|A Day Trip
Pros: auschwitz-a memorial and museum,
Saturday, Apr 09, 2005 09:00
Birkenau probably doesn't mean much to most people reading this,
but the place just down the road from it surely will: Aushwitz.
A 90 minute bus ride from Karkow takes us to the site of the Auschwitz
Concentration Camp, now a memorial and museum. The town is actually
called Oswiecim which is it's original Polish name; the Germans
renamed it to Aushwitz (essentially the German spelling of the town).
Understandably, the Polish reversed that in 1945.
We had done a bit of background reading before arrival - so we left
the over-crowded Aushwitz site (there were at least 20 coaches in
the car park) and walked 3km to Birkenau. This is essentially the
next village along from Oswiecim and was used by the SS as the site
of "Aushwitz II". Not so many tourists bother to head
out that way, and so the site, which is massive, was practically
devoid of people.
It's difficult to describe the feelings that you encounter when
there. The weather was drab and it started to rain, which seemed
fitting. There are numerous iconic points - most notably the view
from the watch tower over the site which looks straight down the
railway tracks: that's enough to make you fill sick.
It was strange though: we have previously only seen "footage"
of the Camps in films and consequently - and perversly - the site
reminded us of a film set and not the other way around. But often,
you suddenly thought "right here where I am stood people suffered
and died". It is a very strange feeling indeed.