Tuesday, March 18, 2014

No Words. - Kara Pacewicz

Auschwitz I
I’ve been starring at a blank page for minutes on end now. The day I had today cannot be put into words; the emotions one feels when experiencing such a day are indescribable. Today started out as any other day. Woke up, had breakfast, packed my bags and took off. Who would have thought that today, just like any other day, would be the most life-changing day of my life?
Arbeit Macht Frei - Work Sets You Free
 When entering Auschwitz 1, thoughts, emotions, and sights filled my head. What I thought I was going to see, the emotions I thought I was going to feel were completely and utterly different. I remember sitting in the car with my father the day before the trip as he explained how powerful and heavy the material I am going to learn and see will, and he asked if I was ready. I explained to him that the Shoah, most commonly known as the Holocaust, is a sad and horrific event but I knew I could handle it, and I knew I was able to face it. I don’t think I have ever been so wrong in my life, what I thought I knew about the Holocaust, and what I thought I would feel, was the opposite. The emotions and sensations that filled my body was like someone light something inside of me. It felt as if I was hit with a ton of bricks, it felt like someone pulled me back as I walked into the barracks. As I looked up, and saw the words that were melded into the gated entrance, Arbeit Macht Frei, Work Sets You Free, shivers went up my spine. Gazing at this entrance made what I was about to see so completely real.
The Holocaust is an event in history that will forever be remembered, it’s an event that will always hold as much emotions as it did 75 years ago. Today, as I spent my morning in Auschwitz 1, I couldn’t believe my eyes and ears. We were blessed to have such a passionate tour guide. The tone, the look she gave as she told us facts and stories made the moment even more stimulating. We were given headsets so we could hear our guide through the camp; this helped more than I thought it would. I was able to block out everything around me and just focus on the moment. Agnieszka, our tour guide, took us through the camp, entering and leaving buildings.
There are a few moments I would like to touch upon and reflect upon.
A moment that became so real to me was when we saw the hair. The hair from all the prisoners was cut off and pilled almost as high as the ceiling along the entire room. Seeing human parts of those who suffered on the grounds I was walking on made the moment become realistic.
Another moment that touched me in a very powerful way was the piles of pots and pans, shoe cleaner, and make up. This all proves that those who were being deported to the concentration camps actually believed they were being deported into a better life, that work actually does set you free. They had no idea that their tomorrow brought death, horror, and torture. Seeing pictures of children and adults smiling with their suitcases as if they were as happy as could be was heartbreaking. Children are children, they are sweet and innocent, and no one deserved what happened to them during the war, especially the poor children.
The pots and pans from the prisoners.

A picture hanging in a barrack with smiling children.
Along with pots and pans, shoe cleaner, and make-up, there was also another room completely devoted to the shoes of the prisoners. One full room was all shoes, piles, and piles of shoes.  There were 80,000 shoes in that one room. These shoes were personal possessions that were on their very feet as they were told to strip naked and to strip of their identity. It was the last shoes many ever wore, and to be surrounded by that thought is a very overpowering feeling.
A tiny part of the room filled with the 80,000 shoes.
 There were two more moments during the last barrack that left me in a moment of awe. As we entered the second to last room in the last barrack for that day, I saw white walls with nothing in it. That’s when I noticed the small drawings done in pencil surrounding the room. They were at eye level for children, that’s when Agnieszka explained that each one of these drawings were replicas of children’s drawings during the war.  To see such depressing and scary drawings of people being shot at, hung, and carried on a stretcher, showed to me that these children actually understood what was going on in the camps. The fact that poor innocent children were forced to see and experience such horrific sights that adults shouldn’t even have to see or experience is beyond heartbreaking. Along with these shocking drawings, there were also sweet drawings that broke my heart just as much. Seeing drawings of birds, trees, flowers, and family’s, broke my heart because this also shows that even though the children were going through a horrible event and understood it in some ways they were still being children, they were still being positive and still being ignorant.

Replica of a child's drawing of people being hung

Replica of a child's drawing of a dead body being carried.
 Directly after this room, came the room with the names listed in alphabetical order. My family is from Poland, but we are not sure of what town or city. Seeing two Pacewicz’s who were killed in Poland really touched me deeply. Even though these two women are most likely not related to me, knowing that there is even a tiny minuscule percentage of a chance they could be family, made all the emotions I’ve felt through out the day hit me all together and in a harder and more powerful way.

In memory of Tzvia Pacewicz.

In memory of Brakha Pacewicz.

Today was the beginning of a journey that will forever be apart of my life and will forever have a place in my heart.


  1. I can experience the trip thru your words, keep writing. Thank you. Remember to look for Eis.
    Michael Pacewicz