Thursday, 16 April 2009


I don't think my blog must just be about the jolly things I do, but I did hesitate before posting these photos I took of my visit to Auschwitz. Both photos and words are inadequate in any attempt to get a grasp on what happened here, and it feels like arrogance to even try.

Yet we have to try, don't we? For three nights after my visit this was all I dreamed about, my subconscious tying itself in knots trying to assimilate what I'd seen and read.

Auschwitz-1 itself, the first camp, was nothing like I'd imagined:

It's surprisingly small.

This is the "Death Block." Medical experiments on the left, punishment cells and courts on the right, executions in the yard:

The second camp of the complex, Birkenau, is about a mile away. Aushwitz-1 was largely a labour-camp/prison. Auschwitz-2 was the extermination-camp, and it's huge. And yes, this was what I'd pictured:

The wooden barracks were originally cavalry stables.

This view across the marshy ground of Birkenau seems to go on forever. The brick stacks are chimneys, all that remain of the barrack huts that were burned down or rotted away:

This is the remains of one of the underground gas-chambers/crematoria (they were blown up before the end of the war in an attempt to conceal what had happened):

Was it a valuable experience for me, visiting this place? Yes. Did I learn anything? Nothing I want to try to express.

Feel free to ask questions if you have any.


neve black said...

Thank you for posting, Janine.

I don't think I can express clearly the eerie feeling I get whenever I see images of this place. It's gut wrenching -

I want to know though, so I'll never forget what the truth is.

Janine Ashbless said...

That's just it. We do have to know.

Erobintica said...

Thanks Janine, for posting these. I've heard friends describe visiting there, and that's just it - they have trouble putting it into words.

Madeline Moore said...

It's strange, isn't it, experiencing the thing as opposed to reading about/seeing pictures of it.

I haven't been, so all I can do is look at your pictures and remember that this happened.

But I did sit in a room with an old friend of an old friend as the man described his experiences in a Nazi camp.

I've seen footage of people witnessing, and read their accounts, but I'd never actually sat and listened to someone describe to me what happened.

It's powerful.

Janine Ashbless said...

The parts in the museum exhibits that shook me most were the personal stories, Madeline. Those are the things that strike home, that make the unimaginable apprehensible.

Craig Sorensen said...

The almost viciously ironic words "Arbeit Macht Frei" (Work Liberates) over the entrance struck me even when I was young and reading about World War II.

I'm with Neve. Though I've never been to Auschwitz, just the pictures and footage/accounts I've seen and heard hit me hard. I can't imagine what it would be like to walk through it.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts and images.

jothemama said...

The thing that made mefeel it most was when I was watching a documentary, and even more than the accounts or footage of starving people, was film or a photo, of a mountain of shoes. Men's shoes, women's shoes, little tiny shoes.

That image was far more upsetting than the really stark pictures, somehow, the symbolism of it.

I'm torn about this. I wouldn't want to go. I'd have to force myself, and I'd resent it. I feel like I'm not the person who needs to feel the horror. I'm not the one who might initiate any more atrocity. And I would fight against that happening whether I'd been there or not.

I don't know. I see the argument. But I find it hard to feel it.

But then, I'm a wimp as well.