This summer I have spent a few days in Krakow, Poland. Nice city and beautiful country by the way. A friend of mine who lives in Krakow told me, that I should visit Auschwitz. It’s only 50km outside Krakow and its worth visiting, its a special place she said. The day after I went there and I have to admit, it is a special place.
When I reached there by bus and planted my feet outside the vehicle and I saw for the first time in real the KZ-buildings, it did already hit me! Somehow I was happy that I went there alone. I didn’t feel to talk, I just wanted to connect with the place by myself. But its a historical place, you’ve got lots of tourists there and before 4pm, you can not enter and visit the place by yourself, you needed to book a guided tour with a group. I have been too early to visit on my own, but on the other hand I was not keen to wait for two hours. So I bought a ticket for a guided tour but once I was inside, I managed to go around on my own. I think I didn’t say any word during the whole visit… I was just absorbing, reading, watching, feeling and taking a few photos.
Two things I’d like to point out. In that one building “prisoners life” they have put a few hundred portraits of the prisoners on display. I guess the Nazis took pictures of them when they entered the KZ in Auschwitz. I had spent quite a moment looking at all these portraits of men and woman until I realized, they look all the same! I mean, they had all the same blank expression. Wide open eyes, mouth shut, bold head. I’m a photographer too and I know that every person has his own expression, as a photographer I’m looking for that. There’s a saying which says, that our eyes are the mirror of our soul, but all the prisoners on these photos had the same blank expression. All of them…. around 300! Something between fear and disbelief. There was no more light in theire eyes, as if the Nazis had chased the souls out of their bodies.
Second thing which was hard to handle for me, was the moment when I went inside a gas chamber. I had to go inside there twice, but then I had enough. I don’t know how it felt for the other visitors who went there, all I can say is that I felt it strongly. You can say whatever you want, but when you stand on a precise spot where 1000, a hundred thousands of people have been killed in such brutal way, with pure terror in their eyes, you feel it. At least I did!
(The photo has been taken inside a gas chamber)
The whole visit was a strong experience to me. For sure you gonna ask yourself afterwards, how could this happen? How can people do something like that!?!
I guess the ability to do so is in all of us. I mean, I’m not saying that we are all Nazis, I’m saying that every human mind is able to do cruel things if the circumstances are given. Just have a look at the world around us, it’s happening every day!
What I’m a bit scared about is thatnowadays in the western world (at least for what I know) we live in a time with a lack of true moral and spiritual values. Power to the market and “me, myself and I” over all. And the fact, that a crazy, armed-to-the-teeth cowboy is president of the most powerful country in the world, doesn’t make me feel any better.
A lack of moral and spiritual values creates a oakum which can be filled by extrem, really destructive ideas and this is something we should pay attention of.
These saying, which was written outside the KZ Auschwitz, hit me the most:
“Dedicated in everlasting memory of our brothers and sisters murdered in the SHOAH.
May their righteous souls find peace in the Divine Presence, and may their lives inspire us to acts of love and compassion.”
Edmond J. Safra Foundation