Holocaust Remembrance Day: cold sweat, gooseflesh and other human reactions in Auschwitz

Today is the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz extermination camp – just thinking of it brings back the cold sweat, gooseflesh and lump in throat I got when I visited it.

Little reminder:

  • At least 1.1 million prisoners died at Auschwitz
  • It is where approximately 1 in 6 Jews killed in the Holocaust died
  • Transport trains delivering prisoners were coming from all over Nazi-occupied Europe
001 - Poland - Auschwitz
The infamous ‘Arbeit macht frei’ sign at the entrance of Auschwitz. I visited the memorial in July 2011. Although I knew what to expect, I choked when I saw it in real.

Why is it important, if you can, to visit the Auschwitz Memorial and Museum?

  • To prevent us from doing the same mistake ever again. As Primo Levi, who survived Auschwitz, said: “Those who deny Auschwitz would be ready to remake it“. To go there is the best way to believe it.
  • Because seeing it with your own eyes is the only way to assess the extent of horror. It is good to read history books – but no history books will make you feel as petrified as seeing the chimney by yourself.
  • Because the museum itself has an extremely high educational value; there are fantastically well documented permanent and temporary exhibitions.

Do not be fooled by all the ‘Auschwitz Tour’ signs you may encounter in pretty-but-touristy Cracow, or the amount of tourist buses on the parking. Auschwitz is not Disneyland, it is a Memorial, and visits are done in respect and dignity.

001b - Poland - Auschwitz
My only other photo of Auschwitz. It didn’t make sense to me to take more pictures – testimony and experience are what matters there.

If you haven’t had the opportunity yet to visit a Holocaust extermination camp, I suggest you put that on your to do list; Auschwitz is a good start although there are, unfortunately, many others available too.

You will feel that gooseflesh all over your body and may have to stifle a sob; and that’s for the best, as it is a very healthy way to remember yourself that you are human – never forget that.

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