I’ve been fortunate enough in life to experience many things, including traveling Europe for my first year of university. Although based just south of London, I traveled from Spain to Poland, and every country in between.
To this day, the most humbling events of my life, are the days I spent in Poland visiting concentration camps. I hardly spoke for hours as I walked throughout the two main camps, Auschwitz and Birkenau. I still slightly lose my breath thinking about the emotions that came over me as I stood in the crematoriums, walked over the railway tracks, amongst the bunk beds and over the once mass graves, where human life was disregarded as if it was nothing.
Seeing the rooms filled with human hair, now all grey, the room with prosthetic childrens’ limbs, the rooms filled with old suitcases, and the thousands of photos that lined the halls is something I’ll never forget.
Last night I saw a movie at Toronto International Film Festival called Sarah’s Key. It touched my soul more than words can describe, and made me head back to my apartment, with tear stained eyes, and dig up my old scrapbooks and journals from Europe.
On June 24, 2004 I wrote:
Today I visited Auschwitz concentration camp. There are no words. Kelly and I stood in silence as we moved between the wards for women, children and men, surrounded by the prisoners’ photos from the tops of the walls, to the bottom; each person staring at the camera, in their black and white prisoner uniforms, unbeknown of their future fate. Their eyes seemed to have pierced my soul, because when I shut my eyes, I still see them staring back.
We stood in the room where the prisoners were told to undress and wait for their showers, as they were slowly gassed, and shortly thereafter, burnt. Although I doubt there was any smell, I kept thinking I smelt burning, and could hear the cries of the innocent people who had once fallen to their death under my feet.
I saw the execution wall, where fresh, bright flowers now line the base, I closed my eyes and couldn’t fathom the level of human fear those people must have encountered as they were told to line up, side by side.
At one point, I found myself alone in one of the residents and sat quietly on the bottom bunk of a bed. I thought of the people who had spent sleepless nights in that bed, not knowing the next day’s fate…
The past two days have been incredibly emotional, This experience has forever humbled and changed me. Next November 11th I’ll close my eyes and let myself come back to the walls of Asuchwitza, ensuring those peoples’ memories always live on, and say a little pray of thanks, that the Americans arrived when they did, and that today I am so fortunate enough, not to be living in world lead by a communist regime.
Tomorrow we leave Poland for the Czech Republic, but this trip has woven itself deep into my soul, and will forever be with me.
Until the next time I write,