This infamous sign from all my history classes took on new meaning today. Rita and I toured Auschwitz, the biggest concentration camp during the Nazi invasion of WWII. Seeing the camp was incredibly sobering. We walked through the barracks, heard stories of countless lives lost by starvation, and saw the suitcases of everyone who was deported to this concentration camp. The tear jerker, however, was that an Auschwitz survivor happened to be visiting today also. Just seeing an adorable elderly man wearing his hat with the identification number barred across the top was almost too much to handle. And, to imagine his life, in that very place, and all that he had gone through to be alive today. Just processing that was incredibly tough.
Bringing it closer to home, I have been complaining for two weeks straight now that my boots are letting water in through the worn soles. Today, we saw 90,000 pairs of shoes that had belonged to this inhabitants of Auschwitz upon their arrival. Every role call, torture session, and work day was done barefoot in thin matching outfits. And here I am, simply walking around, dressed in warm coats, hats, scarves, and gloves...whining about a little snow making my feet cold. Similarly, Rita slept terribly on our overnight train last night. She had been complaining about the tiny beds and loud noises that kept her from a good night's rest. As we came into the barracks today, we saw tiny tiny beds that five prisoners slept in every night. Rita quickly said, "our train bed is looking pretty good now." And she was so right, it's easy to complain until you see someone who was in an exponentially worse situation.
The whole experience at Auschwitz was difficult to stomach but also certainly worthwhile. Here are a few snaps to give you a taste.