This morning, we got up (pretty early) to take the train to Auschwitz Concentration Camp. In our cab to the train station, a guy who was riding with us that the town we are currently staying in (Katowice) is where former Pope John Paul II is from. So that’s their claim to fame. After much confusion and language barrier troubles at the station, we finally got on our first train.
We had to get off in another town to catch ANOTHER train to the camp, but, as luck should have it, we missed our next train. The next train to Auschwitz wouldn’t be at the station for another 2 hours!! We happened to meet a fews Swedes who were headed to Auschwitz as well, and so we all decided to split a cab together. After much struggle with the language barrier trying to find a cab, I finally went into a hotel and asked a lady who spoke English where we could catch a cab. She called up 2 of them for us! We were so happy to not have to stand around for 2 hours.
Got to Auschwitz and got our tour tickets. The first thing that they do is show a 20 minute film with original black and white footage from the war. Pretty shocking stuff. Then, we started the tour of the first camp (the work camp.) It was so stunning to actually be setting foot into one of these hellish places. We saw everything. The torture chambers, the bunkhouses, the bathrooms (if you could even call them that) and, the most horrifying place, the gas chamber and the crematorium. Auschwitz also happened to have on display the human hair, glasses, combs, luggage, and shoes from the gas chamber victims. Our tour guide talked a lot about Carl Clauberg and Horst Schumann, a couple of notorious doctors who did infertility experiments on many of the women. She also talked about Josef Mengele, another doctor in the camp who was notorious for doing experiments on twins.
After visiting the first camp (mixture of Jews, Poles, Russians, Gypsys, and other ethnicities) we took a bus about 5 minutes to the death camp. (Pretty much only Jews were here. This is where Anne Frank and her family happened to be). It was mainly meant for just the extermination of Jews, and nothing else. 90% of the prisoners killed in Auschwitz were killed here. The gas chambers and crematoriums were destroyed before the Russians came in to liberate the camps. We saw the remains of those, plus more barracks, bathrooms, a boxcar replica, and a big giant memorial.
Overall, it was quite the touching experience. It’s one thing to watch a movie about the Holocaust, but it’s another thing to actually be there. I know I will never forget this.