As part of a learning programme organised by the Holocaust Educational trust’s Lessons from Auschwitz (LFA) Project, I had the opportunity to visit two of the most infamous places in history – Auschwitz I and Auschwitz Birkenau. In order to understand such a horrific ordeal that occurred only 71 years ago, I felt it it was important to experience such a place in order to fully empathise with the victims of the Holocaust.Upon our visit, we were educated not only about the suffering of the victims of this unimaginable ordeal, but also about how simple, ordinary and carefree their lives were before this extreme form of prejudice, which later led to genocide, took place. To realise the sheer enormity of the camps was truly shocking. Not only did we see the conditions in which they were existing in, but the brutality of the place itself had many of us in disbelief. Despite our many layers of clothing in the midst of winter, we were cold, agitated and tired, though this itself enhanced the experience in the sense that: if we were restless in our thick coats and sweaters, how would the victims of the Holocaust have felt with their this prison uniforms in freezing temperatures, having not eaten for days or felt any warmth for an unimaginable length of time? The harsh reality and comparison of this was a pivotal point of my experience in Auschwitz.
A significant point we must remember is that the victims of the Holocaust were ordinary people, like us. But they were persecuted and victimised for one thing – their perceived race, religion or genetics. For us today, the thought of genocide is too large to digest, but 70 years ago it took only a few minds to change the thoughts of others and corrupt a whole nation into believing that it was acceptable to have such a brutal prejudice against others.
We cannot erase what happened, we personally were not responsible, though the individuals that were had functioning minds just as we do. No amount of grief can bring back the fathers, daughters, mothers and sons that were lost in this genocide, but the least we can do is carry on the memory of them, and never forget the outcome of such hatred.
The brutality that the unfortunate victims had to endure is unthinkable to many of us today – we have not experienced true hunger, we have not experienced true pain andas long as we remember that this did happen, we hope to never live to see such torture again.
“Those who do not remember the past, are condemned to repeat the same mistakes in the future.”