Sunday, April 3, 2016

From Student to Witness

            In all my history classes, I had always learned about the horrors that occurred at Auschwitz during the Holocaust. Upon entering the Auschwitz, I was confronted with a mixture of emotions ranging from being nervous to anxious of entering the camp where millions of people were dehumanized and killed. The first thing I saw was the ironic sign that read, “Arbeit Macht Frei” (work will set you free). Although I had learned and watched various documentaries about the Holocaust, it didn't compare to when I was on the actual grounds of the concentration camp.

The infamous sign translates to "Work Will Set You Free"

                 When I was under the sign all I could see were barracks, guard towers, and barbed wire surrounding the camp. It was disgusting thinking how people were caged in and not allowed to leave. The thought of being brought to this place sickened me because millions of people lost their freedom and never saw their homes again, unlike us since we were allowed to leave whenever we wanted. It's a thought that continued to consume me.

            Our tour began with an exhibit of life before this tragic genocide. The exhibit showed film clips of Jews and their everyday lives, they were normal people who were happy and practiced their faith. As we continued to walk through the exhibit their joyfulness was crushed as Hitler came to power and began to impose ridiculous laws that targeted Jews. Then another room showed the deportation of thousands and how they ended up at this devastating place.

            Our tour guide was extremely knowledgeable and gave us all the horrific facts of the Shoah. She explained the six millions of lives lost; the men, the woman, and sadly all the children who were ripped of their futures. She explained the rules and punishments of the camps and continued by explaining the way the gas chambers worked and how they would squeeze hundreds of people in them so that it would be “efficient killing.” Listening to this angered me since its unbelievable that people would do this to other people. Where was the respect for human life? Why would people take these orders? Where was God to end this suffering and torture? There are hundreds of questions running through ones mind when witnessing these exhibits and hearing the facts, except there are no simple answers. 

          What moved me the most was when we entered another exhibit that had all the belongings of the prisoners. When they were told they were being deported they thought it would be to start a new life, they never imagined being brought to a place of destruction like this one. There were piles of different belongings like hundreds of glasses, shoes, suitcases and house hold items like pots and plates. There were items such as kid’s toys, women’s cosmetics and men’s combs. They truly had no idea where they were going but the sad truth was all their poccesions were taken away from them. Their clothes were exchanged for stripped uniforms, their names were changed into identification numbers, their families were taken and everything that made up one’s personality was stripped away from them. These exhibits were extremely hard to walk through but another thought that consumed me was how could people still deny that the Holocaust ever happened. How can people believe it never occurred? Especially when there is all this evidence and remains of camps. How can people in 2016 be misinformed, uneducated, ignorant, blind or choose to ignore the atrocities that occurred to millions of innocent people?

            Nothing could have prepared me for walking through Auschwitz, it was all too real with all the emotions running inside of me and all the hundreds of questions as to why and how this got to the point where six million lives were perished. To say the least it was not an easy visit, but a visit of pain and compassion towards the lost lives. I had become a witness and it was now my duty to tell those who genuinely cared about my experience of what I witnessed. It was now my duty to not be a bystander to injustices towards a certain group of people, my duty not to spread hate but to terminate it and spread positivity as well as love, we must love our neighbors and that comes with understanding them and being good people to one another. We must all do this because history can repeat itself and its up to us to make sure nothing like this ever occurs again. 



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