I've titled this post a "haunting experience" because that sums it up and there is little more description to give. It is a very personal place to visit. The site that you can visit today is just one of a network that operated in the area. Approximately 1.1 million of the 1.3 million people that we brought here died, with about 1 in 6 of the Jews killed in the holocaust, dying here. Visiting in the cold and grey, and watching my toddler run about the grounds gave a small glimpse of what being sent here meant. It is a picture of discomfort and hopelessness before the horror of the gas chambers or death from over work. Picturing the horror of what was done to children and their mothers (and men of course too) is actually unimaginable though. You walk through the main gates and read about the daily assemblies in the cold and snow. The conditions are bleak and the razor wire fences remain as they would have been during the Nazi occupation. There are guard posts which you can imagine being occupied by guards with guns. At the back of the camp, there is a gas chamber (which you can see in my last picture above). You can walk into it fully and see the room in which so many people were murdered together, day after day. Sadness doesn't begin to describe it, but it is also incredibly surreal. My toddler wanted to explore and I wasn't sure how I felt about him walking and touching the walls of a place in which so many people were killed. The feeling of needing to remember and give respect for the dead is there. I did see some tourists taking selfies under the gates and wondered why you would want to take a picture looking happy visiting such a sad place. The surrealism does separate you from the full reality of the past, but it is still far too imaginable. An audio guide is made available on entry if you want it, but we just wandered the grounds, reading the many information posts scattered about. Really a visit here is about gaining a small insight into this horror of history and thats best done just by looking and feeling.
Post note a month after my visit here: I am still feeling rather haunted by this visit. We learn about the holocaust in school, but the reality of it then is really beyond grasp. Visiting Auschwitz gave the holocaust a reality that I hadn't understood before. It is an incredibly depressing understanding of the worst part of human nature, and for the more sensitive souls in this world (of which I count myself), a visit here can have a lingering affect.
We are a family who love to travel - teenager and toddler inclusive! Some of our most recent adventures have included Egypt, Morocco,Spain, Italy, East Europe and New Zealand.