My eyes filled with tears as I walk through the halls of the barrack. “Don’t be the one who cries in public” I told myself “Pull it together.” Sucking the tears back in my eyes, I continued walking.
40,000 pairs of shoes lined the walls and piles of glasses lined the other wall. Everyone just walked in silence, in disbelief. No, these were not replicas. They were the real shoes, the real glasses, the real blankets, the real suitcases that the Nazis soldiers and SS guards took from the Jews promising to “take them to their rooms.” We were standing in the barrack that hundreds of thousands of Jews were piled into. Pictures lined the walls of people exiting the trains, being sorted, and working around the camps. It was overwhelming. You weren’t sure what to feel, there was just a lot of feelings.
The walking continued. I turned to my right and I was standing in front of the cell that St. Maximillian Kolbe was starved in. So many emotions, so much to take in. The walking continued. We were guided into a building and asked to be silent upon entering. We were entering into the crematorium where hundreds of thousand of Jews were lead to “go take a shower.” Only to find they were minutes away from their death. Nail scratches lined to walls showing the escape efforts made by many. I remained silent for some time after that.
So many thoughts and emotions took over my mind. How is this even real? How could someone do this to people? How could there be so much hate in this world?
I will never be able to put my Auschwitz experience into words. But I know I walked away changed because of it. My outlook on life will forever be changed. The appreciation for my freedom will forever be changed. But what I mostly want to talk about is gratitude.
Let’s rewind to before the tour. We got off the train only to realize it was another 30 minute walk before we got to Auschwitz. I whined and complained. We had been walking like 10 miles a day and all I had is my Birks. My feet hurt. I had terrible blisters. I was limping for like two days straight now because the bottom of my feet was like on giant blister. This can’t be real life that I have to walk over a mile to get to this concentration camp. I was less than thrilled. By the time we walked there, I was whining about how starving I was. I went straight to the restaurant located on the property and then was ungrateful for the food selection that they had and that they put a fried egg (yuck) on top of my piece of chicken. Next was the fact that they didn’t let us switch our tour from German to English (which was not available to book online), so we had to go on the German tour and just have my friend translate for me. So the tour begins and the rest is history.
Gratitude, people, gratitude. Something that leading up to this experience I had so little of. But walking through the camp changed me. Changed my perspective on everything. These people had everything taken from them. They worked all day and received no food only hoping to see tomorrow. They had all of there belongings taken from them and were left with nothing. They weren’t even seen as human. Could you imagine that?
Life is good. We have it good. We are blessed. Never lose sight of all that you have and all the beauty surrounding you.