I had a sleepless night last, tossing and turning, thinking of so much more that I needed to write (I think this is part of my helping myself to move on from this experience). As we walked through Auschwitz death camp, it was absolutely freezing and pouring with rain,We were wearing warm coats, jumpers, boots and had umbrellas-- We were all complaining about how freezing we were and all I could think about was my parents standing out where we were wearing nothing but a cotton striped pajama which was the uniform they were given, no shoes, socks etc. I f we were freezing what had they gone through??
We stood in the carriage of one of the original transport trains--tiny windows, no water no toilet facilities, there were 50 of us squashed on but when our parents were transported from their homes to these camps there were between 80 to 100 all squashed together, no room to move.--often for 7 to 10 hours at a time. My father in his personal testimony referred to himself as " lucky " because he had a bit of air because he had been pushed close to a window--how could he refer to himself as being "lucky" under these circumstance but I guess your values totally change--as far as he was concerned he was lucky. He also describe feeling that he was standing on corpses and having no where to move--he couldn't even move his leg to move off them.
We had 2 of the survivors with us on the train--one of them totally broke down, the other held on for dear life because he felt that the train was moving and he was heading for certain death. --such brave people to even make this trip.
We saw exhibits of tons of human hair which had been shaved off all the prisoners, 1000's of pairs of shoes taken from them , clothes taken from them--the greatest impact was seeing the baby clothes, ashes of human bodies preserved in special areas, we saw the bunks they slept on often 3 or 4 on a bunk just to try to keep warm, we tried to feel what they felt,but it's impossible even as close to it as we were.
We saw the pits where so many bodies were burned -the Nazis even had experiments to try to work out the fastest way to burn them--larger ones on top, children on top, smaller bodies on top---how can people be so cruel????
I cried a lot before I left on this journey in anticipation of how I would react,but there weren't many tears although we all broke down at times,--we were all surprisingly strong.-- it was all too surreal to believe. I t felt like we were walking through a movie set, not real life situations. Of course the camps have been cleaned up. there is now grass and there are trees, nothing like when our parents were there. As our educator told us, any grass that was there originally was eaten by prisoners who were desperate for any food that they could get.
I had the privilege of reading out my father's personal testimony and I know he would have been so pleased because one of his main aims in his life was to keep the memories of their experiences alive.
Each of my parents had a final wish--my father somehow managed to keep his striped concentration camp uniform which he requested to be buried with, and my mother had salvaged a cake of soap made from the fat of human beings which she wanted to be buried with---both their requests were granted.