Thursday, October 23, 2014

Auschwitz & Birkenau

At 4:30am on Sunday from our hotel lobby, we followed an elderly man who did not speak English to his car. He literally drove us across the street to the Warszawa Central train station. While showing us train tickets, he signaled for us to give him our cash payment. I nervously considered what to do. At that same moment, two young Portuguese men smelling of alcohol approached the group and asked the man a question. We heard Auschwitz mentioned. These travelers had also booked a tour to Auschwitz. I quickly made the decision to pay this Polish Driver #1 and he guided us to the 5am train bound for Krakow. He indicated he would meet us at 11pm that night when we returned.

We boarded wagon #21 and found our compartment of eight seats which we had all to ourselves. Thankfully a vendor cart came by offering coffee. In about three hours we arrived at Krakow Glowney train station where Driver #2 awaited us and the Portuguese men. Driver #2 rushed us along to the waiting van to make the 1.5 hour drive to Auschwitz. No time for breakfast and Driver #2 did not seem too concerned about our nutritional needs because once we arrived, we quickly started the 10am movie and 10:30am English tour of Auschwitz and Birkenau which would conclude four hours later.

I have toured Auschwitz and Birkenau and believe all who are able should. I am quite knowledgeable of the facts but seeing this place, the buildings, the setting -- is important to understanding. Honestly, I cannot string together any original sequence of words that have not been better composed by legions of others.
On the wall of an Auschwitz building. I strongly agree. 
It is in the middle with a railroad line - why this location was chosen as death camp for 1.1 million men, women and children. 
German phrase meaning "Work makes (you) free" on the gate to Auschwitz.
Someday I will understand Auschwitz. This was a brave statement but innocently absurd. No one will ever understand Auschwitz. What I might have set down with more accuracy would have been: Someday I will write about Sophie's life and death, and thereby help demonstrate how absolute evil is never extinguished from the world. Auschwitz itself remains inexplicable. The most profound statement yet made about Auschwitz was not a statement at all, but a response.

The query: "At Auschwitz, tell me, where was God?"

And the answer: "Where was man?”
― William StyronSophie's Choice

As a Jew, I have to emotionally process this experience as well as that of the Warsaw Ghetto. I need to talk with other Jews ...

Guide #3 ... next post ...

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