Feeling Deflated But Humble After Auschwitz Visit

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I’ve just returned from Auschwitz 1 and Auschwitz Birkenau and will try my best to put it into words, while it remains raw. As you can imagine, after visiting a former concentration camp followed by a former extermination camp, my mood is rather low and I think I struggled a lot more than I thought I would have.

Because of the size of the place and its significance in history, I decided to get a tour guide and he was nothing short of fantastic. We were eating out of the palm of his hands.

I went with two Brummie girls and no words were shared during our time there. Everyone on the tour walked around with looks of disbelief and often tear of sadness strolling down their face. No words could suffice for the information that we were trying to process in our mind.

If you ever fancy an Auschwitz tour, don’t be silly like me and think you are superhuman and have some superpower that won’t make you depressed. Auschwitz is emotionally heavy. That being said, if I could do it again – I most certainly would and I am extremely glad and humbled that I went and paid my respects to the victims of such an atrocity.

The famous sign which translates as “work makes one free.”

The above sign was recently returned after it was stolen by a Neo-Nazi group. This is the sign that the Auschwitz victims walked into, with music playing. They had no idea what horrors would meet them here.

The barbed wire had electric volts in for when a prisoner tried to escape. It was enough to kill an individual weighing 55KG – most of the malnourished victims weighed no more than 30 Kilos.

The selection process was brutal at Auschwitz. Healthy looking men were accepted to work in horrific conditions, while women and children were separated and sent to immediate death.

The purchases of the victims were taken and used for recycling to improve the German economy.

The above prosthetic limbs scream of irony, as the Jewish victims lost their limbs fighting FOR Germany in World War One. The Polish victims were already well integrated into German community, making these actions even more hard to believe.

The above suitcase is of a child who was barely 2 years old ๐Ÿ™

The above photo’s are from an Auschwitz survivor. He says his biggest regret is not saying goodbye to his family as he was so livid with the regime.

The following list is what the SS deemed to be a ‘crime.’

This lady was clocked in as a healthy 67 Kilos when she arrived at Auschwitz. On the day of liberation, she weighed a frail 24 kilos – she still lives today at 94 years old.

Two American guys took smiley and boisterous photographs next to the death wall. Seriously.

The man in charge of the camp was tried and hung here, thousands of people turned up to see it.

The infamous gas chambers.

The crematorium of Auschwitz.

The following pictures are from Auschwitz Birkenau:

The sanitary conditions were worse for the women
6 to a bed, with no sheets, often lying in their own faeces – one can only imagine the torment that the victims went through.
70 people were crammed into this part of the train

I have spoken to a lot of people here who just don’t ‘get’ why I’d want to visit such a depressing place. It’s very simple; I want to experience everything life has to offer – the good, bad, the beautiful and the downright depressing.

I’m not a fan of burying my head in the sand – this happened and it’s important that humanity learns from it. I’m happy I went and paid my respects to the victims of Auschwitz and to the armies around the world who fought to end this.

Have you ever been to Auschwitz? Can you put a name to your feelings after the visit?ย 



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22 comments

  1. macca Reply

    brilliant tribute mate, very moving & I get why you’re feeling low.

    Definately something that puts your life in perspective. People thing I’m mad when I say I want to visit myself, but like you’ve said, its something that has earnt our interest.

    Very moving mate

    I know the first commendant was called Rudolf Hoss, but not sure if he remained incharge for the duration.

    take it easy

    much love Mac

    1. Anthony Reply

      Hey Mac,
      Cheers man, you would have been fascinated, the fella was immense. Yes I think the man who was hung was that name – I felt much better when I met people who had been on the night out – empathy is powerful! Thanks again

  2. Michellle the wonder kid Scott Reply

    Very moving Anthony. A place deserving of a visit. Every generation should experience this and remember the horror of these camps. The war generation are old and it is up to us to ensure that their memories are carried on! Good job on the evil eyes too!!! ๐Ÿ™‚ xx

    1. Anthony Reply

      Hey Michelle,
      Oh yes the daggers worked a treat – knobheads! That place is always going to be open and blowing people’s mind every single day. xx

  3. Mirella Reply

    I too have always wanted to visit and will make sure I do. I’ve studied quite a bit about Nazi Germany and no matter how deep I get into it, I can never truly understand how such atrocities took place. One of my fave films is “Life is Beautiful”, you know that Italian film where Roberto Benigni won the Oscar for best actor. I cry every time and every time I hope this time he won’t die (I know, ridiculous). So I can only imagine how emotional it would be to actually be in one of the camps.

    Thanks for sharing all this with us ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Anthony Reply

      Hey Mirella,
      Thank you! I too am fascinated with the subject so it was monumental that I went. I haven’t seen that film, I may have a dabble! You really should go if it interests you – mind-blowing!

  4. james Reply

    I think you are brave trying to put into words your feelings so soon after this visit.
    The thing that is most scary about that place is that there are some peope who deny it ever happened
    How can we make sure something like this never happens again if we dont face up to the past

    1. Anthony Reply

      Hey James,
      Thank you, it wasn’t easy. I’m glad that Germany make it illegal for Holycaust denial! What a place it was, can’t get over it and not sure if I ever will.

  5. Jo-Jo Reply

    Great read, can’t have been an easy piece to attempt to explain to others but you did it well.

    You all ready know It’s somewhere i want to visit and, like you i think acknowledging it happened and showing respect for those is important. Sadly the worlds not all puppies, fluffy things and rainbows, and glimpsing History such as this proves that and that’s what most people struggle with. People do look at me strange when i say i want to go but then again most people look at me strange anyway ๐Ÿ™‚ j x

    1. Anthony Reply

      Hey Jo-Jo,

      Thanks it was the hardest piece by far. Yes I am in agreement that we can’t always skip in daisy fields and it’s worth going there, as I know you will be. I think people are strange for thinking we are strange for the desire to see something so massive! x

  6. Julia Reply

    I’ve been to Auschwitz / Birkenau and completely agree on how humbling it is. I think it was the room filled with childrens’ dolls and the collection of human hair which got me the most, not to mention the gas chambers where people were lighting candles. Even just the approach to the main gates makes all those film and documentary scenes you see so real and depressing.
    And as for your “fuck off” eyes to the tourists – we had the same experience with a group of German schoolchildren, all laughing and joking with each other as they were toured around. I can’t even tell you how disgusted I was. Even children should be made aware of how serious this place is and its significance in world history.
    Even though it was a few years ago when I visited, I still cried when I watched The Boy in The Striped Pyjamas more recently. I obviously won’t go into the story for those who haven’t seen it, but I couldn’t sleep the night after I watched it just thinking about the things I’d seen in Auschwitz. Think I’ll stick to Inglorious Basterds next time ๐Ÿ˜‰

    1. Anthony Reply

      Hey Julia,
      Shit – the tons of human hair was absolutely harrowing. The guide asked us not to take photos here too, but someone ignored this request also!! I agree about the kids and I think the people in charge of them must really have something to answer for, what the hell man!? I know what you mean about when you enter and see the sign and you’re like “wow, I’m ACTUALLY there.” Highlighted even more so as you say, when you’re in the gas chambers.

      The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas is horrific and I’ll not elaborate either in case we ruin a movie ending! haha Inglorious Basterds is a good take on the whole matter!

  7. Jerick Reply

    Been to Auschwitz too – and I must say that it made me appreciate the time we’re living in and how we take peace & freedom to move around for granted. It’s a humbling experience definitely and I didn’t have any photos in that place with me smiling (I never dared to as well)

    Coming from the Philippines, we never really talked about the holocaust in school – so it was an educational visit for me too.

    I remember before we entered the gas chambers, there were some people crying outside. We were silent on our trip back to Krakow, good thing we had some beers to cheer us up.

    1. Anthony Reply

      Hey Jerick,
      I too turned to the beer after, but more importantly – with people who I went with. They felt the same as me and it was good to get it out there and as you say be aware of what we take for granted.

      I honestly believe I’ve been born in the luckiest generation so far – bar none.

  8. Linda Reply

    I can only imagine how harrowing it was for you. Reading your post and seeing your pictures was very sobering. Thank you for posting this. Of course, it should never been forgotten, and the more time goes by the more likely we are to forget the real meaning of what happened, as opposed to it being simply an historic memorial. If we ignore these things, then we are, indeed, burying our heads in the sand, which is very foolish, and only likely to lead to more of the same problems. No-one ever promised us life would be easy, but our depression should be in perspective, life is also full of wonderful and inspiring things, as you know, so I hope you enjoyed your beer.

    1. Anthony Reply

      Hey Linda,
      Thank you, I’m glad it made people connect with how I felt – even though it wasn’t a very happy emotion. I’ve studied Auschwitz for so long and I STILL can’t get it in my head, even more so after the visit. I agree that it should be kept open forever and should never be forgotten.

      Life is indeed beautiful too and I want to experience it all! I’m greedy ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. Jack Reply

    I’m a total believer that places such as Auschwitz should be visited. It might be harrowing to visit but that pales into insignificance compared to the atrocities that occurred there. That suffering and horror should never be allowed to be forgotten.

    It’s not on the same scale but I visited the POW war cemetery at Kanchanaburi, Thailand and was completely taken aback by the emotion that the place aroused. It was serenely beautiful yet a testament to mankind’s cruelty. It choked me.

    Thanks for sharing your emotions in such an honest way.

    1. Anthony Reply

      Hey Jack,

      I think it should be on our national curriculum as a field trip (with an opt-out option). It’s massive in history and people should know about it in full detail and most importantly – learn from it. I’m going to that cemetery in January I think mate.

      ” It was serenely beautiful yet a testament to mankindโ€™s cruelty” I’m jealous I didn’t write that – nicely put man! Thanks for the thumbs up ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. Jayne Reply

    I’ve just finished a book on the life and crimes of SS officer Irma Grese. Such brutality for a young 22 year old woman.
    Your article was informative and historically sensitive until you signed off with “now I’m off for a beer”. Thanks for the great article though

    1. Anthony Reply

      Hey Jayne,

      I have also read that book! Thanks for the feedback – it was a long time ago when I wrote that and I guess I was just speaking what was in my head. If you pictured me going out and dancing and forgetting about the day, you couldn’t be any more further from the truth. I just went for a bit of sombre solace after the heavy day.

      But thank you for your honest, constructive criticism.

  11. The Pro's And Cons Of Spontaneous Travel - Man vs Clock Reply

    […] get me wrong, I have a huge bucket list. I also knew that I wanted to pay my respects to Auschwitz,ย but it was great to not have a rigid โ€˜to doโ€™ list which can cause stress in itself when […]

  12. Alex 'Yewby' Yewman Reply

    Visited there on Friday + something in me has changed. Made me hate humanity + scares me to think this only happened 75 years ago