global travel shot: remembering german nazi auschwitz, 70 years on


When the bus dropped me off at Auschwitz II–Birkenau—a former German Nazi concentration and extermination camp on the outskirts of Krakow in Poland—on a summer day in 2012, I was not sure what to expect.

I was no stranger to scenes of debased humanity, having wandered through the Killing Fields in Cambodia, and explored the corridors of Robben Island in South Africa. I knew I would see pain, suffering, and the manifestation of an absolute ruthless version of humankind. But to what extent and how it was mourned 70 years on in Auschwitz II–Birkenau gave me both the jitters and hope. It still does.

Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Auschwitz II–Birkenau was part of a network of locations comprising Auschwitz I, Auschwitz III–Monowitz and 45 satellite camps. It was the principal and most notorious site of the Nazi Final Solution to the Jewish Question led by Adolf Hitler. Hundreds of thousands of Jews, men and women of all ages, were brought in here to its gas chambers, by train, from all over German-occupied Europe during World War II (1942 – 44). They were killed with the pesticide Zyklon B.

Before their annihilation they were tortured, systematically starved, forced into barbaric manual labour, or used as guinea pigs for warped medical experiments. Official figures claim the death toll to be 1.5 million. On 27 January, 1945, the handful of remaining prisoners within [most of the inmates had already been evacuated and sent on a death march] were ‘liberated’ by Soviet troops.

As I walked down the railway track, past the barracks, I bumped into countless school children draped in the Israeli flag. Further ahead, by the gas chambers, a group of Jewish boys had formed a ring, and were singing songs.

Every year Jewish school children from all over the world come to Auschwitz on field trips to learn about the Holocaust of the European Jews, and pay homage to the departed. And hence, beneath a clear sky amidst barren fields, the stifled ghosts of an entire era are finally laid to rest under the lilting voices and innocent laughter of their descendants today.

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Note: This blog post is part of a series from my travels to Central and Eastern Europe in 2012 covering six countries.

30 thoughts on “global travel shot: remembering german nazi auschwitz, 70 years on

  1. Pingback: global travel shot: remembering german nazi auschwitz, 70 years on — rama arya’s blog – MENGETAHUI BERBAGAI DUNIA KOMPUTER

  2. I lived in Germany for almost a year back in the early 90’s. I never visited a concentration camp. I just didn’t think I could handle it. I am fascinated by WWII and the Nazi’s in particular and have read books and watched movies about this atrocity, but I still don’t think I could handle visiting the place where it all happened.
    I did have an interesting conversation once with a man who was a German and had been in the war. He didn’t speak English and I didn’t speak much German, but somehow we understood each other. He explained that they just didn’t know really what was happening and he was apologetic about it. This has stayed with me for all these years.
    Thank you for sharing. I was surprised that the Jewish children visit, seems like that would be really hard for them.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you aprilteves for sharing your memories. Appreciated. 🙂 I found the comment: “they just didn’t know really what was happening” particularly poignant. I am sure they didn’t and most of them In Auschwitz, as well as other concentration camps worldwide, were in all sincerity simply following orders. Doing their job. Which makes the task of all those in a leadership position that much more crucial, and that much more easy to misuse.

      The children, in fact, seemed to take it very well. The few I spoke to had an odd maturity about them for having seen up close their legacy. They told me it helped them understand things better. I believe they had good teachers who helped them put things in perspective and heal their past with grace. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: global travel shot: remembering german nazi auschwitz, 70 years on — rama arya’s blog – Anthony Morrison

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