When I walked underneath the infamous gate saying “Arbeit macht frie”, chills ran down my spine. There I was standing underneath the very sign that three million people passed through, not knowing but fearing the worst. I was looking into the largest Nazi concentration and death camp in Europe.
It was an overcast day in Krakow, Poland when my family and I visited Auschwitz and Birkenau. When my family and I arrived at Auschwitz and Birkenau we visited the museum displaying the disturbing collections of possessions collected from the three million people who passed through the camp. There were rooms devoted solely to the amount of clothes, shoes, glasses, suitcases and hair. It was disturbing to see the possessions of so many people who died lying right in front of me. As a student who had been studying about the Holocaust for four years, seeing all of the things I learned, all of the things I heard and read about the Holocaust, seem so much more tangible. As my family and I were taking the tour, we saw some things that we weren’t expecting. While walking around Birkenau, we saw a group of Jewish students learning about what happened to their people. Some of them were walking around with their flag draped around their shoulders. It was utterly amazing that in today’s world it’s possible for people to learn about what happened to a race of people that one person deemed to be imperfect. While my family and I were at Birkenau we stopped by the railroad tracks and each gathered a rock. After doing so, I chose to walk down the tracks that the Jews would have arrived on. While doing so, I pictured scenes from movies that I had watched about the Holocaust and about the Jews arrivals at the camps. I got chills imagining it, I felt so deeply sorry for the people who died in the camp that tears came to my eyes.
While my family and I were in Krakow, Poland we stayed in a normal Days Inn, that was right off the highway. In order to get back and forth between our hotel and the Concentration camps, we took the local bus. We would get up in the morning and eat a fantastic breakfast that was provided by the hotel, then we would finish getting ready for our day, walk to a bus stop a couple of blocks away in the cool morning air, then once the bus arrived we would board the bus to our next stop. When the local bus arrived at the bus terminal we got off to get on the next bus that would take us directly to the camp itself. Once at the camp we went to the tourist information desk and bought tickets and got maps. We then waited until it was time for the next tour. What made visiting Auschwitz and Birkenau easy, travel wise, was that I already live in Europe. We didn’t have to deal with jet lag, and we didn’t have to deal with the huge hassle that traveling overseas can bring. So the trip to Krakow, Poland was smooth and relatively easy for my family and I.
My trip to Auschwitz and Birkenau was life altering. It has forever changed my outlook on the world history. I now know what the two most infamous concentration camps look like. I not only learned it from movies, but I now also have personal experience. It was the greatest experience I could have hoped for, because how many fifteen year old girls have an opportunity to experience the most infamous place in history? I will forever remember my visit the the largest and greatest concentration camp in Europe.
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