Lessons From Auschwitz

The holocaust is something which students first learn about in primary school, it is a part of our shared global history; yet that dark period of history cannot be summed up within any textbook, presentation or statistics of the dead. Having been to Auschwitz-Birkenau, seeing the site where 1.1 million people were brutally murdered simply because of who they are; seriously changed my outlook on life, and left me asking the question – Have we learnt anything?

Instantly, upon the arrival at Auschwitz One, the industrialisation around the site was alarming. Having a hotel opposite, and a restaurant just outside the gates was bewildering – it began to feel as if people were making profits off a site of tragedy, and the feeling was exasperating.

Moving through all the different barracks and seeing belongings of what prisoners thought they needed for ‘a new life’ was startling: the deceit was overpowering, and people truly believed they were going to make a new life. The displays of belongings are overwhelming: 43,000 pairs of shoes, 7,000 kilograms of hair and 4.5 million names in a book are impossible to visualise, however, it’s what those items meant to someone that is truly devastating. Their last hopes before they were stripped of every piece of what they had left. It was their individuality.

Birkenau was built in 1940, built solely for mass murder, constructed by those whom it was going to be used upon. The size of the site is impossible to picture and the surrounding fences seem to go on as far as the eye can see. It is ceaseless.

When we remember the holocaust it’s imperative to think about the individuals and their experiences otherwise our understanding gets distorted trying to think of the generalisation.

The holocaust’s legacy is still imminent in our world today, many including myself didn’t think anti-Semitism was as forthcoming in society as it is. Have we really learnt from the holocaust? With the rise of the Rohingya Muslim crisis and recent Genocides; such as Darfur killing 2 million people, why are we still repeating history? Nothing is being done about the looming hate for ordinary people just because of who they are. World leaders are still allowing this hate and discrimination to continue and people like ourselves are discriminating people for who they are.

The message I learnt form Auschwitz-Birkenau was to not discriminate, to be a kinder person every day and to try and put some positivity into this world. Appreciate what you have because before I visited the two sites I truly did not realise how fortunate I was. Auschwitz is a place of remembrance and history and the message that it shares should never be forgotten and the incidents should never be repeated.

M Large

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