(Jade, my daughter, aged 15, wrote this post.)
This March break when I went to Europe with my school, we visited Auschwitz when we were in Poland.
It was incredibly emotional for all of us. As we began the tour, I thought I was going to do alright. I couldn’t picture what it was like, so I didn’t feel that much.
It was just a dirt path with brick buildings on either side.
It wasn’t until we got inside the first building, that it really began to feel real. That I could actually picture what it must have been like. There was quite a bit of evidence to make you picture this tragedy.
A massive glass container that took up the whole wall of one very large room, filled completely with women’s hair is what got me first. After we returned to the hotel and I began to talk with my friends, one of them told me why the hair had bothered her so much.
“All those women were individuals, they were unique. They had different styles of hair, different colours, different lengths. But now, all they’re remembered for is this hair that has gone grey, blending in to the hair next to it. These women were individuals and now you can’t see the difference.”
There were more glass containers filled with shoes, baby shoes, glasses, bedding… There was so much and every time I looked at it, I could feel the sense that it once belonged to a person, a person who no longer existed to reclaim their taken objects.
But out of the glass containers, what really got to me were the suitcases. You could see the names of the owners on the suitcases, the different handwriting, the large font so when their bags returned they could find them. I could picture them writing their names, thinking they would receive their bags later. The lie of the suitcases seemed so much more present with the evidence of the stolen suitcases laying in front of me.
As I cried in the middle of Auschwitz, looking at the glass casing of baby shoes and pictures of starved children who had been experimented on, I felt guilty almost.
This wasn’t my suffering, why was I the one who was crying? Why was I the one who was allowed to enter a concentration camp and be certain that I would leave, unharmed? Why was I the one who could walk into a building and come back out when every other person who had walked through its doors never exited?
Of course I don’t ask this question in the sense that I don’t know the answer. I know the answer. I’m asking why, because the answer just doesn’t justify my question.
There is nothing I can do about why I was allowed to leave Auschwitz when my tour was up and why so many others never left Auschwitz at all. All I can do is acknowledge that this did happen and remember it.
That is all we can do.
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” – George Santayana
Jade from the Family C as we move from A to Z.