I simply could not document my trip to Poland without including it’s rough, but inspiring history.
Growing up with Polish heritage, I always payed close attention to when we discussed the World Wars in high school classes. I learned even more when I took European history and saw exactly what happened to the country over time. In case you didn’t know, it’s a lot.
My grandparents both grew up in Poland and each have incredible stories when it comes to World War II. I won’t go into much detail, but I will say that it’s lucky my family isn’t Jewish and even still lucky that I’m here today.
As a part of our tour of Poland we saw many sights and monuments commemorating those lost in previous wars and occupations. The most memorable was Auschwitz: the famous German concentration camp.
I knew a bit about concentration camps from history classes and family stories, but you really don’t understand the true horror of such a place until you’ve been there.
Again, I won’t go into much detail, but instead I’ll quote our tour guide who was asked, “How do you do this job?”
In her thick Polish accent, but gentle voice she said, “Well, it was hard at first. You get used to it. And it’s important to share these things. If we do not share these things, they will happen again.”
She is exactly right. It is hard to fathom that these people were tricked/forced into these camps for reasons they could not control. It’s harder to fathom that people lost parts of their families as soon as they arrived at the camp, whether they were too young, too old, pregnant, or seemingly disabled. And finally, it’s hardest to imagine what they went through day in and day out and the basic human rights that were taken away.
With the information that’s being given to you and the sights that you see, everyone, even in a large group, becomes totally quiet during the tour. What is there to say? This gives you the feeling of hopelessness, the feeling that you imagine the prisoners felt as they worked from dawn to dusk with unimaginable living conditions and clearly not enough food to survive.
“Arbeit Macht Frei”…”Work Makes One Free”
And eventually your mind goes to the Germans soldiers commanding them – These men had families, friends, lives. Unfortunately, as our guide said, this was a job that was wanted. It guaranteed safety. It was easy compared to being on the front lines. Even still, how can one watch this happen? Treat a human lesser than an animal?
I’m sorry to end on such a sad note. But my trip to Poland was a learning experience in so many ways. I simply could not post about all the beauty and wonder of being in a new place without sharing the most important part of my experience.
And as our guide said:
Thanks for taking the time to read and learn. I’m happy to share more about my experience if you have any questions, but know that there is a lot of documentation on these events if you’re curious.