Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Forever. Kelly McGovern

March 18, 2014

Today we visited Auschwitz 2-Birkenau. Standing at the front gate looking around, I could not believe how large the camp was. It went on for what seemed like forever, which is probably the reality of those who were imprisoned in the camp. The number of buildings that are standing, and even the number of buildings that are no longer standing amazed me. I learned that all of the prisoners of Auschwitz 2 had to build the blocks themselves. The more I thought about it the more I could not believe it. They did not have the proper equipment, safety procedures let alone the proper clothing to build these blocks. They were building their hell. 

The front of Auschwitz 2- Birkenau

One of the first blocks we entered was solely for sleeping. Standing in front of a wooden bed that someone actually slept in, even could have died in with just some straw and a blanket filled me with emotion. Our tour guide told us that 9 or more people would sleep together in one bed not only because the block was so over crowded, but for warmth. I can only imagine the different emotions the prisoners felt. Anger, sadness, loneliness, hatred, fear. 

The wooden beds that prisoners slept on 

The block where prisoners slept 

The next block we entered was where the prisoners would wash up and use the bathroom. Holes in a cinder block, this is what 2,000 men and women had to use within 5 minutes. The way these ‘toilets’ were designed shows how inhumane the Nazis were. The prisoners were treated like animals. The longer I stood there, the more I thought about how they did not have any privacy. Back to back with one another trying to take care of their business. Toilet paper was not even an option. 

The toilets the prisoners used 

Auschwitz 2-Birkenau is known as the main death camp. Here, all Jewish prisoners were expected to die. Four gas chambers were built and used. Although they are not standing today, the horrific memory of their purpose will forever be in the minds of those who visit the camp. 

The ruins of one of the four gas chambers at Auschwitz 2- Birkenau 

The ruins of the changing room the prisoners entered before the gas chamber 

I believe that every single person needs to experience this life-changing trip. I have been learning about the Shoah since middle school and thought I somewhat understood the events that took place; I was wrong. From walking on the same dirt path that an innocent prisoner could have walked on, I now believe my knowledge of the events that took place at Auschwitz 2-Birkenau is slightly better. 

Kelly McGovern 


  1. Dear Kelly, Thank you for sharing this with all of us. (Or maybe you did not know dear old Dad sent us this link). Auschwitz really is horrifying, the name alone does it for me and I have never actually been there. I am thrilled for you that you are in Poland - how exciting. Wish I were with you. You did know that Papa's mother's parents were born in Poland but it was part of the Austrian-Hungarian empire back then so some census reports showed them as Austrian but they spoke Polish. Have an interesting and enjoyable trip. Love, Aunt Donna