Reflections on Auschwitz, 2 years late

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Today as I continued going through old travel footage, I came across a video taken exactly two years ago, to the day.

The feeling of that life comes back immediately as I watch myself in the lens of the GoPro.  In this particular video, I hear my tennis shoes crunching on gravel.  I’m bundled up in a winter coat, hat, and scarf and I’m in a hurry.

“That bus took longer than we thought, so we only have an hour of daylight left before they close,” past-me says to the camera. Present-day-me remembers, “Ah yes. Another day, another transit-related misadventure.”

The next clip I come across is a long one. 20 minutes.  Almost no talking.  Just the cold, concrete walls of Auschwitz, empty except for photographs of people and information placards describing the hell-on-earth they endured inside these walls.

As I watch this video of Auschwitz, I remember another museum- the War Remnants Museum.  There, too, Drew photographed nearly every image in the Agent Orange exhibit.  In hindsight it seems odd to take a picture of pictures.  Just as it may seem a little odd to film one’s visit to Auschwitz. It makes me wonder if the camera is a crutch for the things I can’t process in the moment, like a promise to try to continue to wrestle with it, or a promise to remember these things that are painful to face.  Like an extra set of eyes, providing back up for the human ones, already wide and unblinking in overdrive.

Or maybe the camera is a knee-jerk reaction when something I’m looking at unsettles me.  Like the habit I have for smacking my head when I’ve heard something ridiculous, or clenching my fist when I’m angry. The unthinking response to an impulse.

“This is so horrific. I can’t imagine the torment that happened here.”

I turn on the GoPro.

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The video continues. As the crematorium falls further behind us, the ice starts to melt off our shock, finally exposing a layer of words.  We start talking again.

But now it’s twilight and the sky has hit that deep blue before the black.  We have a bus to catch.  And we don’t have enough Polish currency for bus tickets back into Krakow.  The gears of every day life start to turn again, and we have small problems to save us from the big problem of recognizing genocide as a possibility within human nature.

I know I’m two years late in doing so, but I’m writing this for the same reason that I might turn the camera on when I feel overwhelmed by what I’m trying to take in.  It’s the “something” I do when I’m at a loss.

4 Comments on “Reflections on Auschwitz, 2 years late

  1. My wife and I visited Auschwitz and Birkenau a few years back. I am glad we visited but the experiance was and still is haunting. It is very disturbing how we can treat one another. Stay kind…

    • Thanks for your comment. I definitely agree, it’s very haunting- even to remember being there.

  2. This reminded me when my wife and I visited Dachau concentration camp near Munich. We also took a bus there that took longer than expected, and when we finally got there the experience enveloped us. Before we knew it, we had been there for 4 hours, had not eaten breakfast or lunch, but did not feel hungry or tired. We barely talked those 4 hours as our minds tried to comprehend the incomprehensible. It felt like time stood still and didn’t resume until we left.

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