Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Auschwitz, March 2012

A Solemn Legacy

Auschwitz is one of the most important places that anyone can visit. It was not what I expected and I think it's important to take time out of our busy lives to reflect on such a horrific atrocity that has happened within the last 100 years. I went with a school friend with the Holocaust Educational Trust to discover more about the horrors of the Nazi regime. I found the process very informative as we went to a seminar prior to and after going to Poland, which was useful to be able to talk to others about what we had experienced together. To imagine 11 million people is a near-impossible task, and yet all of those people were sentenced to death within living memory. It's important to learn as many lessons as we can from such a tragedy as there has already been another genocide in Rwanda, 1994. All the photos here are from various on-line sources, as I felt uncomfortable taking my own snaps in such a sombre place. Some of my views on Auschwitz may seem a little controversial, but if I didn't write what I thought, there would be no point in doing a blog at all.

Before going to Auschwitz, I had heard some pretty alarming things. One of the examples that stuck in my mind is that the birds don't sing at the site of Auschwitz, and the atmosphere is unbearably oppressive. Therefore, I was imagining the worst of places, because if there aren't many trees or shelters from the wind, I pictured Auschwitz as a blustery hell on earth.

However, when I was there all I felt was a sense of peace that the whole thing was over. All the people that had suffered there escaped in one way or another. Despite the intense pain and suffering there, I felt a sense of calm. The birds were singing and the sun was shining over the site, and the place felt to me like a blossoming graveyard. Awful things have happened, but somehow the human race has got through it. Such a huge open space felt liberating and completely defied all of my expectations. I think it is an important place to visit for yourself, because I'm sure everyone has a different reaction to it.

The site of Auschwitz-Birkenau is a focus point, and I can see why. This was the final part of the site that we visited, and we left candles on the tracks in memory of the Holocaust victims and their legacy. This was a very moving and poignant reminder of the suffering, and a beautiful reminder of all the people that had been there. Great people, fantastic people, people who were going to change the world. Even young girls such as Anne Frank who may have gone on to be a greater thinker than she already was. The candles shining in the brightness were an awesome reminder of all of the potential of human life.

Basically it's safe to say that Auschwitz was not what I (or indeed most) would have expected. I was struck to the core, which I expected to be, but for entirely different reasons. The way that I see it, those who have suffered live on in the maintenance of their memory. Whilst at the site of Auschwitz, our group held a memorial service just before leaving the candles on the tracks. A Rabbi led the service, whose grandmother had died in the camp which was a very moving and beautiful tribute. He also played the ram's horn which is traditional within Judaism.

Overall, Auschwitz was not what I expected physically, but it did carry a solemn and beautiful ambience that one would expect from such a place. Despite the brutality that occurred there I did feel a sense of peace. I was not horrified by what I saw, but it opened my eyes about what the human race is really like - the good and the evil. This is definitely a place that people should visit, to make sure that the memory of these people lives on and resonates deep within each one of us. Maybe that way, we can strive together to a better future, and learn from the ugly mistakes of the past.

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