Day 10 – Auschwitz

“The one who does not remember history is bound to live through 
it again.” — George Santayana.  This quote confronts all visitors at 
the entrance to Block 4 in Auschwitz.

Today we spent the day in what was Konzentration Lager  (KL) Auschwitz.  
Auschwitz was not one camp but was a complex of three primary sites:  
Auschwitz I was the administrative center and concentration camp for 
primarily Polish prisoners, Auschwitz-Birkenau (Auschwitz II) was the death 
camp, and  Buna (Auschwitz III) was for manufacturing and testing facilities, 
which also had dozens of labor subcamps.
 

We met our guide, Wojciech, who would take us through Auschwitz 
I which now serves as the museum.   Wojciech had been our guide before 
and we had been very impressed with both his knowledge and his 
style of interacting with us, and answering questions, so we were very 
pleased.  We started under the iconic sign, present in many camps, 
which we had seen in Terezin (Theresienstadt):  Arbeit Macht Frei.   
There, Wojciech gave us the history of the camp.   Built in the town 
of Oswiecim, Auschwitz is the Germanization of the name of the town.
It was established by the Nazis in 1940 and was in use until the Allied 
liberation in 1945.  
 
As we stood outside the gate we could see many of the 28 brick buildings 
identified by Block numbers  which made up Auschwitz I.  Before 
passing through the gate, Wojciech showed us a drawing which depicted 
an orchestra playing as inmates marched out the gate.  He informed us 
that many in the orchestra also worked in the kitchen which was a long 
building located to the right of the gate.  There they were safe 
from most of the difficult jobs –  they often had access to or were able 
to “organize” [euphemism for ‘steal’] some extra food, and were also 
protected from the weather extremes, and so their chances of survival were 
better than those who had to labor outside.  The living conditions in the 
concentration camp were severe— hard work, starvation, disease and brutal 
treatment — so that the average time between one’s arrival in 
Auschwitz  I and his death due to one of these factors, was about 2 months. 
 
In  1941, Himmler ordered the enlargement of the camp and 
Auschwitz-Birkenau was established .  In 1942 after the Wannsee 
Conference this camp starts to function as a death camp.  90% of the 
victims in the camp are no longer prisoners, but are taken directly 
from the trains to the gas chambers.  In 1942, there are estimated to 
have been 11 million Jews in Europe, primarily Central Europe:  
5 million in the Soviet Union, 3.5 million in Poland and  850,000 in 
Hungary.   There were 6 death camps, all located in Poland:  
Auschwitz was the largest and the only one still functioning towards 
the end of the war.  The others are Belzec, Treblinka, Chelmno, Sobibor, 
and Maidanek.  An estimated 1.3 million people were murdered in 
Auschwitz, a compromise between the low estimate of 1.1 million and the 
high of 1.5 million.  An urn with a small amount of human ash in 
Block 4 symbolizes the loss of all these lives. 
As we climbed the stairs to the second floor of Block 4, we were 
shown a large model of a gas chamber which we would see this 
afternoon in Birkenau and which showed  the three phases of its 
operation.  First, there was the disrobing room where people were 
told to remove their clothes.  They were often told to remember 
the number on which they put their clothes, or make sure to tie 
their shoes together, some were even given a piece of soap – all in 
the name of deception.  A gas chamber could hold 1,500 people at 
time.The second phase was to have two Zyklon B pellets dropped 
through the vents in the roof.  The  Zyklon B pellets alone were 
harmless, and had been used in delousing, but when dropped into 
water created a deadly hydrogen cyanide.  In 20 minutes, all the 
people would be dead and the room would be ventilated which 
required half an hour.  The third phase required Jewish prisoners 
in a special unit called the Sonderkommando to remove the bodies, 
shave the hair and remove any gold teeth from the corpses, and 
then burn the bodies in the underground crematorium.  The average 
length of time one served in the Sonderkommando before being killed 
himself, was 3-4 months.  About 80 Sonderkommando survived the 
war and were able to provide testimony. 
 

In Block 5 were belongings brought by victims to Auschwitz which were confiscated by the SS and found after liberation.  Separate rooms containing shoes, artificial limbs and crutches, eyeglasses, prayer shawls, shaving kits, household cooking items like can openers and cheese graters, baby clothes, and carefully labeled suitcases which carried these things provide physical evidence of the existence of so many victims as well as giving us some insight into what they might have thought was their destination.    A large room with a wall-to-wall display case of two thousand pounds of human hair was particularly moving for our group.  This hair was sold to German textile manufacturers for production of army uniforms or gloves and socks for railroad workers.  
 
Leaving Block 5, Wojciech took us next to Block 7 which showed us the living quarters of the prisoners in Auschwitz.  Walking through the hall of the building which had photographs of the predominantly Polish prisoners, women on the left and men on the right, with their name, prisoner number, nationality, date deported to Auschwitz and date of death.  We were told that the average life expectancy of a prisoner in Auschwitz I was 2-3 months because of the harsh conditions and the pictures bore this out.  These photographs were taken as a part of the processing into the camp, most by Wilhelm Brasse, himself a prisoner.  He spoke fluent German and was a photographer before the war.  This made him useful to the Nazis who wanted good photographs of the prisoners as well as  someone to take pictures at their private SS parties and of the experimental surgeries.  In this manner he was able to survive the war.  Wojciech told us that it was traditional for a moment of silence to be observed at Jewish burial in memory of the departed.  If that we’re to be done for each person whose photograph hung in the corridors of Block 7, it  would require 8 hours.  If this same moment of silence was to be observed for each of the 1.1 million victims of Auschwitz, it would take two and a half years.  

We next visited Block 11 which served as the prison for the camp.  One of the things that concerned the Nazis was the threat of escape.   This was not a major problem as of the 400,000 prisoners, less than 700 tried to escape and less than 200 succeeded.  The Nazis used the principle of collective responsibility to discourage escapes.  If you escaped, twenty prisoners might be executed or your family might be arrested and taken to Auschwitz.  We were shown the three types of punishment cells:  dark cell, starvation cell and the standing cell in which three or four people could be forced to stand for days at a time.  Punishment might be 3-4 days in one of these cells for smoking a cigarette or 10 or more days for sabotage.   Time in a punishment cell could be a death sentence.  After viewing the execution wall between Blocks 10 and 11, where tens of thousands of prisoners were lined up naked and shot, we walked to the crematorium of the camp which was used to cremate the bodies of people who perished in the camp and also viewed the home of the camp commandant Rudolph Hoss and the gallows where he was hanged for his war crimes.  
After a brief bag lunch, we drove to Auschwitz-Birkenau where Shalmi spent the afternoon showing us the death camp. He talked about how the camp had changed in the spring of 1944 when the Nazis expected 1 million Hungarian Jews to be transported here.  It was then that they added the rail line coming into the camp preparing for the influx.  


Shalmi took us through the quarantine barracks where Jews, toward the end of the war, were taken into Germany for forced labor.  Germany desperately needed labor and the Nazi leadership was able to convince Hitler to postpone killing some Jews who could supply that labor.  They were first brought here and kept in quarantine in miserable conditions of overcrowding and little food, but after three days if there was no sign of disease they were put on another train to Germany.  In the barracks had recently been placed a stone with writing in Hebrew.  Shalmi read it:  “It’s not one but many who tried to kill us; but God saved us.”
 

We also saw the Czech family camp which Shalmi had spoken to us about in Terezin.  The Czech Jews had been transported to Auschwitz to reduce the overcrowding prior to the Red Cross visit as part of the beautification project.  Once the visit had occurred, however, the Czech camp was liquidated and all of its inmates sent to the gas chambers.  Again, Shalmi reminded us that the last thing the Czech Jews did before entering the gas chamber, was to sing the Czech national anthem.
We also learned of the existence of two other camps:  the Mengele Twin Camp and the Gypsy camp.  



Next Shalmi spoke of the importance of ‘The Ramp’ where the selection process was made determining whether one was to live or die.   He told us several emotional, heart-wrenching stories survivors have shared about their experiences on the ramp.  We saw the remains of the crematoria, the ‘sauna’ which served as the building where those who had been chosen to live were processed (uniforms, tattooed, shaved) and the remains of the warehouses called Canada which were massive storage buildings which housed confiscated Jewish property.  

We sat for a short while under some trees to reflect upon what we had seen 
and heard today and then walked back along the path, passing through the 
iconic gate of Auschwitz to head to our final stop on our tour, Krakow.    








Student Reflections:

Shannnon says…
Standing where the SS officers stood, where they selected millions of victims was quite overwhelming. I could not understand how anyone could determine the fate of others.  Hearing stories of how mothers were so conflicted on whether or not to walk straight to the gas chambers with their small child or to walk to the left to the woman’s barracks without their child was extremely heartbreaking.

Allie says…
What struck me at Auschwitz was that the physical place was inconspicuous and even pretty; there was nothing inherently evil or horrific about it.  For someone who did not know what it was there is little to suggest the atrocities that took place there. The dehumanization, degradation, torture and mass murder came from the people and the capabilities of man to create this evil is what we must remember.

John says…
I began to feel sick after the testimony that Mr. Barmore shared with us about the boy who was separated from his father during the selection process.  I felt as though I can see the father being ushered into the work camp as the boy and his grandmother are walked toward the gas chamber.  This process and natural human experience of regret and fear demonstrate the evil nature of the death factory.

Emma says…
Viewing the places where people were dehumanized, tortured and killed was the most horrifying aspect of our visit to Auschwitz.  The stories we heard about both the victims and perpetrators were difficult to digest while standing in the places where they occurred.

Sam says…
I did not realize how large Auschwitz was.  Walking around the grounds brought about much sadness in me.  All the lives lost; so many lives lost; the innocence lost; how could one place be so destructive?

Alicia says…
What had an impact on me at Auschwitz was seeing its effect on others in our group. It absolutely boggles my mind that I know people who have lost relatives in the Holocaust because my life, my history- the history of people I know- always seem from separate from textbooks.  


Alyssia says…
When touring Auschwitz today I became very emotional.  When I witnessed the walls displaying pictures of Jewish families I truly realized that the people in the camps were no different than my family.  We both celebrate birthdays, weddings and other special occasions.  We both have loved ones and we boy cherish our lives.  It is unbelievable to me that anyone could take those precious moments away from such innocent people.

Juliana says…
Auschwitz itself was a lot to grasp. When walking through it what really shook me up was when Mr. Barmore shared stories about people knew who had been in Auschwitz.  The story that hit me the most was when the boy told his mom he wished she would die and then she was separated from him in the line to the gas chambers.

Kelly M. says…
Today in Auschwitz I felt my emotions come through stronger than ever. When I saw the pictures of the victims on the wall, I saw two pictures of men with the same last name, presumably brothers. I noticed that they died 7 months apart, and I could not imagine being without my sister for 7 months in a place such as Auschwitz.


Bedros says…
I have never felt worse in my life, then how I felt at Auschwitz-Birkenau.  Upon seeing the photos and quotes on how the first to die were children, I could not do anything but cry.  Never have I been to a location were the presence of evil emanated so literally.

Kiley says…
Standing on the ramp at Birkenau and listening to Shalmi tell stories of victims of the Holocaust, left a feeling of sadness.  To hear personal stories of families being separated in this exact spot was heart wrenching.

Helen says…
Nazi ideology, bystanders, perpetrators, victims, Final Solution, were all pieces of the Holocaust.  This can be written down on paper, looked at and studied.  But in Auschwitz-Birkenau, it made no sense, none of it made any sense.

Miya says…
In Mrs. Sussman’s Holocaust class we read “This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen,” by Tadeusc Barowski which described life for prisoners who were members of Canada.  Today we saw pictures of men who had to take peoples last possessions before being sent to their deaths. Seeing real but stoic images of people who seemed to have the best job in the camp gave a more positive impression than Barowski’s description of the type of person he became to gladly send thousands of people to their deaths for a chance to steal their food.

Max says…
It’s difficult to fathom what people will do for their personal benefit.  Europeans first accepted Jews only to improve commerce and trade.  In the Holocaust, everything the Jews had left including their hair, prosthetic limbs and luggage was taken and sold to benefit the Germans.  Jews were only seen as objects to manipulate for personal gain.

Sarah says…
There are no words to describe the things we experienced today. We were able to see where millions of people experienced the cruelest treatment by human beings breathing the air, walking on the pavement and seeing the scenery left me unsettled.

Chris says…
Today we went to Auschwitz and it was very emotional.  Seeing the hair of the deceased was very upsetting to see and I was in shocked that the Nazis utilized the hair to make blankets and uniforms.  This really demonstrated to me the process of dehumanization that the victims went through.

Amanda says…
Today I found it very hard to fathom the horrific, inhuman, and unjustifiable crimes that took place in Auschwitz-Birkenau.  Walking down the same path that millions of others had been directed down, carrying both their belongings and emotions, I could not help but realize how different it was now from then.  A a result, it was hard to imagine what actually transpired where I stood.  I struggled with these feelings throughout the day and found my breaking point to be in the room full of women’s hair and I felt with the question of why life was so cruel to these innocent people?

Kendall says…
The biggest surprise for me today was the fact that I did not know what to expect.  I felt that there was this immeasurable amount of emotion that continued to follow me because the sites that we aw today were nothing like I ever pictured before.  The Holocaust came together for me today, but yet left me struggling for answers.

Andrew says…
As we walked around Auschwitz and Birkenau I felt my legs grow heavy and my stomach drop.  From the room filled with hair to Mr. Barmore telling us heart-wrenching stories of families being separated on the ramp, I felt everyone was holding back tears.  It is hard to believe that people were forced to live in such conditions.

Gauge says…
Today was both physically and emotionally moving; just being where over a million people were sentenced to death.  Seeing the whole camp made me depressed, not for the fact that I was there, but for those who were there before.  I was emotionally drained seeing the tracks, gas chambers, and crematoria.

Ashley says…
Actually being at Auschwitz-Birkenau was overwhelming.  Standing where the mass murder of innocent lives occurred revealed a harsh reality.  I felt pain and sorrow for the Holocaust victims.

Kelly B. says…
Walking through Auschwtiz-Birkenau today, it was heartbreaking to think about all the lives that were lost there.  What really struck me was that most of the people murdered there were convinced that they would be leaving and returning to their lives with their families.  The false hope that they were given was cruel and left a lasting impression on me.

Meredith says…
Today when we were standing at the selection site at Birkenau, Shalmi told us three stories about peoples personal experiences at the selection site. For me, I started thinking about my family and how I connected to that site.  I knew that I was standing in that exact place millions had their fate decided for them.

48 comments

  1. Each time I think back to the day I spent in Auschwitz I can’t help but remember the feeling of being trapped. I, like Deanne, felt sick to my stomach when seeing the different components that together make up the killing machine that is Auschwitz. And as the 22 of you will soon learn, when you return home and continue to think about the things you saw and the places you went, you will begin to dig deeper. When I first walked through that block that holds all the shoes, suitcases, kitchen utensils and hair, I took it at face value: 110,000 shoes, 3000 suitcases, 12,000 kitchen utensils, and 2 tons of hair. These numbers overwhelmed me, but it wasn’t until after that day that I realized that this is only a small fraction of the possessions stripped from the victims who were murdered. 11 million people were killed in the Holocaust. Each one of those 11 million owned shoes and kitchen utensils, grew hair, and most had suitcases. Can you imagine how sickeningly large this memorial should be? But it’s not. It isn’t because the Nazi’s took these possessions and sold them. They took the hair from their heads and used it to stuff pillows and mattresses. They took the shoes from their feet and sold them for profit. I find this day fascinating because although all of you are seeing the same thing, each person experiences it differently. Happy Birthday Cherilyn! Although this must have been a very emotional day it is one that will stay with you forever!Meredith McCann

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  2. You're all truly amazing. I have never seen these places in person, as you have. But, you have painted many pictures in my mind. One comment after another was unbelievably insightful. Jessica's pointing out that the Nazis cared more about the possessions than the humans really hit me hard. Then I read more and tears welled up in my eyes. The comment that really made my cry with sadness for the victims and pride at the same time was Cherilyn's. To be sitting there on your birthday and reflecting on the birthdays of those poor people really was amazing…Wow…I really don't know what to say. I'm at a loss for words and your all are so articulate. And one more thing..thank you Mr. Chang for posting the celebration of Cherilyn's birthday at the end…I really NEEDED to smile!

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  3. I'm trying to comment on this amazing journey with tears filling my eyes. A totally emotional adventure for our young adults and us as followers. Never in a million years would I have thought that I to would experience this roller-coster of emotions. Again, remember and never forget… \”Life\” is truly to short, embrace each day with Love, Happiness, Compassion for others and self, and most of all understanding and Forgiveness.THANK YOU AGAIN TO ALL,Delia

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  4. OK now I am officially crying!! I too found it harder and harder to read each of the comments. Kasandra your comments were the first trigger for me, I remember when Steve shared that story with us and I lost it then too, How many times do we say things to the ones we love that are mean when we truely dont mean it at all. Casey I think that is what I would feel as well, like a punch in the stomach. As Diane and I were reading the blog tonight I asked her what size area would you need just to put even one million people into! I can not even imagine what each of you experienced today. Cherilyn thankfully Susan K warned us before we read yours so we had the tissues handy and each other close at hand. WOW. You are blessed to have more birthdays and what all of you need to do with your additional birthdays is continue to spread the knowledge that you have collected on this trip. Happy Birthday again. We will see you all soon. With lots of Love for all of you,Dan and Diane ConnerPS I always forget to sign my other posts!!!PSS I agree that maybe CC's birthday celebration was EXACTLY what you all needed after today!!!!!!

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  5. It was interesting to read the comments from the students. You can tell by reading them that it was very emotional to be there today. When I read about the two tons of human hair, that made my stomach feel sick. Then to read about the shoes and suitcases. These were just regular people who were at the wrong place at the wrong time. I'm sure being there you appreciate everything we have in Kansas City. I know I don't appreciate what I've been given enough.One story I read from the student was about how the Jews had to go to a sauna to get disinfected. That was really hard to read and think about. Hopefully something like Auschwitz will never happen again.-Dashawn Harden

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  6. OOF! The maturity of all of you is amazing. Your comments show us just how much you are learning and \”getting\” all of it! Well I have to say it was pretty tough for me to see everyone singing to Cherilyn and not being able to do the same myself. Which makes me think how the trips' focus has been on the victims, but Sarah, Cherilyn, & Kassandra's comments made me think about the people who were left without their loved ones because of this Holocaust and to know that they were taken away for no good reason, sickness or horrible accident is just unfair. Life is precious – every second of it – and may we always remember to treat each other in such a way. It is tough to remember that in anger, and that is why we have others to remind us of how we should not take advantage of the miracle of life. I love you all, (from a very emotional friend), Diane

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  7. I cannot imagine the enlightening horror of visiting Auschwitz. It is hard to see how the Nazis could avoid their guilt in murdering so many innocent people. In the documentary we watched about Auschwitz today, the Nazis would drink and eat in excess to take their mind off of their gruesome livesAlso, seeing the radiant nature surrounding Auschwitz reminds me of Gerda Weissmann Klein. Throughout the Holocaust,she continually recognized the ironic beauty in the world.-Molly Porter

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  8. I am so touched by each student’s comments. Remember that despite their best efforts to dehumanize their victims, the Nazis were not able to entirely strip away all their victims' resilience of spirit. Never forget the stories of immense courage and determination. I find such horror in the whole 'selection' process for life or death and the randomness of this process truly baffling. Many of you described a harrowing portrait of the victim’s lives in the death camp. I will never be able to forget reading this through your words. Try to keep your focus now on the determination, courage and bravery of those survivors you’ve met and spoken to already, and how important it is to them that the world should not forget what happened during the Holocaust. Keep their spirit of bravery, courage and determination alive in each of you.I am so proud of you all words cannot explain.I can’t thank you enough for the off-key rendition of the Happy Birthday song to Cherilyn! I had to laugh thinking,… oh that’s definitely Frankie I can hear singing way off key! I hope this celebration at the end of the day brought happiness to you all. It certainly helped me dry up my tears hearing the “singing.”Love to all,Celeste

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  9. This trip is such a huge part of growing up and realizing the little things we take for granted on a daily basis. Its amazing the courage of Mr Chang and the other teachers being able to do this year after year with different students and promising to return again and again. Thank you all for the dedication you bring to the students everyday.Have a safe trip home. God bless.

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  10. There are places we go and people we meet and history we observe that form who we are. I know this trip will change how you see the world. Man's inhumanity to man is surpassed only by man's ability to survive, overcome, and flourish again. If you have learned to step forward rather than stand back, this trip is worth everything. It sounds like you have all learned that lesson well. Travel safely, Shalom.Mrs. Burten

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  11. It seems like everyone on this tour had the same reaction to the horrors inside Auschwitz-Birkenau as I did last year. Year after year people walk through to tour the camp and its horrifying contents. As participants in the tour this year it is now your duty to spread awareness of this dark chapter of human history. After all, without spreading the awareness of what happened during the time, there is always room for the world forgetting about it and that cannot happen. That is why this tour and what you saw inside the Theresienstadt ghetto and Auschwitz (I&II)is significant. Visiting these camps and viewing these horrific tragedies firsthand is 1,000 times more real for you guys than reading it in a textbook. After I came back from this tour last year I couldn't stop talking about the impact it had on me to those around me. This tour is definitely a life-changing experience and after reading your blog entries it seems like it hit you guys the same way.-Matt Bachmann

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  12. Wow!! what an inetense and emotioanl day you all had..Quite possibly if all students were taught about the Holocaust as you are being taught, this world might be a much better place. The compassion, the Love, the caring and the insight might just make people treat others a little better. Perhaps less prejudice and bullying. You are an amazing bunch of kids and Mrs T..thanks for teaching our kids and us too. You rock!!

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  13. Reading the comments from the students was really cool because in almost every one, they said how emotionally draining it was. You guys are so lucky to have the opportunity to see first hand, what happened and where it took place.In class yesterday, we started the second disk about Auschwitz. It explained, in more detail, about how they killed the Jews. I knew about the gas chambers but I didn't know some of them were led into the back of trucks and gased in there. I don't understand how they could do that to innocent people, but I guess we'll never know.I hope you all enjoy the rest of your trip!! Stay safe!Natalie

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  14. This is the blog entry I've been waiting for since our classmates left for the tour. The sign for the entrance of the camp looks exactly how we've seen it in pictures Ms. Sussman has showed us in class. I can't imagine how it must have been like to go inside the camp and see the machine that killed so many Jews. (I cannot see most of the pictures on this entry). Mackenzie's entry about the trivial cheese grater making such a comparison to the Jews in the concentration camp is amazing. At the end, with the birthday singing for the girl, it made me wonder if the Jews in Auschwitz or any other concentration camp celebrated birthdays – or if they even knew when it was there birthday. The writing about the tons of human hair reminds me of my visit to the USHMM in 8th grade where we saw the piles of shoes, hair, walls of pictures, and mementos of thousands and thousands of Jews that perished in the Holocaust. I can't wait to see more pictures when they return.

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  15. I can't imagine how powerful it must have been to walk through Auschwitz and remember the victims that did the same as they faced death. After reading the story Casey wrote about it, it made me think about all the times I said things I didn't understand just because, or I depended on a parent to defend me against any of my mistakes. I can't imagine how all of the victims, especially the children, must have been feeling as they faced an unjust reality that offered no option or chance to defend themselves. It breaks my heart to think of all the children that faced a lonely death when they would not have fully understood what death was. I find it impossible to imagine the thoughts that people in the camps must have had as they passed their days just waiting, they would not know for what, but just waiting. And even after all this, hearing the optimism and belief in love that the survivors had is so inspiring. It reminds me that no matter how difficult life may seem, I can always believe in hope.

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  16. Hi Mrs. Bauman,Day 10 seems almost unbearable. With so many emotions overwhelming you all at once, we prayed for you all to stay strong. The student descriptions are so vivid it really provokes emotions within myself. As Saidie commented on the 2 tons of hair present, I can only think of what it would be like if I personally had to shave all of my hair off. The way the Nazi's dehumanized their inmates is horrific. The set up was too easy for the Nazi's to turn the facility into a death/ work camp. Entering through the big iron sign would be intimidating from the start, as their last bit of freedom was so cruelly taken away. As Jessica wrote, the Nazi's were more obsessed and cared more about materialistic possessions than Jews. It is shocking to see how utterly inhumane humans can be to one another. This experience is truly once in a life time, take it all in.-Laura Negley

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  17. Wow! I don't think anyone could prepare themselves for what you all saw at Auschwitz. Just looking at the pictures you all posted made me cringe. I cannot believe that each and every person that was involved in the Holocaust was even remotely okay with what they were doing. How could someone torture another to death and not even think twice about it? I wish I was able to come with you all, this sounds like an amazing trip.Meghan McAllister

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  18. I can't even believe you guys are actually there right now. We talk about Auschwitz in class all the time and I'm just thinking about the fact that you are really there. I bet its incredible to really see what it looks like. In my mind I always try to imagine what it would be like to just get off a train and face the horror in front of you when arriving in Auschwitz, and I hope you guys get to take everything in and really experience your surroundings. Take care and have a safe trip home. Lauren

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  19. I can't even begin to conceive how it would feel to walk through Auschwitz as many Jews did in the early 1940's. To know that death was the near and an inevitable fate, would destroy my will to live. The amount of pain it caused you guys to see the shoes, hair and luggage must be nothing compared to the pain it caused those who were prisoners and had to sort it all. Everyday the prisoners lived in fear of dying, some my age, 16 or younger and I cannot imagine waking up every morning and questioning if I will live to see the end of the day. The section before the student responses discusses how there is no fine line as to who should be blamed for the murders of all the Jews in the camp. It really made me think about how there were so many people who were not only bystanders but also planned and assisted in the murders whether they chose to or not. With no specific, set person to blame, its hard to feel anger because I don't know who to express it towards and as a result there is only room for sorrow and grief.

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  20. Wow, what an emotional day! I cannot even imagine the horror of seeing the 2 ton pile of human hair, or the actual barbed wire fences, or the real barracks. The video we watched about Auschwitz in class hardly did the real place justice from hearing what all the students had to say. It's hard to believe that the Nazis could detach themselves emotionally from so much pain, suffering, and death. The irony of Auschwitz is striking to me as well. How there are children running around in fields of flowers where Jews once dug ditches amazes me. This must have been such an amazing experience, have a safe trrip back home!Hannah Smith

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  21. When studying the Holocaust you always read about the concentration camps and what really went on behind the closed doors. I am sure a reader can never really fully understand what went on in the camps until they are actually there or have experienced it themselves. I have been waiting to hear about the trip to Auschwitz and the reactions students had from visiting the camp. What a set of mixed emotions students had once they stepped onto the premises of the camp to actually be in such a historical site. I sometimes I picture in my mind what happened and what it must have felt like to be there, but I can't even begin to imagine what it is really like. After reading the students’ reflections I was surprised on how most of them mentioned the hair that was preserved from all the prisoners that were killed. That must have been a very emotional sight to think of all these innocent people who had their dignity taken from them, their pride stripped from them, and their lives taken away from them over this concept of killing Jews. When I speak to people about the Holocaust some like to argue that it never happened or that it was nothing really big, but with what I have learned from my class I argue that it's not true. Watching documentaries on prisoners being burned or gassed is not just a myth, but it is the reality of the past. I hope I can one day go and visit Auschwitz for myself to have a better understanding of the horrible past that has taken place.

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  22. I literally felt sick when I read about the hair. I can't imagine how emotional it must have been to actually be there and see the things that we have heard to much about. It's hard to believe how Auschwitz started out so small, and then grew into such a huge camp filled with so much death and destruction.-Clare Drilling

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  23. You have now become the ones whose duty and responsibilty it is to tell the story of those who could not tell it for themselves. Although you are certainly unable to completely express the horrors of that time and place you must now go forward and share what you have learned with others.

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  24. \”The Boy in the Striped Pajamas\” has always been one of the saddest novels I've ever read….I can't imagine how impactful your day must have been at Auschwitz…as trite as it sounds, what you are doing lives out the school's Mission statement more than anything else you will do, if you share your experiences and help build a world filled with more peace and understanding….high school can be so inane in so many ways, but know that you are surrounded by adults and other students who want the world to be a better place and who have a firm belief that you young people can and will make a difference; and you fill us with hope!

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  25. This day was super intense for all of you. I'm not really sure what to say other than thank you so much for sharing the photos, videos and your reflections. We couldn't go, but this shared experience is greatly appreciated.Donovan Rittenbach

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  26. The feelings that I got simply from reading about what you all experienced yesterday are so overwhelming that I cannot imagine how it must have felt actually being in your shoes. The quote at the very beginning of this post (“The one who does not remember history is bound to live through it again”) can be interpreted in several different ways, in my opinion, and in each way it makes sense in relating to what Auschwitz was and what it represents. Thank you for all that you have shared throughout your trip; I hope you are able to spread the wealth of knowledge you have gained these past two weeks with many more individuals.

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  27. Your personal statements echo the importance of your trip. Never forget. The Santayana quote says it all. It's up to you to pass the knowledge and teach YOUR peers and descendants. Continued safe journeys …

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  28. With every entry I feel a squeeze in my heart and in my soul. You have been forever changed by this experience – it is clear in your words here. Thank you for continuing to share your words, pictures and videos. I look forward to hearing more when you return home and share your stories with us all here.

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  29. As I read this post, I am impacted by the words and images. Since I am a world away, I cannot imagine the power this day had on each of you. Take what you learned and share with others. Knowledge is power!

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  30. My eyes welled with tears reading each of your entries. I too, have always been most disturbed with the separation of parent and child, and I can't imagine myself standing in your shoes, in the precise location of all of this horror. You are all so brave. I am a mom first, hugging each of you kids from far away, with pride and respect.

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  31. Insightful comments from all! You've seen many amazing things in your travels…and I know you'll keep this experience with you forever. I look forward to hearing you all share what you learned at the reception in a couple of months. Safe travels home….and once again, NM thanks you Colleen for bringing this opportunity to our community and to our children.

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  32. I found this entry to be very interesting. One particular segment was very moving, the entry about Block 5. I find it very disturbing that there were artificial limbs confiscated from the workers when they arrived at the camp, because it just seems so cruel. They must've not been able to function without limbs so it's odd to think that they would take them in a work camp. I'm so overwhelmed with sorrow and it's almost unbelievable when reading true eye witness accounts that these things actually happened to this group of people.

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