5 Reasons to Visit Auschwitz and Why I Never Want To Go Back!

5 reasons to visit Auschwitz

I recently had the opportunity to visit Auschwitz and Birkenau, the Nazi concentration camp.

It is near Krakow, Poland, and you can visit and take a guided or unguided tour.

Auschwitz is a set of blockhouses that you walk through to see the process of selecting and exterminating prisoners. In Auschwitz you get a glimpse of the horrible conditions, and the shear number of people who came to, and died in, this prison camp.

camp birkenau

You then take a bus or shuttle over to Birkenau, about a mile away. It is in its untouched condition from when the camps were liberated in 1945. And for as far as the eye can see there are chimneys from the demolished barracks. There are watch towers, and an endless ghost town of horror. You can see the remains of the killing room and crematoria, and the International Memorial of the Nazi Victims.

Birkenau

It was horrifying and terrifying, and sobering, and so much more.

I want to share the top 5 reasons I think everyone should visit Auschwitz at least once, and why I never want to return, but am sure I will.

Reason One: It makes it far more personal.

I have known for many years about the atrocities that went on at this extermination camp. I have heard the stories of the prison warden’s wife having lamp shades made from human skin, and of the gas chambers.

They were sad, they were unfortunate, but they were distant. They were statistics, facts, and numbers, and just stories, from a war that happened before I was born, and seemed far away. But the truth is it was not that long ago, with people much like me. It is a plane ride away.

Visiting the camp, and seeing the pictures, the buildings, and the items left behind made it so real. I began to relate.

Auschwitz is personal

I began to think, what if that was my child? Or me? Would I have survived? Would I have been able to pick gold from dead people’s teeth? Would I have been able to keep hope and faith alive?

I have no answers, but I know that those “stories” took on far greater and more personal meaning to me after my visit. Standing there, and seeing the vastness of Birkenau, and realizing that this is a place where millions of people were imprisoned and killed, made it more real than any movie, history book, documentary, or historian could ever do.

Reason Two: It promotes gratitude.

Walking through the buildings and grounds of Auschwitz and Birkenau was depressing. I felt heavy, sick to my stomach, and had a lump in my throat from the first room I entered. Seeing the piles of hair, shoes, and personal belongings was devastating in a way I never imagined. And yet it was also humbling.

Auschwitz shoes

I felt so much gratitude for my own circumstances. For my own problems and trials. For my family, for my country. Gratitude overwhelmed me as I walked and looked and listened. I was not grateful this tragedy occurred, but I am grateful that my trials in comparison are so minor. It gave me so much perspective about the “trials” and “problems” in my own government, because as awful as it is sometimes, or discouraging as it feels, and as much as I feel like certain policies or people are harming my country, at least it isn’t like what happened in the Holocaust.That perspective is invaluable.

**Note: I have edited this post because of the way a single comment about the perspective I gained about my own political administration has been taken, twisted, and presented in ways never intended, or expressed. People are going to see what they want to see, and will find reasons to hate no matter what. However, because it was causing hatred, and meanness, and because if I learned anything at Auschwitz it is that hatred and meanness can lead to horrible, unspeakable things, I deleted it. If I can do anything at all to have less hatred in this world, less ugliness, less cruelty, and less meanness, I am going to do it. I thought about this a lot, this is my space, and my post, and my feelings, and I don’t need to change them because you disagree with me. But I will change what I wrote in order to help promote more love and more peace. Because that is what the world needs more of.

Reason Three: It educates.

A visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau is eye opening. It is hard to wrap your head around how so many people could be involved in the hatred, cruelty, and mass murder of so many others.

I couldn’t help but think: How??? How could this happen? How could anyone kill a little child, or a man, or a woman, just for being a Jew?

The Jews put their names and year of birth on their suitcases. This suitcase belonged to a child, who at most was 2 years old. Likely younger.

The Jews put their names and year of birth on their suitcases. This suitcase belonged to a child, who at most was 2 years old. Likely younger.

And the only answer I could come up with was ignorance and propaganda. The Nazi propaganda machine skillfully exploited the lack of knowledge of millions, to the point that entire nations and religious communities were put at risk for extermination.

Seeing this made me commit to being more vigilant in educating myself, and widening my views, love, and perspective. The facts and tidbits learned while touring were educating, but the impact was far more so.

Reason four: It gives hope.

As I walked through the many buildings, and heard tales of the horrible things that happened there, I couldn’t help but notice some of the beauty. The young man holding his sibling. The individuals helping others, the sacrifices people made. The hope these people had for a brighter future. Did you know some Jews purchased their tickets to Auschwitz? They thought they were going somewhere better. Little did they know.

In the rubble, in the piles of shoes, hair brushes, and luggage, there was proof of human dignity, honor, patriotism, devotion to family, love, and hope of survival. Even in the most extreme situation, where the chances of living even a few months were slim, there was compassion, love, friendship, and more. This gives me hope.

 

The prisoners would often plan rebellion and escape in the toilet room, as it was so disgusting the guards would not enter it. They had hope.

The prisoners would often plan rebellion and escape in the toilet room, as it was so disgusting the guards would not enter it. They had hope.

Reason five: To Remember.

I will never forget. A visit to Auschwitz seared in my mind and heart the horrors of the past, and a commitment to prevent them from happening in the future.

Guard Tower at Birkenau

Guard Tower at Birkenau

It is far too easy to become blasé about this history. To think, “It could never happen again.” And to carry on without a second thought. But living history is important, and the scars from this conflict are there, waiting to be seen.

Inside the smallest crematorium in Auschwitz

Inside the smallest crematorium in Auschwitz

Remembering these horrors, visiting and seeing them, can help to insure we never repeat them. They can help us to avoid religious intolerance, persecution of minorities, bigotry, hatred, abuse, and discrimination.

As we were boarding our plane to visit Poland, there was a girl in the line in front of us with a swastika tattoo behind her ear. At the time, I rolled my eyes, and thought, “To each her own, I guess.” But after visiting Auschwitz, I couldn’t help but feel sick for her. I hope for better for my children. I hope to educate them and help them see and know that hatred and persecution is not okay. And that challenging prejudice, discrimination, and hatred should be a priority.

This post is going live today, on Memorial Day, so instead of a Mother’s May highlight, we would like to post this as a tribute to so many who protect our freedoms, who fight against the very things I saw at Auschwitz. I am so grateful for them, and I am so grateful for the experience I had of visiting this truly horrible place. It left me with a dark, depressed, and sickened feeling, and while I never want to return, I am determined to take my children to see for themselves what ignorance and hate can result in. Even writing this post I am again feeling heavy and sorrowful. And so it is with gratitude that I thank our troops, and those who have lost their lives in honor and freedom of religious belief, freedom from persecution, freedom from prejudice’s name and more.

Signature-Rachael

About Rachael

I am Rachael, I have a passion for all things travel. I have an incurable wanderlust, and a need to see and do. I have four littles that call me "mom" and I am currently wading through the ever changing tides of parenting. I am figuring out what works, and what doesn't. And, I have a passion for food. In fact, I have an entire website dedicated to food www.eazypeazymealz.com. I love to eat, cook, and try new things.

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20 Responses to 5 Reasons to Visit Auschwitz and Why I Never Want To Go Back!

  1. thecapeonthecorner June 3, 2014 at 12:20 pm #

    i absolutely, absolutely want to visit auschwitz (and the far more pleasant krakow). As you shared those images, can you believe there are people still who think the holocaust did not happen? that is another reason we need to visit and make visible the remains of these horrible places. when i was in holland a few years ago, i sought out a concentration camp to see first person. it was a smaller one, camp vught, but it still had the cringeworthy crematoriam. we must never forget and we must always ensure our children learn from this, and see these upsetting yet real images. thank you so much for sharing.
    b

    • Anne Banks June 4, 2014 at 2:39 pm #

      We are bound to repeat the past unless we learn from it, and share these stories with our children. The Holland concentration camps make me think about Corrie Ten Boom and The Hiding Place. Such a great story, and one that can be shared with our older children, as well as Number the Stars. Thanks for visiting!

  2. Natasha In Oz June 7, 2014 at 12:06 am #

    I so agree that this is definitely a place everyone must visit. We haven’t been yet as I wanted my kids to see it so now my youngest is 14 we are thinking of going over in the next year or so. I’m a cry-baby at the best of times so I know I will need to mentally prepare myself when visiting Auschwitz.

    If you have a minute to spare I’d be honoured if you could share this poignant post at this week’s Say G’day Saturday linky party. It has just started and I know a few of my readers would really love to read this.

    Best wishes for a great weekend,
    Natasha in Oz

    • Rachael June 7, 2014 at 10:50 am #

      Thank you, heading over now! I cried the whole time. It was so sad.

  3. Michael April 23, 2015 at 4:03 pm #

    Why you say “the Nazi concentration camp”. Why don’t you tell to the world: GERMAN concentration camp? Built by GERMANS in occupated Poland.

    • Rachael July 20, 2015 at 6:26 pm #

      I believe most understand that it is both. Not all Germans were Nazi.

    • German are European May 11, 2016 at 4:37 pm #

      That’s not nice…

      • Kuba August 20, 2016 at 11:20 am #

        It’s not nice, but this is a true…

  4. Rachael July 20, 2015 at 6:23 pm #

    I am not sure if “necessary” is the right word, but it was truthful. I was trying to illustrate a point. We all have times we disagree with our government, with political practices or policies. And there are times we feel our country is suffering. I felt that visiting the camp was a bit of a wake up call for me. All of the distress I was feeling about the things I disagree with in my country are very minor compared to what history has shown us. Could I have said it better? Yes. But this was my honest emotion while visiting, and that is what I was trying to convey. No offense was intended.

  5. Rachael July 20, 2015 at 6:28 pm #

    No offense was intended, merely my personal feelings at the time. I try to be honest with my readers, and it was a simplified way of expressing my feelings that despite the occasional disagreements I have with political policy in my country, I am grateful for the freedoms I have.

  6. Jose September 22, 2015 at 10:04 pm #

    Why you have to talk about Obama in this topic?

  7. August Cornelius November 20, 2015 at 7:40 pm #

    The fact that Obama supports the killing of the unborn by Planned Parenthood “to the hilt” makes him just as bad as Hitler. And then you have all these Jews that promote abortion, will we never learn?

  8. Jackie January 10, 2016 at 11:56 am #

    Rachael, I thank you for your post, it is truly enlightening. I am visiting Krakow in February this year. It is something I have to do and I seriously think that everyone no matter what race or creed has got to do in their lifetime. I worked in a Jewish club in Birmingham UK quite a while ago and I have heard the horrific stories of the survivors and I have personally seen the numbers tattooed and brandished on arms it is awful.What I will never ever understand is this… what gives anyone the right to kill another human being. I just don’t understand how and why so many people were brainwashed into this awful atrocity. I am going to Auschwitz in winter I feel I have to get to grips with how the Jews felt at that time of year I feel like it is a pilgrimage but it is something really have to do

    • Rachael February 17, 2016 at 12:03 am #

      Thank you for your comment. I agree that everyone should experience it at some point. I hope you get what you want out of your visit.

  9. Andy February 19, 2016 at 9:44 pm #

    This world is full of hatred unfortunately, and prejudices. Although this was a horrible part of world history ,so was and is the racism against “blacks”… Jews and blacks were once considered the bottom of mankind and not to discredit the holocaust I feel like not many white Americans recognize the struggle African Americans went through and still go through to this day…in AMERICA. I would hope to visit auschwitz one day myself to have that personal and touching experience and pay my respect the same way you have Rachel and many others. I just wish people would pay the same respect to the issues African Americans face to this day in America…. if white Americans would take the time to do the same and go to perhaps churches in predominantly black neighborhoods and speak or listen to the people who are the leaders of these groups, you would learn our struggles.

    • Rachael April 15, 2016 at 8:42 pm #

      Thanks for your comment Andy, and for the perspective.

  10. Aevenien May 7, 2016 at 4:39 am #

    Auschwitz was mostly for people from Poland and soviet soldiers, so do not forget about them. There happened something more than just murdering Jews during Holocaust. Birkenau was the death camp, where Jews were killed in the gas chambers. And do not forget about Monowitz, which was a gum factory “Buna Werke”. All people suffered, not only Jews. The second largest group were Poles and there were also Russians, Gypsies, Jehovah’s Witnesses and german homosexualists, so is it only a monument of Holocaust? Do you know what Hitler was planning to do with all Slavs or Gypsies?

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