Auschwitz

Planning a trip to Poland was complicated as I knew I couldn’t go without touring Auschwitz. This is not a place you want to take small children if they are anything like mine. First, we have Kellan who was overwhelmed with emotions and questions during visits to the Titanic experience and Culloden battlefield. Then we have Carter, a toddler with special needs that got us kicked out of a castle tour in Germany for being loud and distracting to others. No way was I bringing these two. Even in a typical museum I hardly get to read or fully absorb information.

We talked about taking turns touring the museum while the other stayed behind in Krakow with the boys. We decided to go ahead with this plan until some friends in Germany mentioned wanting to go to Poland but having the same concerns about their toddler boys. It worked out perfectly meeting them in Oswiecim one morning and spending a full day swapping being with the kids and touring the museum. The men went first, so Kaitlyn and I had breakfast with the boys at a cafe and then walked around the city and a local park.

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4 little boys = endless energy

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When the men came back a couple hours later we took the kids to a local play place called Park Family Fun. The boys had the place to themselves and is the perfect place to burn some energy. Kaitlyn and I drove a couple miles to the museum where we chose to tour on a pre booked “individual basis”. This is where you can tour the museum on your own time instead of being in a group. We purchased a tour booklet so that we could still follow a map and read about each building. Word of advise, we were very late for the time slot we had pre booked and we barely made it in. We hadn’t thought it would matter given we were on an individual tour but they almost didn’t let us enter.

Concentration camps are something I’ve learned about my entire life but nothing compares to learning about it as you walk along the same paths an unfathomable amount of murdered people walked. Brutally and unimaginably murdered and for no wrong doing. It is a surreal and humbling experience. You cannot help but think about your family and how fortunate you are.

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The first things prisoners saw entering the camp: Work will set you free

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The courtyard of block 11: also named the Death Wall as it was used for execution by gunfire

Auschwitz was established in 1940 and 1.3 million people died here. Some of the buildings we walked through included the gas chamber, crematorium, and experiments wing. While touring the camp you will witness things that will tear at your heart. Perhaps the toughest bit to see for me was upstairs in block 5. On display is 2 tons worth of haircloth made from human hair of the victims. The hair of Jewish women murdered in the gas chambers was used for textiles and sold to German companies. I think it was seeing something so physical and real that used to belong to someone’s body, and in such mass quantity, that put it all into perspective. I decided to skip block 6 which has a room on the children of Auschwitz. I just didn’t think I could handle it emotionally.

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floor plans to the gas chambers 
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Near the entrance to the gas chambers. People were brought here under the promise of a shower and instead were killed using Zyklon B

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empty canisters of the Zyklon B used in the gas chambers 
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Prisoners were documented by photographs accompanied by name, date of birth, occupation, date of arrival and date of death. Every type of occupation is represented from farmer to accountant. 

Touring Auschwitz is an eye opening experience because not only do you feel humbled and thankful for your life;  you will also have the unique experience of walking out a changed person. It’s impossible to come here and not reflect on the world’s history, the need for power, and the desire to not repeat the mistakes once made.

 

 

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