Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Rachel Lucas: Visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau

These are photos, from Rachel Lucas, of Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, in Oświęcim, Poland. Ms. Lucas' photo-essay is here, '“We have to go into the despair and go beyond it, by working and doing for somebody else, by using it for something else”.' Be sure to read it all. Ms. Lucas' feelings of anticipation, fear, and yearnings for mysteries unfolded made me well-up a couple of times:

The title is a quote by Elie Wiesel and I use it because I’ve spent the last several weeks trying to write this post but failing, especially when it came to the title. I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night if I titled this a hillbilly travelogue, and what do you name a blog post about Auschwitz-Birkenau?

We had 3 days in Krakow, and set aside the first day for our trip to Auschwitz. This is something I have wanted to do for a very, very long time. I started reading about WWII and the Holocaust when I was 10 years old and have never stopped. It’s one of those things that you just can’t let go until you finally understand it, and I’ll never completely understand it.

The first picture of this post is the first one I took at Birkenau. As you can see, there was a thunderstorm brewing. The truth is, the whole scene was surreal, and very oddly beautiful. I hate to say that, but it is true. The grass was the most intense saturated lush green you can imagine, and it was about 72 degrees, and the deep gray clouds loomed and thundered and rained on us in between bouts of sunshine – - and the incongruity of it all is something I will never forget in my lifetime.

There was such natural beauty visible to any human standing in the middle of Birkenau that day. It was as if nature was asserting herself over all the despair and ugliness. Look how green I can be, feel this perfect air, listen to this thunder, there is always something good that will come out of something awful.

But it is still awful, and always will be awful, in ways no words can tell.

Don't miss the whole thing. I too have been studying Nazi history since I was a little boy. And I wrote my dissertation on the inadaquacies of the Western democracies in balancing German power (and in deterring the outbreak of World War II) as the scholarly result of my own fascination with Germany's 20th century history.

I too will visit Auschwitz-Birkenau. And I'm hoping it's going to be sooner rather than later. My sister's husband is Hungarian, and I've been invited to spend time with the family in Eastern Europe any time. When my sister came home from visiting last Christmas, I told her I wanted to visit Auschwitz. I can't go quite yet, but thanks so much to
Rachel Lucas for sharing her pilgrimage and reminding me not only that I need to go, but that's it's essential to do so.

(Related: "Nazi Germany's Years of Extermination, 1939-1945.")

5 comments:

Grizzly Mama said...

It is something that I would like to do, too. I've heard people who've been - describing their visit. They describe an almost palpable horror in the air.

Donald Douglas said...

Thanks Grizzly Mama ...

RTC said...

I visited the concentration camp at Dachau in Germany in '78. I'd read my share of WWII history, but it did little to prepare me for the experience. The feeling you get as soon as you pass through the front gate is overwhelming...putting it into words is difficult to this day. There is a palpable feeling of hopelessness and despair in the air that is staggering. The experience will change you in ways you can't imagine. If you are the type who believes there is no evil in the world, a visit to one of these places will cure you of that quickly. If you get the opportunity to go, by all means do. But be prepared to be changed, it is an experience you will never forget...

Dennis said...

cursed,

Because people, individually, can be fooled into believing that things will be better if we just deal with our opponents. Somewhat like Leftist think if we play nice with terrorists they will just love us to death, with emphasis on the death part.
It is somewhat akin to the fact that some older individuals and some 60s generation individuals think that government healthcare is going to be a boon for them without considering how the government is going to accomplish this without impacting them and if examples from other countries are any indication, not for the best.
Some times we become so educated we can see both sides of an argument and have questions that have no bearing on what happened at Auschwitz- Birkenau except to try and explain why people do what they do. A question that no one has the answer for because people do illogical things for reasons even they have not considered. Example; When Ted Kennedy was asked why he was running for president, he was lost for an answer for some time.
Evil is evil and many times people do not see it until too late. Do you really believe the average German soldier at the being actually knew what was going on?
Life is messy and YOU have to make a choice despite questions and many times on incomplete information. Name me any issue you hold dear that you have complete faith in all of the information available to you? If you can answer Yes then you are either a fool or a liar.

Dennis said...

What happened to cursed?