Today, I visited the infamous Auschwitz.
It was the largest Nazi German Concentration and death camp, in operation between the years of 1940 and 1945. 1 300 000 people were sent there. 1 300 000!!!! Most of them died, most of them being Jews, most of them in the death chambers.
So it was built originally for the Poles – Hitler had his eye on Poland and didn’t want it full of those Poles – so he decided to exterminate them. It was meant to be an instrument of Nazi terror and a way of completely repressing the Polish people. There was a quote with him ordering his lackeys to kill the Poles, bearing no “pity or sympathy.” He decided starvation would be most effective – rather than just shooting them. He wanted to break the nation:
“In order to eliminate every cultrual and economic peculiarity, no Polish coorperation, union or association can exist…Polish restauants and cafes are not permitted…there shall be no Polish newspapers, nor production of Polish books. For the same reason, Poles will have no right to own radio recievers or phonographs.”
And that’s when WWII started.
And do you know, there were still Polish Nazi sympathisers? What the!?!
After the Poles came the Jewish People. Then there were Roma (or Gypsies), Soviet POWs, prisoners from other ethnic groups, JWs, homosexuals…
It was obviously really emotive; piles of plundered trunks, prosthetic limbs, glasses & shoes. A large room full of human hair. Photo after photo of people with blank stares and shaved heads who you knew were not too much later cruelly murdered.* Stories of completely senseless, inhumane cruelty and stories of courage and valour. Seeing where they collapsed, literally exhaused after 11 hours of hard labour and too little food on bunk beds, on floors covered in straw like oversized rabbit hutches, on straw covered stacks of wooden crates. Seeing where roll call was held – up to twelve hours – with people literally dying of exhausion from standing in the cold for that long, seeing cells where people suspected of anything were sentenced, seeing empty cans of poison from the gas chambers, wooden frames from where the public hangings took place.
It’s hard to believe that the people behind these atrocities were – people. Animals don’t treat each other like this. I read in the guest book something by some bloke from Hull, England who wrote earlier in the week “Let’s not allow history to repeat itself.”
But that’s the thing. That’s what history does.
Maybe it hasn’t happened in the same way but this stuff keeps happening and we keep turning a blind eye to it.
It’s just one totalitarian regime, one genocide, one war after another.
*Strangely, eerily, amongst photographs of people with blank stares and tormented eyes, there were freshly shaved people in striped pyjamas smiling, as if it were a glamour shot. I wonder what they thought they were in for.
(A little kind of unrelated side note – the diversional therapist in me was interested in a little corner which talked about the prisoners playing games, writing poems, pracising their faiths, sketching, writing and playing music etc. Leisue eh. Can’t live without it. Can’t even die without it.)