Post might be distressing for some people.
It’s the 27th January today, a day that will probably be like any other but across the world thousands of people will be pausing to think, to remember and to mourn. Because today isn’t just the 27th of January, today is Holocaust Memorial Day and that means a lot to a lot of people.
On the 27th January 1945 the Red Army liberated Auschwitz and for the first time the devastation and scale of the Holocaust was fully acknowledged. The liberating soldiers witnessed the lowest levels of human depravity, saw death all around them and witnessed the abhorrent conditions in which dying campmates were left.
I’ve already mentioned my visits to Auschwitz and the impact that these trips had on me but this time I wanted to approach it from a different angle. The extermination camp has a huge impact on you, it definitely teaches you some huge lessons and this year I wanted to share some of these with you.
These are just a handful of the things I learnt from visiting Auschwitz and Krakow.
The size //
I honestly couldn’t accurately tell you how big the Auschwitz camp actually is and even if I gave you a number it wouldn’t do it justice. All I can say is that it actually stretches as far as you can see and is overwhelming, occupying land in every direction.
The Kommandant //
Similarly to the size of the camp, the location of the camp Komandant’s family home is horrifying because his family plot literally overlooks the Nazi death camp. Obviously it’s horrifying that it was his day to day job but to live practically on the site is chilling and sadistic.
The level of the deception //
We all know the story of the Holocaust and just how manipulative the Nazis were but the levels of deception were unbelievable. They convinced their victims that they were to take a shower when in actual fact they were walking straight to their death. They had signs everywhere, shower heads installed in the gas chambers and even advised the victims to tie their shoes together, to ensure they were easier to collect afterwards.
The evolution //
I’ve always believed that the Nazis wanted to “exterminate” the Jews but during the early years they had the will but not the ability. As time goes on and the Nazis experiment with killing methods, they eventually stumble upon a way of mass murdering millions of innocent people. In a similar way Auschwitz evolved from a concentration camp to the site of the greatest injustice in the history of the world.
The cruelty //
I won’t give to too much detail because it’s not something that everyone is comfortable with but the levels of torture are shocking and had to understand. Visiting Auschwitz shows you the scale of the cruelty and the mass suffering that took place.
The good in human nature //
This year’s theme is “don’t stand by” and while we HAVE to acknowledge the evil, we also should remember the good. Thousands of people did assist in helping and saving Nazi victims and their stories are equally important.
The multiple victims //
The Jews were the biggest victims of the Holocaust but we have to remember the other groups of people too because the Nazis had many victims.
The brave escape //
I have recently become fascinated by the people that successfully managed to escape from the Nazi concentration camps but there’s one in particular that has really stuck with me. Kazimierz Piechowski and three other prisoners were at the centre of perhaps the most daring and inspiring plots in the Holocaust history. They snuck in to the barrack where the SS stored their uniforms and stole a uniform each. They then took one of the cars and drove out of the camp. It did seem as if their plot was to be flawed when the camp guards seemed reluctant to lift the exit gate, but eventually the gate was lifted and the prisoners literally drove from the camp. An act that saved their lives.