World War Two was undoubtedly a significant event in history and its impact reverberates to this day. From the rise of the Axis power to the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the second world war had many tragic events. However, one of the most tragic occurrences that should not be ignored was the Holocaust. Last week, I went on a school trip to Krakow and witnessed the inhumane acts of the Nazi regime on the Jews, gypsies, disabled, and homosexuals.
|[Arbeit Macht Frei / Photo Credit: Yujin Choi]|
We arrived at Auschwitz I on a chilly afternoon, rainy and quiet. The weather matched with the gloomy atmosphere inside of the camp that ended the lives of millions of innocent people’s lives. The entrance of the camp had a tall gate that said “Arbeit Macht Frei ''. This meant “work makes you free” in German. The tour guide showed us the life inside this camp. The people in this place had to wear clothes that looked like thin pajamas. I couldn’t imagine working with those clothes in the freezing weather outside. The tour guide told us that in this camp the only food that was given was a ration of soup made of rotten vegetables and a small, stale piece of bread each day. Because of the poor diet, prisoners would lose weight to a point they were unrecognizable. He told us an example of a man who entered this camp weighing 96kg and left weighing only 45kg.
One of the most horrifying rooms was the room where personal artifacts that were taken away from the people interned in this camp. They first showed us shoes filling up a large room behind, two gigantic windows. I felt like walking through a valley between mountains made out of old shoes. I found some that were pretty and fashionable. Imagining the excitement on the owner’s eyes when he or she got to own those beautiful shoes and knowing that they all perished here made me feel horrible. The pile of hair was one of the most shocking. The hair we see in our shower drains was nothing compared to the sheer volume of hair behind the glass windows. The hair created a gigantic mound almost taking up the whole room. Those could have been the locks of someone’s precious daughter or the grey hair of someone’s grandfather. This disturbing vision broke the hearts of everyone.
|[Statue of starving people / Photo Credit: Isabela Hernandez Fernandez]|
The notorious gas chambers were grey and lifeless. I couldn’t imagine the fear the prisoners faced walking into their inevitable demise. The tour guide told us about the peepholes outside of each chamber through which German officers or scientists could check if anyone was still alive or if their new formula for mass extermination worked properly. I got to peep through that peephole myself and my stomach immediately churned at the ghostly sight that met my eye. The gas chambers truly were a monument to the worst side of humanity.
My trip to Auschwitz gave me a disturbing glimpse into one of the most horrifying events of history. By witnessing and feeling with my own senses, I have learned the importance of not forgetting these atrocities. Remembrance would stop us from repeating the horrid event. We must stand guard against the depravity the humans, at their worst moments, are capable of. The writer, Elie Wiesel summed it up best, “To forget a Holocaust is to kill twice.”
Sophomore (Grade 10)
American School of Barcelona
Yujin Choi email@example.com
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