Saturday, August 30, 2014

Auschwitz

Auschwitz

The day after I was robbed, of all places, just a few clicks from Poland's holiest of holy places –

Wadowice [vadɔˈvʲit͡sɛ] (German: Frauenstadt – Wadowitz) is a city in southern Poland, 50 kilometres (31 miles) from Kraków with 19,200 inhabitants (2006), situated on the Skawa river, confluence of Vistula, in the eastern part of Silesian Foothills (Pogórze Śląskie). Wadowice is best known for being the birthplace of Pope John Paul II. ',.

Once I had been to the police and with much sign language had worked out to the camp site owners that money was on the way, they lent me dosh. I looked up at the sky. It was overcast. Normally, I should have thought about giving up and heading back to Germany where I live. No money, no passport, no bank cards – no nothing – I do not exist.

No. I am a Rhodesian and one thing I had promised myself and a good friend, I will go to Auschwitz. It was hard to explain to the couple that owned the tiny camp site and a young couple that also helped me, the desire I had. They had never visited, even though it was...just down the road.

Well, on a tiny roller, even 50 clicks is an hour and a half. The sky looked fit to burst, but after refuelling and following the signs for the 'Museum', I trundle down the road to the entrance.

Please, remember I am a writer. That means I look, observe, note, and see things very few people notice. I noticed plenty. The entrance was as if you were arriving for the Munich Oktoberfest. Car parks vied with each other for places. I certainly was not going to pay, so, incredulously, simply parked up on a verge next to a young female student whose job was to con traffic into her boss's car park. Death makes money.


The main car park is packed something stupid with a huge section for coaches. I join the queue to the 'entrance' and, as luck had it – it started to throw it down. Along the 'route' to the entrance, are boards with plans and information. I had an umbrella. Others soon got soaked, and at 2.10 pm I was 'in', only to find that in was not.

I was sent into the cellar and had to hand over my day rucksack – cost, not so bad, 20 pence. Back upstairs, a huge line of cash desks are on the right. People stacking up. There was money, credit card debits going mad to get into …

It seems you have to join a tour in a language of your choice. If you wanted to go solo – wait till 3.00pm. That was when I recognised that awful sound in my head and the urge to vomit. I was about to have a panic attack. Luckily, as I stood confused near the gate, a group of foreigners (no idea where they were from) seemed to tell the bloke at the gate that maybe for some reason or other they had missed the tour group and he let them in – I simply tagged at the back and was through.






I am glad I was with no tour guide and groups with headphones, being rushed from one building to another. I just cruised, absorbed and took my time. The rain had stopped. I saw people crying on the streets, young people.

I ignored the groups with the leader waving an umbrella. The signs were in three languages. Polish, English and Hebrew. No German. I had looked previously at the registration plates of the cars parked up – few Germans.



I do not begrudge the heavy trade in tourism. I believe every one should go to this place. But I was glad I was on my own to wander the back streets, only to be brought up by the electric fences and the warning signs. Alone in my thoughts.

Being able to read German, I could take my time and read some of the archived papers, condemning prisoner number so and so to 5 days in the no sleep cell for 'being lazy at work'. The horrors and the immaculate way it was all reordered, for me, someone who has spent most of his life in Germany – a land I respect for their brilliant efficiency, to see it as a perfect killing machine...

Time stood still. There is no smoking allowed. I had no desire to. Building after building, each one describing in horrific detail what went on there – so much, my mind became numb with the overwhelming capacity of this giant place of torture and mass murder.

I stood in the gas chamber, and from there to the ovens. There, I dug in my pocket, and found the names of my mate Les, his grandparents who were burnt in them. I cried. I am not religious, but sort of said a prayer to them as hundreds of tourists snapped pictures and scrambled past. I do not know how long I switched off from the world and admired the brilliant engineering of the rails that popped the bodies on carts in and out of the ovens. So perfect, they would work today...
I got out, and knowing myself, found a quiet corner and vomited.









 
 
It got worse – I was in bits and knew I could not handle much more of this. The shooting wall – where thousands were executed naked (oh the NAZIS were very efficient. Don't waste a good prisoner uniform), the hanging gallows - all became too much. It is beyond belief. I had of course read up loads about the place – but nothing is comparable to being there.

Three hours I lasted. To comprehend and see it all – reckon on two days. It is that large and that...bad. Beyond bad.

They reckon that more people have died in various conflicts over the globe than died in WWII.
Alone, the the massacres in the Congo have claimed 3 million lives. Rwanda - Half a million in six weeks, but never in history, was a determined genocide operated on a perfect bureaucratic system.

And yet, as the anarchy in Israel between them and the Palestinians keeps going – how much can you take?

6 comments:

Karl (aka Lore) said...

I could describe more of what I experienced - but cannot. It is that horrific.

hambalapaside said...

One day I will go there too, but I fear the outcome. Will it destroy me, or make me want to murder the murderers or if I'm lucky, just leave me stunned and sick to my very soul. Thanks Karl. You have no idea how much.

Anonymous said...

Heartbreaking.

Anonymous said...

A few I know have made the effort to visit on a very tight shoestring.

Sue D said...

You have achieved something that many of us have not...visiting Auschwitz. Thank you for sharing these emotional moments. One wonders if genocide and unthinkable atrocities will ever end? We so called 'humans' never learn! Thank you Karl.

Anonymous said...

How real is it? the one thing that can not build is time, if we could then we would truly know how real it was and now is.