Hello, my name is Ferdinand C. Schon and I am from Germany. I visited for the first time in my life a concentration camp. I’ve wanted to visit a place like that when I first Iearned about the Holocaust. Today I was so excited and nervous, because the concentration camp I visited was Auschwitz and Auschwitz-Birkenau. The largest and deadliest of them. After I’ve seen an art gallery of Marian Kołodziej I’ve wanted to understand what must have happened to a man who drew like this. Those paintings were so horrible and frightening in the way they were presented. What must have happened to him?
At first we arrived at the infamous „Arbeit macht frei” sign (work will set you free). In the first moment I thought, yeah it is a metal sign, what now? This historically important place, a place I’ve wanted to see leaves me with a chill inside. Next were the barracks of first cells with 3-floor beds. Well, I’ve seen those already in documentation movies. But there were touching things in there, like the starving cells or standing cells or dark cells. After that I saw a shooting wall and that was the first place were my imagination came in. Here died probably thousands of people and now it’s a grey wall with flowers in front of it…
After this place we went into a barrack were I saw the leftovers of the belongings of the former inmates of Auschwitz and Auschwitz-Birkenau. For me it was the hardest thing to look at and for the others who were there as well. Shoes, thousands of shoes or baby clothes. There were real clothes of little children. But the worst was the hair room. A room full of shaved hair of the imprisoned women. Tons of it. My thoughts started to flow again.
Why did you people have to kill children and women? Why did you have to shave their heads and why all those had to happen?
Then I went to a gas chamber. It was a large square room with 4 holes in the roof. And again, thousands of people died there. Innocent people. Why did you have to kill those people? Next to the gas chamber was the recreated crematorium. It was a small room with a few ovens in it. To imagine all those corpses of all the killed people got in this room and burned into ashes is beyond me. Just cruel to think of it. After I left Auschwitz we went immediately to Auschwitz-Birkenau.
After I entered the door I saw all this huge free space and I had to think of what it might have looked like when it was in operating state. I thought: what a huge, huge waste of land and what a waste of human lives and human culture. This place was made for 400.000 inmates which is four times more than my home town inhabitants and just to kill those people?
After I entered I went to the middle of this structure, the train platform, and there was only one. There were cattle wagons which took the Jews to the concentration camp. It was horrible to think of that there were up to 80 people inside it. After that I went to the destroyed crematoriums and gas chambers. These gas chambers were for 2000 people, for 2000! and it needed 15 to 20 minutes to kill them. There were three of these gas chambers. That means you can kill 6000 people in 15 to 20 minutes. The tour guide said that in one hour they could kill 10.000 people. These are things you don’t want to think of.
After this disgusting place I went back to the entrance because this is where the rebuilds of the barracks of the inmates were. Just uninsulated wooden buildings. In Poland, when in winters you get easily to 20 degrees below freezing! Just horrible. Unthinkable nowadays. After those building the visit ended but one question doesn’t leave me. Why? Just why did the Germans do that to such a community of people? From where did all this hatred come?
I didn’t find the answer but I realized one thing. I didn’t get it. I didn’t get it at all. I don’t understand all these hatred in generally. I just can’t understand hatred. In this cruel, horrible and bad place I learned something about myself too. One thing that I can’t get away from my mind. I’m ashamed to be German for what happened in the past. I’m ashamed of that the people of my country, where I was born and raised did such things to others. It is already 70 years ago and I think maybe I put too much in it but I feel so queasy about it.
But in the end, I’ve learned that I didn’t understand why they did that. I’ve noticed that I’m ashamed of what they did seventy years ago. But I also learned that it has already been 70 years since. And what’s important is to learn about it, remember and carry on living.
Ferdinand C. Schon