Wednesday, May 3, 2017


After the trip, I wrote only one brief post on social media about the trip. It was minimal, because at that point I had barely processed what had happened. This experience wasn’t exactly a like a comment kind of experience. I want to elaborate here now.

Auschwitz-Birkenau is completely and utterly empty. It is just a vast expanse of nothing. As we walked through, I heard sounds of birds chirping, bugs buzzing around; the sounds of an empty and peaceful forest. That was disconcerting, how completely peaceful it was. We were told to remember what it would have been, the ground trampled with constant footsteps, loudness and shouts, and probably the coughing sounds of fatigue and disease. 1.3 million people went through the camp. It was almost impossible to imagine that the way it was; there weren’t even many other visitors around us when we were there.

Railcar at Auschwitz-Birkenau

When we stood by the railcars, where people were selected, I had to sit down. The feeling of the place is oppressive. Most people were selected then to immediately go to the gas chambers, and never entered the camp proper. It is impossible to feel what they felt or truly understand the tragedy, it is impossible not to feel the tragedy.

The day I made the post was Ostara, a neopagan holiday of the spring equinox. It is about the return of growth and life after the death of winter, new life springing up in a cold world. When we were there, every time someone had a hard time, every time someone was overwhelmed in the place, there was someone there for them. There were people there, and certainly some of them were relatives of survivors, a new generation from those left of a tragedy. There were groups of Israelis visiting when we were. Life moves on, communities regrow. People are good.

It was deeply disconcerting and uncomfortable to find the place sometimes pleasant, a nice outdoor area with birds and wildlife and peacefulness, but the fact of the matter is that that is the cycle of life, of the world, and that it may feel wrong, but it is also good.


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