Last week I took my last trip, this trip was a very personal and hard trip to take but I am so glad I did it. Ever since I found out I was going to be in London this semester I wanted to go to Poland. When I told a lot of people this, the majority of them looked at me and said there is nothing in Poland why should I waste my time going there. For me though, there is so much to see in Poland. Ever since I was little my parents taught me about the Holocaust and what happened during this horrific event, not just to my people and family members, but to others who did not fit under what the Germans considered to be okay back then.
Fortunately my great-great-grandparents had already moved to Brooklyn and were free from the horrific events, but it still left a mark on myself and my family. I knew that no matter when I chose to go visit a concentration camp that it would be difficult, but nothing can really prepare you for it, no matter how much you know, how many years you have prepared for it, or how close it is to you, NOTHING can make you feel the way Auschwitz-Birkenau does when you actually step foot into the main entrance.
When we first got there and stepped off of the bus my friend and I just looked at one another, we really did not know how to feel because this place holds such a big place in our hearts. As we met our tour guide and started to walk into Auschwitz 1 we stopped and looked at one another. The sign that states “Arbeit Macht Frei”, Work Will Make You Free, gave us chills but the thing that hit us the most was people standing in front of it taking selfies, it was disgusting to see people do that! I could not understand them and still can not understand how in their minds that was okay. Millions of people had died there and they thought it was okay to smile and take a picture in front of it. After exchanging looks we continued on with our tour guide inside the camp. Right there we stopped and our guide started to explain a few things to us, I turned to my friend in that moment and we exchanged the same exact words with each other.
We felt like we were disturbing so many people’s graves who had perished during this event. With each step we took we felt worse and worse. The thing that got both of us the most though was when we went into one of the bunkers they turned into a museum and we saw the thousands of pairs of shoes, especially the children’s shoes. I got very angry at this part and may have got very upset that I screamed a little inappropriate words. They were just kids and I cannot understand how people can do that to anyone let alone CHILDREN! It broke my heart more and more with each passing second I was in the camp. As I stood there looking, all I could do was picture my families shoes. It just burns me inside.
One of the rooms that was really disturbing was the one where they held prisoners in starvation and claustrophobic rooms. It made me cringe at the sight of it. Till this day I cannot get the images out of my head. I just can't imagine how other human beings can be so cruel to others that they can torture them in the ways that so many were tortured. Nothing can prepare you for the feelings that you get at seeing the rooms. Once out of the bunkers we moved on to the only standing gas chamber and crematorium. This gave me chills running up and down my body, made me feel claustrophobic, and sick. I had to get out of the room right away, I still cannot shake the feelings that room gave me.
The tour of Auschwitz was done and we moved on to Auschwitz II also known as Birkenau. Entering Birkenau I could not believe my eyes, it has HUGE! Looking at the size of the camp I could not comprehend that it was not even finished being built! It just made you sick to your stomach at the sight of it. Continuing on with our tour we went in to a few different bunkers and saw where people slept, went to the bathroom, and where a gas chamber and crematorium was burnt down. This entire trip was a difficult one emotionally.
I would not give up my chance to see the camp because I think it is such an important part of history for everyone to see. I would say that if anyone ever has the chance to do it they should. With each passing day those who lived through this horrific event are leaving us, and it our generation's duty to continue on to remember what happened and to never forgot!