Sometimes there are places that we visit that leave us speechless, weak or amazed. One of the places that woke up a whole spectrum of feelings in me was Auschwitz. It is a place that was ran by hatred, intolerance and fear. Most importantly, a place that still exists in today’s world, just under different names.
Here I am, standing in front of one of the most famous network of concentration camps that took away more than 2 million lives. I am not standing in front of a museum. I am standing and walking over a cemetery. A place of bodies, memories and a reminders what we, humans, are capable of doing to those who differ from us.
More than just one camp
Auschwitz, contrary to common belief, was not one big concentration camp, but a network of around 50 concentration camps, varying in size and type of prisoners.
First prisoners were German, political opponents of Hitler and his ideologies. Everyone who spoke against him was send to those labor camps or simply: killed. A few years later, in the beginning of WWII, it became a place for everyone who did not belong to the ‘pure race’. The mission of these camps was simple: kill as many people possible in the shortest time period.
Until then, killing was quite ‘slow and costly’. Therefore, in January 1941, 15 very influential people gathered and decided to develop (and use) one of the deadliest weapons known so far: gas chambers. These 15 individuals, including Josef Mengele, decided about the destiny of hundreds of thousands of people in Europe.
Who were they?
They were Jewish, Serbian, Polish… Short, tall, dark, light, educated, beautiful, kind… All of them were so unique. Yet, thousands of their life stories turned into just numbers.
It is important to know that these camps were a very developed and profitable industry. Nazi’s deported people from all over Europe to these camps and took all of their valuable stuff: clothing, jewlery, money.
After killing them in gas chambers, they would use other prisoners as cheap (free) labor and hire them to sort those items out. Later on, they were sold or given to Germans.
Walking through the camp, I am noticing thousands of shoes and personal items as the only proof of their existence.
These were real people with real life stories. People who dreamed about life, love, education, and hope. Thousands of people who were transported to these camps, thinking they were moving somewhere else, hoping this was not for forever. And the only direction they were heading into was: death.
Auschwitz still exists
This is one simple thought I cannot get out of my head: Auschwitz still exists. We, as a human race, continue to carry out ideologies of this place to this very moment. We still carry racism, intolerance and hatred. We still despise people for their differences and use people for profit. We continue to repeat Auschwitz over and over again.
Look at our recent history. A genocide in Rwanda., a genocide in Yugoslavia. Wars in the Middle East. Children and innocent people killed in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen.
Time passes by, but we continue to disrespect our differences and people continue to suffer because of politics or ideologies.
While walking away from one of the rare places where you can still hear the silence of thousands of people, I try to remember: love people. Love them for all their differences and continue to tell their unique stories. So I still hope. I hope that we, as humans, can and will do better.