Why We Remember
Getting in our cab in Poland we talked to our driver about going to Auschwitz. He asked shortly and with a cold look on his face, “Why do you want to go? it’s a sad place.” I was confused, apart of me felt I had offended him and I could tell he had a connection to it. I told him, it’s a part of history. I later realized how recently in history it happened, these people still feel the scars of WWII. I felt so insensitive. I went back and forth deciding on if I was going to do a post on our visit to Auschwitz. It seemed so sad, so cold, and so dark. It is. “My blog is so happy, do I want to go for this?” I ignorantly thought. It wasn’t until today, in Berlin did I realize it wasn’t about my image or my blog, it was about sharing something so much bigger than me.
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” – George Santayana
The first quote on the wall of the Berlin Holocaust Memorial is by Primo Levi. This is quote the compelled me to write this post. Primo Levi later committed suicide.
“I don’t think of all the misery but of the beauty that still remains”- Anne Frank
I was 13 years old the first time I read the Diary of Anne Frank. When I walked thru the gates of Auschwitz Birkenau, I didn’t think of Anne. My heart was heavy, it was like nothing I’ve ever felt, a moment of pure sobriety. As you walk on the road along side the rail road tracks, you are reminded that for hundreds of thousands of people, this was their last walk. The remaining barracks, that weren’t torn down by the SS are in good condition. It reminds you just how little time has passed.
I overheard a guide telling a group, “Zyklon B gas killed over 900,000 people here.” As I thought about that I stared at the barbed wire of the electrical fence that lined the sections of the camp. I thought about how many must of cut there hands. It looked so evil, then I thought about how just barbed wire was. Barbed wire didn’t care if you were Jewish or not, it cuts everyone the same and when it did, the same color liquid came out. I applied that ideology throughout my visit to Auschwitz. Zyklon B wasn’t the evil, the human users were.
Above shows is the view thousands saw before being murdered.
It is about 200 yards from the front of the gates of Auschwitz Birkenau to the gas chambers. Zyklon B was used to mass murder thousands. On average the gas chambers were used to murder 10,000 people a day. Left over bodies were thrown in mass graves and burned. Perhaps the saddest part of it all was that they didn’t know they were about to be murdered. They were told they were showering and would be served a hot meal after. Unknowingly, they walked right into their own death.
Below, it is a photo of Jewish women that were sent to the gas chambers directly after arrival. Most women and children were sent to immediate death due to lack of work power. Behind the photo is the remains of a gas chamber.
“The death of one man is a tragedy. The death of millions is a statistic.”
One of the hardest things to do while thinking about the holocaust is realize these were all real people. One of the most heart-wrenching letters comes from a 12 year old girl writing to her father. In this moment, I finally thought of Anne Frank. In one letter you understand just how real it was.
Below the photo of the quote is the Berlin Memorial for Murdered Jews of Europe.
The scars of the holocaust aren’t scars at all yet, they are still open wounds. People still live today without their parents, without their grandparents. Some even live without their children. Even some survivors aren’t really alive. The last quote from letter of a survivor shows the hurt that was left and still is today.
With (extra) Love, Elizabeth Ashley