Poland: Raining at Auschwitz (cont.)
The public bus to Auschwitz was,
as I had hoped, very old, unsafe, and bursting with
passengers. There were babushka-wearing locals and
farmers, frock-wearing nuns, solders with rifles,
crying babies, and for some real excitement, several
large clucking chickens. I was the only obvious tourist
on board. Another element in this peculiar, though
curiously fitting situation, was the weather. For
the past three weeks as I traveled through Denmark,
Germany, the Czech Republic, and now Poland, Europe
had experienced an unprecedented heat wave, with temperatures
above 90 with humidity to boot. On that day though,
the day I was visiting one of the most terrible and
horrifying places in the history of man, it rained.
It rained all day with temperatures barely reaching
65. I was thinking about this deviation on the bus
when I noticed a small stream of water dripping through
the apparently porous ceiling and onto my leg.
The day passed very slowly. I walked
through the many buildings filled with shoes, eyeglasses,
suitcases, and piles upon piles of human hair. In
an understandably somber mood, I imagined what had
taken place there and watched the other tourists in
amazement. Showing extraordinary hubris and unbridled
ignorance, my fellow travelers walked around Auschwitz
telling jokes, smiling, and saying (this is not a
joke) “Hey Mom, come take my picture in front of the
killing wall.” I was speechless, and that’s saying
something for me.
I spent a few hours in the main administrative camp
of Auschwitz, then, after missing the bus to Birkenau,
I hailed a cab --a curious occurrence for the location.
The infamous brick gate, railroad track, and crematoriums
impressed upon me the tremendous scope of this operation.
Next to the train tracks were hundreds, maybe thousands,
of brick chimneys, all that remain of the barracks
that housed the immense work force needed to maintain
the camp. Later in the afternoon, with only two more
scheduled busses returning to Krakow, the majority
of the other visitors departed, leaving me virtually
alone in Birkenau. I wandered around the destroyed
crematoriums, passed the brick skeletons of barracks,
and up to a small pond still gray from the ashes.
I was entirely alone and not sure what to think or
what to feel. I walked around as if in a trance, trying
to take it all in, yet fighting with all my might
not to let it in at all. The sights and emotions evoked
during my visit to Auschwitz proved overwhelming.
I could not then nor can I now comprehend the events
that took place there.
Later that evening, after reconnecting with my friend,
the fourth tenor, at the hostel, I resolved to put
the days upsetting sites behind me. With this task
in mind we gathered up our Zlotys and went in search
of a nice meal. In Krakow my few dollars bought an
appetizer (I couldn’t believe it either), a beautiful
and tender portion of filet mignon, several pints
of good beer, a dessert, and an espresso to finish
it off. We were so pleased with this turn of events
that we left our stunning and adorable waitress with
a large handful of coins; she refused at first, but
with some convincing, surreptitiously pocketed the
My friend and I walked the now jubilant streets of
Krakow, reflecting upon the day and the horrific events
that had taken place just a few miles away, indeed,
events that continue around the globe, in some form,
to this day. I remembered with reverence those people
whose lives were governed by such sorrow and anguish;
and I felt deeply grateful that I was able to travel,
laugh, eat and drink free from worry and persecution.
Page 2 of 2 Previous
All contents copyright ©2005 Pology
Magazine. Unauthorized use of any content is strictly