We went to Poland, Krakow. The food was amazing. A lot of hot stews. There was good beer too; draught lager or some dark beers. One pub had a selection dark, fizzy bitter and honey beer. The weather was cold -5 the first couple of days but warmed up.
We wanted to visit all the historical sites in the city and go and visit the concentration camps at Auschwitz and Birkenau later in the week.
Oskar Schindler factory
A very interesting museum. The narrative was done in a very artistic and atmospheric way with uses of collages, video footage and props like from a film set. There were real items from the time such as items created from the factory. Making our way around the the museum we collected a stamp on a card with an old stamp machine either with a German sign or with a Soviet sign depending on the state of the war. It went through the whole plight of the Jews at the time and created an experience that would be difficult to forget.
Jewish Ghetto area
We had a look at the wall from the old Jewish Ghetto area. It is unimaginable to understand the situation that the people went through at the time. But it serves as a stark reminder of how the human situation can go very awry.
We took a minibus to Auschwitz. We booked a time slot in the hotel as there were predefined time spots throughout the day because it is very busy.The first area you can see across to the entrance of the camp complex and you can see the sign ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’.
I had a very strong and immediate feeling that I was witnessing a place of incredible significance where some terrible acts happened that represented the human behaviour at its very worst. The concrete L-shaped posts with barbed wire surround the area with the connections still in place from when it would have been fully electrified.
Somehow there is a feeling when you walk in of forboding from a darker place and space in time. It grabs at you inside and I had a feeling of wanting to see and experience the place but not dwell too long. Just long enough to meditate for a while on what happened. Many of the blocks have been turned into exhibitions which represent the plight of different nations and peoples that were terribly affected by the nazis. Each one tells the story vividly of the different experiences.
The most disturbing place for me was the building that was used as a prototype for the gas chambers and crematorium. It was cold. The ovens were still there and strange iron beds on rails leading into them. It reminds me of the work https://www.amazon.com/Body-Pain-Making-Unmaking-World/dp/0195049969 of how design can be used to make the world but also to destroy it and cause pain.
Another major gut wrenching aspect was the medical trials that were carried out. Primitive, sick and sadistic.
For me Auschwitz seemed a kind of prototype for Auschwitz 2 - Birkenau. A site sprawling in size. the famous building with the train tracks running into the centre. The build has a kind of face and mouth swallowing people that entered. Now inside it is a huge sprawling space. We walked along the train tracks hearing about for people ‘the train was worse than the camp’ for many, some had spent 2 weeks on a terribly cramped carriage.
We walked down the central track sided by barbed wire fence. For hundreds of metres around only the ruined remains of the crematorium building that were left bombed by the Nazis when they left. Now it is left as if some kind of sculpture, leaning chimney towers. One after another- an industrial scale operation as if some kind of huge factory farm. Perhaps comparable to looking out into a desert.
Returning to the main rail line we walked down to further buildings that had been demolished, now they are surrounded by rope and left untouched. There is a memorial with the words:
“For ever let this place be a cry of despair and a warning to humanity.”
Visiting the place instills in you a knowledge that this kind of madness once took over.
As a tourist I could only trudge around as see the now peaceful remains but one thing that we didn’t remember seeing were any birds at that site which was very creepy.
Well worth a visit. A place of huge historical significance to warn of something never to be repeated again.