This is Umang! Today was day 6 (I think— it feels like we have been here for weeks), and today’s itinerary was packed. But then again, that’s nothing new. What’s new is what we did. On day 6 of the Eastern Europe trip, we visited Auschwitz and Birkenau and toured an exhibition of Holocaust drawings. Yeah, pretty heavy stuff. Don’t worry, I’ll break it down.
After breakfast at Hotel Imperiale (which was amazing), we headed straight to Auschwitz I, the labor camp. Our amazing tour guide led us through the entire camp, explaining the history behind the camp and guiding us through the exhibits set up in many of the barracks. It was amazing to see how well preserved most of the camp was. Of course, there were many things that had to be recreated, but there were enough original buildings and pieces of furniture that we really got to see what the camp would have looked like more than seventy years ago.
Then, we had lunch at Café Auschwitz, and headed to Auschwitz II, also known as Birkenau. Birkenau is a death camp, with four extermination centers, as opposed to Auschwitz I’s single center. Birkenau is less well known than Auschwitz I, so we encountered fewer tour groups there, but I thought our visit there was even more powerful than the one to Auschwitz I. Instead of a tour guide, we were led through the camp by Ms. Freeman. It was amazing in a horrifying way. I’m not completely sure how to put my thoughts into words— I don’t think I can. It really has to be experienced to be truly appreciated.
After four hours walking around Birkenau, we visited the crypt of a nearby church. Marian Kołodziej was a Holocaust survivor who was one of the first prisoners sent to Auschwitz. After his liberation, he refused to talk about his experience. Later, he had a stroke, and as part of his recovery, the doctor recommended he draw. Marian Kołodziej drew pictures of Auschwitz, and of his experiences there, covering the entire church crypt with drawing after haunting drawing. We spent an hour looking at the drawings and even that wasn’t nearly enough. I wish we had more time, but we had to save enough time to eat dinner and drive to our next hotel in Lublin.
Today was indescribable. There were highs and lows; the trip was light and serious by turns. Nevertheless, I am so glad I came to Eastern Europe. I hope things are going well in Boston.
See you in a week!
2/21/2019 05:48:02 am
Umang, thanks for wishing us well here at home. On the day you wrote, 32 years ago, President Reagan lifted sanctions on Poland. But this week, the Polish and Israeli governments are again arguing about the Holocaust. You know you're there at a meaningful time.
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