My visit to the former Polish death camps Auschwitz and Birkenau left me completely at odds as to whether they should even exist at all anymore. Long before I booked the trip I had reservations about visiting, I just didn’t think I wanted the images of suffering and torture in my head. To this day, even after visiting the sites, I’m not sure about it.
The overwhelming feeling of fear, death, suffering and sorrow hits you the second you walk through “that” gate. It was truly awful listening to the commentary from the Polish tour guide as we walked around. On no occasion was anything sugar-coated or dumbed down for the sensitive tourist, the story of the camps was told exactly as it should be with the emphasis on the word “murder”. Combined with the black and white stills of the so-called inmates/workers/victims and remnants of their belongings the experience will stay with me forever.
Then comes the doubt as to whether the places should even exist. Every now and again you have a chance to break away from the groups you’re in and you see it, wave after wave of tourist buses. Are they serving to educate and commemorate or are they just there to generate money for the local economy? I couldn’t work it out. At one point I thought the whole place should be completely irradicated from memory then the next moment I saw how poor the surrounding areas were and wanted to keep the flow of income alive. I was and still are truly at odds with the purpose of these two places.