*This is Part 2 of the story of my experience at Auschwitz-Birkenau, the biggest Nazi concentration camp in Germany-occupied Poland. Part 1 can be found HERE*
As I mentioned in Part 1, our visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau was incredibly life-changing. It is worth mentioning that only the girls and I visited the memorial since it isn't recommended for people under 14 years of age so to allow us the opportunity to visit the camp, Iggy stayed with Oliver in Krakow while we took the day trip to Oświęcim. I wanted to get that out of the way since many people asked if I had taken my little one on the tour.
The following are some others of the areas/things that stood out to me the most (this list is probably harsher than the one on my first post, so please be warned):
- The Barracks:
Barracks were primitive wooden structures with large wooden shelves for bunk beds; the camp originally belonged to the Polish military before the country was occupied in the early 1940s and the place was converted into a concentration camp (as a matter of fact, most initial prisoners were not Jews but rather Poles, Catholics, and Gypsies). The original wooden structures were then adapted into brick buildings and some of the single-story ones, were transformed into two stories in order to house the most prisoners. There were 36 bunks per barrack; 5 to 6 prisoners were packed on a shelf to fit over 500 prisoners per barracks; the living conditions were totally inhumane in those infamous buildings. In the brick blocks, prisoners slept on straw-strewn mats, and paper mattresses stuffed with so-called “wood wool” were placed on the beds or bunks in the wooden barracks. The Auschwitz-Birkenau complex is a somber sight; the thought of all those victims being tortured day in and day out is very haunting and even though I know a lot about Holocaust history (I'm an avid WWII reader), seeing it in person brought all those things I have read through the years to a different dimension. When touring the barracks, visitors are able to see the shelves used as bunk beds as well as the type of mattresses that people laid on and some other aspects of the living conditions at the camp. Touring the premises and hearing the harrowing stories made all my problems seem so small, it's a sorrowful feeling too complex to put into words. I will never complain about cold showers, bad weather or being slightly hungry, or not getting a full night's sleep.