Auschwitz concentration camp was a network of concentration and extermination camps built and operated by the Third Reich in Polish areas annexed by Nazi Germany during World War II. It was the largest of the German concentration camps and about a million Jews died there. Another 75,000 non Jewish Poles, 18,000 Roma, and 15,000 Soviet prisoners were killed there. On January 27th 1945, Auschwitz was liberated by Soviet troops; a day commemorated around the world as International Holocaust Remembrance Day. There was a blanket of snow all over Krakow as we boarded a train to Auschwitz. It’s hard to find words for the experience I had there; it started with exhaustion from the journey and the walk to get there. We had caught the train from Krakow and then, as directed, transferred to a bus that would take us to the gates. We were, unfortunately, the only English-speaking people on the bus and missed the stop, with no idea where to get off. It was apparent that we had gone past it as the bus was almost empty by this stage, so we got off and began an hour long walk back the way we had driven, with no sign of any bus passing us the whole way back.
We arrived almost thankful to have finally got there, but this was followed by a coldness an eerie chilling feeling that hit us on walking towards the site. There was a bustle of tourists, which made the place seem slightly out of context, and I think visiting with no one around would have left our minds to wander and torment us further. There was a surreal mist. We didn’t join a tour we wanted to feel it in our own way and draw our own conclusions on the experience. It was during the moments in which we found ourselves away from the walking tours that thoughts of sadness, human cruelty and envisioned horrors more than anyone should endure took over. It was an experience I will not forget; it made me realise that life is precious and we should treasure every moment as so many people before us have only experienced tragedy and pain.