Saturday, December 17, 2011


I couldn’t decide if I wanted to blog about Auschwitz or not, but I decided that something being depressing isn’t a good enough reason not to write about it. Aka, this post is about the Holocaust, people.

The amount of tourists was shocking. There were people everywhere, crowding, and tour guides for nearly every language. The museum was smart though: the actual tour involved everyone wearing headphones and your personal (English) tour guide speaking quietly into a microphone. This made everything more orderly and subdued; no one had to yell.

We started in the original part of Auschwitz, “Auschwitz 1,” I think. It became bigger and bigger throughout WWII but the first part is shockingly different from the movies. First of all, it was tiny. Second of all, it was pretty. Some of the buildings looked like college buildings or something. 

Do not get me wrong, during the actual Holocaust, this place was severely overcrowded, there was widespread starvation and mistreatment, polluted mud puddles instead of grass, etc., etc. I’m just saying I didn’t expect brick buildings. 

Shocking to me was the building they used for a sort of unbalanced court-room. Though everyone was meant to die anyway, certain prisoners who broke the strict rules were put to trial and sentenced to death or held in cells. There were starvation cells, darkness cells, and standing-only cells. This fact is just so absurd. What was the point of the trials when the Nazis were already killing and hurting these people for no reason? 

[shooting wall outside the court-room]

 [okay, pretty buildings surrounded by a million fences]

There were also rooms where they displayed personal items that were stolen from people before they went into the gas chambers. This displayed the huge amount of murder that was going on in some way, but it was hard to look at. You see, on room was filled with millions of shoes, another with suitcases, another with pots and pans. Everyone from further away countries brought pots and pans—they were told they were going to a family camp or something. On the suitcases, each person wrote their name on it; assuming they would get it back in a little while. The last room had hair, two tons of human hair that the Nazis shaved off new prisoners and made into rugs for sale. The quantity was overwhelming and it was just a tiny fraction of the reality. We weren’t allowed to take pictures for respect reasons but if you’re really curious, I’m sure you can probably find some on the internet anyway.

The larger part of the camp is Auschwitz-Bierkenow. (Notice: larger in this case = unfathomably massive)

 [After a short time, the Nazis extended the local train tracks directly into the camp for efficiency and to avoid suspicions.]

By the way, Auschiwitz was the only combination work camp/death camp. In the east were death camps which had only gas chambers, and in the west were places with forced work and no gas chambers (not that people weren’t dying from the inhuman conditions).

Auschwitz-Bierkenow was more what I was expecting, I think? It's the part they use in movies at least. The whole experience was pretty surreal. 

 [The Soviets took over Auschwitz before the war was over and dismantled some of the barracks to use as timber, leaving these eerie skeletal chimneys.]

 [Really blurry illustration of the toilets in these colder, crappier barracks compared to Auschwitz 1.]

Anyway, there are way more things I learned but I don’t really have much more I want to say here. The visit was worth it even though it was hard to go through. Afterwards the six of us smooshed into two hotel beds and watched Slumdog Millionaire to give our minds a break from the cruelty of the world.

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