Horrified, appalled, and speechless

Trip Start Jul 15, 2006
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Trip End Oct 21, 2006


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Flag of Poland  ,
Friday, August 18, 2006

Auschwitz ... in all honesty, I didn't really want to go because I wasn't sure how I would react. But at the same time, I felt compelled to go. You can't imagine what these places were like unless you see them in person. Even then, you can't fully imagine how horrific life must've been like here.

Almost 1,000,000 people were killed here. That's only at the Auschwitz sites. It wasn't just a concentration camp (i.e. - work camp) - it was also an extermination camp. Some people were sent directly to the gas chambers as they got off the trains.

Warehouses were used to store the belongings of people that were sent here. These were actually nicknamed "Canada I" and "Canada II" by the first Polish prisoners that were kept here. Apparently they had some family members that had moved to Canada and wrote to tell them that Canada was rich and prosperous, hence the nickname. In contrast, "Mexico" was used to describe other parts of the camp because it was a poor country.

I saw many disturbing things at Auschwitz ... the death wall where executions took place. The gas chambers. But the most disturbing sight was all the human hair the Nazis kept. Thousands of kilograms of it - nothing was wasted here so it was used to make fabrics.

The Nazis had the most brutal tactics - there were various types of cells to punish the prisoners. Standing cells - people were forced to work all day and then stand all night. Most died after 2 days. Starvation cells - self explanatory. Suffocation cells - 10+ people were jammed into a cell intended for 2 or 3 people. Usually they didn't last the night.

Most prisoners only survived a few months ... this was surprising to me. I guess I never really thought about it before. On display were some "mug' shots of prisoners ... very haunting to see these photos. Interesting point - children that "looked" German were allowed to live and be assimilated into the Nazi culture.

After the Auschwitz I site, off to Auschwitz II Birkenau. The size was unbelievable - it was built because the Nazis wanted more efficient means of extermination. Overwhelming, to say the least.

Afterwards, we grabbed a quick crappy burger for lunch on the way back to Krakow. Tried to put the moves on a pretty Polish woman at the bus stop but she only spoke a tiny bit of English. Damn my uni-lingualism!!!

Used the internet cafe - it's very cheap here (around 1 euro/hour). Walked through the Jewish quarter - not much there but a bunch of cafes and restaurants. Had pierogi for dinner - "Cesar's" (lamb, thyme, rosemary, bacon). Dessert was also pierogi w/ rum and coconut. All very good and cheap. Also tried to put the moves on the cute waitress but was told "No pierogi for you!!!".
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