Hallo! My name is Kelly. I grew up in New Orleans, LA. I married my husband Billy in Oct 2000 in N.O. We have three children and have moved from Abita, Springs, Louisiana to Stuttgart, Germany. This is something we have dreamed about and it is our first expat experience. I hope everyone enjoys reading about our adventures because I am very excited to share.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Auschwitz-Birkenau Krakow,Poland

Actual date of event: February 14-16, 2014

Last weekend I headed to Poland with friends.  While some were there for Polish pottery shopping I was there for the tour of Auschwitz. I have been interested in visiting a camp since I moved here but had not come around to going.  We live about 2 hours from Dachau, but I kept waiting thinking visitors would want to go, nope , never happened.  So, when this opportunity came up I jumped on it, especially because I knew Billy had no interest in ever going on one of these tours.

Let's just say it was way worse than I anticipated.  I wanted to go because I felt like if you literally put yourself in such a historical environment like that, it would really make you think and feel what these people went through.  Well, it made me do both of those, and a week later I'm still haunted by those thoughts. It was so indescribably awful. 

The tour lasts about 3.5 hours and takes you through Birkenau and Auschwitz.  I never knew there were three camps together.  First, we toured Birkenau.this section of the camp was very primitive. We saw where the bathrooms were, the toilets are lined up one after one and where the showers once were.
 This is where the toilets were:( imagine 
living like that.
 These were the wooden slates, that if they were lucky had hay on them.  It was several people to each one.
The grounds in this particular camp looked like this, with a railroad track running right through it.  This track was a main system of getting people into the camps.

In this area the German soldiers started bombing the gas chambers and crematoriums, this is what is left

They have built a memorial for all those that were killed here and you can buy flowers to place at different places throughout the camp.
For anyone that may not know.  This was the largest camp there was.  Not a good one to start with.
The memorial

Next you head over to Auschwitz 1, apparently this was considered the "hotel."  This is where the people they chose to keep for work stayed, or the ones that they were trying to process into another area where kept.  We were also told that many people, workers, were brought to a cell at night where they could only stand.  They would pack tons of people into this tight little space after a day of labor and they would have to sleep standing up.  Then, the next morning hey would be brought back to do more intensive labor.  Unbelievable how that's even possible.

This part of the camp reminded me of a deserted college campus, it was very much intact.

Each building represented something different, here is an example

Read the writing on the glass above the door.  Each building had that and a lantern with a number.

We toured many of the buildings, and while I have some pictures, I do not have a ton.  We had heard they used all of the women's hair for textile purposes.  Apparently, they would bag it up and make money from it.  Well, hearing it is one thing, but we saw it.  This still gives me chills to even mention.  It was the eeriest thing, behind a glass wall, there were hundreds of pounds of human hair that had been found.  There was another section with braids that were simply just cut off:(
Another room we toured had all of the victims shoes.  Both of these rooms freaked me out more than anything else and I couldn't stand to look at it.  Very sad to see little kids shoes in the pile.

There were other rooms that housed their suitcases

And others with their eyeglasses

The saying for the camp was work brings freedom, and it was written on the front gate

We were able to walk through a main gas chamber and crematorium that were still intact.  Hundreds could be gassed at a time and then cremated in he next room.
This is he gas chamber and the crematorium.

An interesting fact about Auschwitz, it was built as a Polish Prison for political people and intellects.  If any of the Poles tried to escape their entire family would be killed.  What a consequence.  

After this visit I doubt I will ever visit another concentration camp again.  I do however, think everyone should experience this.  There is something about being there that brings you into the reality of the situation and that's not necessarily a bad thing.  I think the people that were killed deserve the respect of people coming and acknowledging that this torture really happened.  I've said it before but I will say it again, I have learned more history in the last 9 months than in my entire lifetime.

Sorry for the morbid post but I knew some of you would be interested.
Have a great week and the rest of the trip was a lot of fun and involved a lot of wine!!

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