I remember being there. The very grounds where many people were sent to their deaths. It felt so unreal seeing all that remains. You know that moment that you could not believe that a part of history actually happened right where you are standing? I had that moment when I went to Auschwitz two years ago.
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I was in Honors World Literature and History 10 at that time and we were learning about World War II. One of the main events we focused on was the Holocaust. I have always found an interest reading about that part of history because it was fillled with so much detail. Little did I know that the administration was planning a trip to Krakow, Poland in the beginning of 2014.
I am always up for an opportunity of traveling and experiencing new cultures so I signed up to go. A lot of my friends and my sister were planning to go too. The bus ride on the way to Poland was 17 hours. At one point, all of us were watching The Man in Striped Pajamas. The ending made me cry so much, because the little boy shouldn’t have died nor his friend. We passed through Austria and Czech Republic before arriving in Poland. We settled in the hostel once we arrived and went to sleep. I wasn’t prepared for the next day.
We went to Auschwitz and Auschwitz-Birkenau camp that day. Once I saw the gate that says “Arbeit Macht Frei”, I was terrified of what I was about to witness with my own eyes. I saw too much for my mind to bear. The death wall, Block 17, pictures of victims, inside a gas chamber, the crematoriums, the barracks where people suffered in sleep, all those pots, pans, suticases, hair and the shoes. There were so many shoes. It filled up both sides of the hallway. My heart broke into pieces when I saw a baby’s shoe. I left that landmark with so many feelings, yet my face emotionless.
Away from the most exhilirating place I’ve ever been in, I spend some time with my friends around the beautiful city of Krakow. We had so much fun shopping, eating polish food, walking around the castle, and taking a horse ride carriage at night.
That trip was the most breath-taking yet horrifying at the same time. I had a good time though with my friends at the square and the Oskar Schindler Museum. I have so many fond memories of the trip. But when people say you only need to see Auschwitz once, they’re telling the truth. Work makes you free? No it doesn’t.
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