Going to Auschwitz is like walking purposely towards a closed fist pointed to your gut. The heavy silence echoes the voices from a not very distant past. The green grass tops the mud and puts a carpet of hope in such a void place. It is incredibly difficult to be there, to walk around those red bricked buildings, or look towards the never ending immensity of the Birkenau compound. And still you are just a tourist, walking by the fear in the eyes framed in every wall. Knowing, but not knowing what it was like.
You who live safe
In your warm houses,
You who find, returning in the evening,
Hot food and friendly faces:
Consider if this is a man
Who works in the mud,
Who does not know peace,
Who fights for a scrap of bread,
Who dies because of a yes or a no.
Consider if this is a woman
Without hair and without name,
With no more strength to remember,
Her eyes empty and her womb cold
Like a frog in winter.
Meditate that this came about:
I commend these words to you.
Carve them in your hearts
At home, in the street,
Going to bed, rising;
Repeat them to your children.
Or may your house fall apart,
May illness impede you,
May your children turn their faces from you.
If This is a Man
Auschwitz was a network of nazi concentration and extermination camps during World War II, composed of Auschwitz I, Auschwitz II–Birkenau (concentration/extermination camp), Auschwitz III–Monowitz (labor camp for the IG Farben factory) and 45 other satellite camps.
Close to 1,1 million prisoners died at Auschwitz, the majority of them Jewish. Approximately one out of every six Jews that died in the Holocaust was killed in Auschwitz. The ones not killed in the gas chambers ended up dying of starvation, infectious diseases, forced labor, executions and medical experiments.
Around 7.000 SS members worked in the camp during the war. Of these, only 12% were later convicted of war crimes.
The camp was liberated on January 27, 1945, a day now celebrated as International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Auschwitz is currently an UNESCO World Heritage Site.