve as my mind flits form bit to bit and doesn't have a set plan of words.... !
I went to Auschwitz two Saturdays ago.
It hurts going there.
Man's inhumanity to his fellow man makes no sense.
I can understand the powers at the top wanting to annihilate a race, as they thought they had too much power. I can understand the psychopaths that controlled the camps. I understand the power of convincing people that they were the chosen ones with endless propaganda. I understand how the prisoner's in Auschwitz lost their souls.
I can understand a lot of things. I can see examples of brain washing all around, like the idiot Nick Griffiths the leader of the BNP (British nationalist party) who for years denied the Holocaust. And now trades with fear upon white British people terrifying them about the foreigners living here and how we should keep Britain for the British. Just as well that finally the British people finally saw through him and didn't vote enough for any BNP politician to make it either into Parliament or into local councils recently.
I understand how fear can govern our lives in ways that others use to make us distrust other races, creeds or religions.
All of this can go on in my mind. But what my mind can't deal with is exactly what one group of people did to another, seemingly without question. I don't think it matters that is was the Germans that did it. They just happened to have a charismatic enough leader who played on the people's insecurities.
Cruelty from one group of people to another has gone on forever.So this is not about all Germans are bastards, cause they are not, they are normal people and were normal people just trying to cope with their times. And I am privileged to call two German women close friends. So I can distance myself from the actual race that perpetrated these atrocities, as it could happen anywhere by anyone.
That said the emotional pain I am feeling hasn't gone away since walking around Auschwitz. I can tell people about it in a story like way, if I don't feel particularly safe around them. But if I trust the person then I just let myself tell it from my heart. And then the tears pour down my face and my heart cracks open again.
I'm pleased it can do this. I'm not ashamed of crying, my friends listening to me are not ashamed that my story makes them cry. It's so very important to tell this story, this inhumanity. This cruelly so depraved that we must all do everything in our power to never let it happen again.
You get on the coach to go the 60 km from Krakow to Auschwitz and once you're travelling you're shown a film. It's the memories of a famous Polish camera man who was the first to film the opening of Auschwitz by the Russians. It is a salutary documentary that everyone on the coach watched in silence.
Getting to the car park I was aware of the big business that this is, there were many coaches and cars. And even better, many nationalities, English, American, German,Irish, Polish, French, some from the Far East, not certain which country they were from though. There was a huge mixture of ages, students through to pensioners.
Each group gets their own personal guide and is given earphones and a receiver to be able to pick up the guides commentary. Our guide was a sweet and gentle student who'd just finished his degree in Politics. It was his ambition I later found out to give a tour focusing on the humanityof the victims,rather than just the facts and figures.
It's an extremely organised tour that builds up the tension as you go from building to building. Auschwitz was originally a garrison and much smaller that I had anticipated. So each building you enter is setting the scene with photographs and documentation.
I had already been told about some of the exhibitions and how upsetting they were, so I thought I could be strong cause I knew about them.
But that didn't happen, you go into long room after long room with evermore increasingly difficult things to see.People are not making eye contact with each other, but slowly people are getting upset. The room that got me was one in which there were a pile of suitcases thrown in together. These little cases had names and addresses on, as if the people would ever be able to use them. Christ that was sad, knowing what happened to the majority of people who passed through the gate. At full strength 700 people A DAY were being gassed and cremated.
And then you go into this other long room on either side are floor to ceiling glass panels and behind these are 80,000 single shoes. By this time most people are silently crying, tears are just pouring, noses wiped on sleeves or tissues as we all go from one end of the room to the other. Ensuring that we all touch the end of the wall so that every owner of every shoe can be remembered.It was shocking how fashionable the shoes were, faded red leather cross over platform sandals stood out for me.
When we got outside this building people just looked at each other, no-one spoke we just looked and shared our pain through our wet eyes. It was so painful, such a fucking waste, so barbaric.
We got taken into the penal block which is still in it's original state. We saw the punishment cells they were different sorts of punishment, the one that got me was the standing cells. People had to crawl in and then stand in a space big enough for four people with no room to spare and the four prisoners would stand all night without being able to move and then have to crawl out in the morning and do a days work. I was appalled at these cells.
The list goes on and on of the sights we were shown. We were taken to Birkeneau (famous entrance in the photo)which is huge and saw the barbaric living conditions that men endured, in old wooden stables converted to house a 1000 men at a time, sleeping ten to a bunk, three tiers high with nothing more than filthy straw to lie on.
I am glad that I have been, I have always felt a need to go.
But the pain inside me is going to take a long time to go away, and really I hope it never does. It's too important to let go of.
I could carry on writing and writing so I may come back to this. But writing this has worn me out again and I need to go and live in my world for a while instead of this painful and barbaric one. It's enough that it is in my dreams and they are not good.