Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Auschwitz I March 21, 2016

View from before entrance to Auschwitz I

Recreated sign at entrance to camp. Translated from German: "Work will set you free"

Camp barracks

Visiting Auschwitz I today was definitely an emotional and shocking experience. Being able to walk the steps of so many innocent Jewish prisoners was an unbelievable experience. I felt completely concentrated on everything around me while walking through the camp. I was a little apprehensive on how I would react to being on such delicate land. The first thing I noticed at the camp were the terrifying barbed wire fences. They represent such fear and suffering for the Jews. The other side of the wires represents freedom, the side many Jews would not see. 
        I listened to every word the guide said and took in all the information I could. I was not expecting the buildings to be converted into exhibits. However, I  think the way all the information was presented was very gentle and appropriate. All the statistics and numbers of people affected by the Holocaust were completely unbelievable and appalling. The personal stories and personal items left behind are such sad reminders that the prisoners were completely stripped of humanity. It is important to remember the dignity of each individual murdered rather than solely the numbers of people killed. The average life time for an individual was 3 months. Some stayed longer and some immediately were sent to die. The weak Jewish women and children were usually sent to die,  while the working men had to endure a tremendous amount of suffering until they were killed soon after. I felt sorrow for the innocent babies and children who were killed. The original pictures presented on the wall made the Shoah a personal issue. Seeing that these kids were just like anyone else was a scary realization. The quotes from Hitler that we heard were completely disgusting. His ideologies of creating the perfect race and eliminating all those who were enemies to the Germans was widely accepted by Germans. I cannot understand why people thought it was okay to murder millions of innocent people to achieve some perfect world that will never exist. 
          During our lecture with Father Manfred, he asked us what is wrong with the Nazi ideologies. Nazis wanted to return to the old Germanic way of life by upholding natural selection and taking care of their own people. Some of my peers mentioned that Christian values of love were completely ignored and how leaving the weak to diminish in society actually can make a nation weaker. I learned today that there is no easy answer to the questions of what was wrong with the Nazi Ideologies and how the issues can not be so easily dismissed by calling the Nazis unintelligent. They had an extremist way of life which was implanted in the minds of Nazis that the the Aryan race was superior. I think the problem with their ideologies may not be that people should protect their own people. Rather, the issue is how people go about protecting their country. Murder is never the answer to problems, and in fact caused more problems for the Nazis when many were tried and executed for their deeds during WWII. Having Patriotism is acceptable and in fact, can create a sense of unity within a country. When patriotism turns into hatred and racism, that is where the problem lies. The Nazis were made to think that people of different backgrounds could not get along. Yes, differences in cultures and backgrounds can cause disputes, but murder absolutely  does not solve those disputes. 
At the end of the night, we all gathered together and had a reflection on the difficult day. Emotions flew from me and I felt immense pain for all those affected by the Shoah. I can not understand how the world would let this happen. It seems appropriate to question where God was during this terrible time in history. If people cause evil, why can’t God, the most powerful being, create goodness that can override the evil? I do not know if I will ever know the answer to this question. It is hard for me to remain hopeful after walking the grounds of Auschwitz. Some prisoners were righteous and gave up their lives for fellow Jews. However, many peoples lives were not saved. Yes, there are some happy endings for some Jews but it is extremely difficult for me to see past the darkness and remain hopeful.

Marina Falisi


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