Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Day Nine: Auschwitz and Farewells

Another lazy morning, sleeping in and enjoying a breakfast of salad and tea. I will miss sleeping in when I return home! 

Today we only had one item on the agenda: we were going to go to Auschwitz to take a tour of the concentration camp and museum. I wasn't sure that I really wanted this on my agenda -- I can barely make it through a book about the holocaust without crying; I wasn't convinced I really wanted to stand where hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children were tortured, starved, and died, especially on a trip meant to be happy. But as Vera pointed out: when will be the next opportunity to be in Poland and see the museum? So we went. 

A few things from today: 

1. I didn't take any pictures, and I was sickened by those who did. Why anyone would want to remember the sadness they saw today is beyond me. It seemed irreverent and demeaning and dishonoring to the souls that were lost there. To each their own I suppose, but you won't see any pictures from me. 

2. I didn't know that they used the hair from the victims to make fabric. In one room we entered, there was a pile of hair about six feet high, five feet deep, and at least twenty feet long as well as a sample of the fabric. I'm not sure why this was so horrifying (everything was horrifying) -- maybe because it was new information. 

3. I cannot decide which was the worst thing I saw today: the room dedicated to the children, their tiny infant clothing on display and their precious, gaunt faces in photos on the walls; the underground gas chamber / crematorium with scratch marks lining the walls; or the urn within one of the barracks containing the ashes of those who perished there as a "symbol" of those who lost their lives -- for the love of God, they were condemned to that awful place while alive; at least let their ashes rest in peace somewhere other than a museum commemorating their execution. 

4. In a sickening twist, of those that survived the camps and were liberated, a high percentage died after eating their first meal, for after months of starvation their bodies could not handle the large amount of food they ingested. 

5. I don't regret going. As the tour guide said at the end: we learn about history so we don't make the same mistakes again.

The experience was sobering and somber; I don't think I will ever enter Auschwitz again. And I will spend a great deal of time in the future praying for the souls lost there and the people currently experiencing genosides, war, hunger, and fear in their own homes. 

After we finished with our tour (in Polish! There were no English tours left today, so Jarek and Gosia translated as we went) we headed back to Jarek's apartment where we ate more home cooked krokiety and beet root soup. Delicious! We visited for a while and watched Friends (Vera has only seen a few episodes, so we are introducing her to the series) and then it was time for Gosia to leave. She has to work tomorrow, so she needed to go back to her apartment. Saying good bye is always so sad, especially when you are separated by an ocean. I told her the next Camino reunion is in St. Louis : ) 

Yesterday while we were in Market Square, Vera bought a stuffed bunny, and I told her it looked like the Velveteen Rabbit. She had never heard the story!! So tonight before bed, I read her the Velveteen Rabbit. We DID take a picture of that!!! 

And now, it is time to sleep. I can't believe how quickly our time in Poland went!!! Also: I don't want you to think that this somber day has taken away from our reunion and adventures -- this really had been a wonderful trip with wonderful friends. 

Good night. Buen Camino. ❤️


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