Tuesday, May 8, 2012
A long time ago now, about 25 years ago, a friend of mine's Jewish father told me that I should read a book. The book was by Primo Levi, an Italian who spent time in the notorious German concentration camp Auschwitz. That book has always stayed with me and when I got the chance recently to take a trip to Krakow along with some work colleagues I jumped at the chance. I took the little Minox camera as well as a film camera but to be honest Auschwitz is not the sort of place you want to be constantly snapping away. It is a place to look and learn and reflect on what has happened and must never happen again. Rooms upon rooms of evidence of man's inhumanity to man. All this happened in the very recent past. I'm not an old person and my father fought in the second world war-it's still modern history. We spent the morning at the smaller site of Auschwitz which served as the administrative centre. It is here that you see the infamous 'arbeit macht frei' sign above the entrance gates. Also here is the site of Mengele's terrible experiments on children. Auschwitz is a disturbing experience but a worthwhile one for anybody. In the afternoon we moved on to Auschwitz-Birkenau or Auschwitz II. This is a much bigger site and was planned to be further extended still as part of hitler's 'final solution'. The majority of the million plus people who were exterminated died on this site and it's a place you feel you've been to before you even arrive, such is it notoriety. The size of the site gives plenty of space for you to walk around, away from tour guides in order to find what meaning you can from the rubble and monuments to those who lost their lives. It would be wrong to say this was an enjoyable day but I think it was one of the things I needed to see and do. It's safe to say we all needed a beer on returning to Krakow.