A Must See: Aushwitz

The German phrase “Arbeit Macht Frei” means only work can set you free. This sign is visibly seen as you enter the former concentration camp in Aushwitz, Poland. Oh the irony…

It was a six hour overnight bus ride from Prague to Aushwitz. We departed at midnight so naturally none of my peers or myself got a good nights rest. There was one unpleasant and ironically unforeseeable misfortune that backtracked our trip there: a thick fog. This fog caused a lot of traffic as drivers could quite literally not see the road. However, this didn’t stop Eva, our wonderful tour guide, from rushing our breakfast in order to make it to the camp by 7am. It was important to get there at the very beginning of opening hours as typically Aushwitz is extremely packed, ultimately taking away from the experience.

It’s easy to lack empathy when you learn about the history of Jews in a middle school history class. After visiting Aushwitz, every single one of my peers, Jewish or not, shed a tear. I saw the actual gas chambers bodies were disposed of in. I saw thousands of shoes and suitcases that belonged to actual people who were murdered. I walked through an underground tunnel built for the prisoners. I witnessed some of my friends search through a massive book of names of the victims killed; many of whom found their relatives and cried with grief.

What I saw in Aushwitz was terrifying, horrifying, unjust, but necessary to have witnessed. Yes I knew about the atrocities that went on at this extermination camp, they were unfortunate, but distant. They were stories, statistics, numbers, and seemed very far away. Truth is, not very long ago, had you lived in Europe, you could have been a part of this brutal history. What if this was my family? My sister or brother? My cousin? My child? My friend? My neighbor? Visiting Aushwitz makes it personal for you, regardless where you come from.

For all my traveling enthusiasts reading, traveling with the intention to understand the history of a place will make your experience much more worthwhile. It will forever change your perspective of the world and the people that reside in it.

“For ever let this place be a cry of despair and a warning to humanity where the Nazis murdered about one and a half million men, women, and children, mainly Jews from various countries of Europe.” Aushwitz-Birkenau 1940-1945


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