How are you meant to feel when you stand in a gas chamber?
You look around the damp underground room and you try to imagine 700 people all crammed in, half starved, clinging to the promise of hot soup after having been made to strip naked and leave their clothes outside on the stones.
You walk through to the next room and see where the corpses of murdered, innocent people were then burned, one after another, sending foul smelling smoke up through the chimneys for the other prisoners in the camp to see.
How are you meant to feel?
When I told people I wanted to visit Auschwitz as one of my 40 things to do before I turn 40 I got a mixed reaction. Some people, you could tell, could think of nothing worse. Either they just didn’t want to be made to think about it, or perhaps they felt it was disrespectful to pay for the privilege of being led around a site where hundreds of thousands of people were killed.
Others wished me luck.
‘It was the most harrowing experience of my life,’ they told me.
‘So traumatic,’ they said.
It has been something that I’ve wanted to do for a long time, as I’ve read quite a bit about life (and death) in concentration camps, and there is something that just feels so IMPORTANT about it. It’s such a massive part of our recent history as human beings, and it’s so horrific.
I imagined that it would be just as harrowing and traumatic as everyone was telling me, that perhaps I would feel overwhelmed, unable to deal with coming face to face with it.
We arrived and walked through those infamous gates at Auschwitz One – ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’ – and I waited for the feelings to come. I stood still and quiet and waited to feel the horror of what had happened. I tried to picture the prisoners, walking through these gates, feeling scared but potentially optimistic, oblivious to what lay ahead.
Nothing came. View Post