I had become ill on the bus to the camp just thinking where we were headed. Fortunately, one our Canadian travelers was a Doctor and was able to give me a pill to relax my nerves and my nausea. We arrived at the most infamous sign in the World...Arbeit Macht Frei. Work makes you free.
Now remember, we were warmly dressed, had lunch and free to leave. Given all that I shivered like no other time in my life. We passed by the area where the bands were playing beautiful compositions and knew what happened. The buildings stood there where thousands of Jewish men, women and children were beaten and starved to death. They were now museums to the Holocaust.
The camp had the original prototype of the gas chambers. The rest were built in Birkenau about a mile away. Our guide had us fill up the chamber and then locked the door. We could not escape. If you think you won’t pee in your pants, think again. The walls had scratches where attempts had been made to escape. We saw the traps where the poison gas was poured.
We were told by our guide that until everyone stopped talking they would not open the door. Some people kept talking anyway until they were told by angry people to shut up. Finally the doors were opened and all of couldn’t walk fast enough to get the hell out of there. I don’t believe we were in there for five minutes yet many of us were soaked in sweat from the experience.
After that we were escorted to a building that housed the shoes, hair, eyeglasses, crutches and prosthetic legs. In that room I told my wife I was going to faint or go outside which I did and promptly vomited. We had seen that exhibit in many films of the Holocaust but seeing them for the first time violently disturbed me. You could hear the children’s shoes crying.
From there we walked the mile to Birkinau or should I say we went to hell. Gray, dark, dreary, no life and no one was talking while the guide explained to us what we were about to see. We were taken into the barracks and witnessed the slats upon which thousands were forced to rest their bodies. Then we were shown from the outside the ruins of the three major gas chambers and furnaces. Chamber number three was destroyed by an uprising of prisoners in late 1944. The others were destroyed by the Nazis as the Russian army drew closer.
This is only a partial description of what we witnessed. I will continue to write about our other findings. I can tell you one important thing that happened. I have never been the same person before our trip to Auschwitz.
Some memories will forever haunt my mind.
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