Lessons from Auschwitz
On Tuesday 15th November 2016, I went to Auschwitz.
The Auschwitz I went to however, was in 2016, not in the 1940s! The Auschwitz that existed then is unimaginable, dark and horrific. Auschwitz in 2016 is very different. It’s a tourist site and a place to learn about the history of the Jewish community.
I attended Auschwitz with the Union of Jewish Students and other university Sabbatical officers to learn and get a better understanding of what life was like at this camp. That cold morning in Poland, Kudrow, at the beginning of the day, I was hit with facts and figures to understand how horrific this event was for people. Over 6 million Jewish people were thought to have perished during the Holocaust. Of those 6 million, 1.5 million were children. Just hearing that fact sent a chill down my spine. To know as soon as they arrived in Auschwitz, 80% of those arrivals were taken to the gas chambers and only 20% went to the concentration campus where they worked hard and died in the cold cruel conditions, gave me an indescribable and morbid feeling.
Hearing the different accounts delivered by the educators gave me a unique insight into the Holocaust. Each of these individuals that arrived had hopes and dreams, and all that was gone in just minutes! I felt saddened to know that families were separated and had to see their loved ones go. So many questions were raised in my head like, how could this event happen in the world? Was enough done to stop it? How can these people have no remorse? Having these questions go unanswered made me feel uneasy.
By far the most difficult part of the trip was seeing the pictures on the wall of families before they parted. Families taken from their homes and stuffed into a train that leads straight to their doom. How can anyone imagine that? It was a certainly a paradox world in 1940s Auschwitz, Poland, as the Nazis would torture many, yet still use other’s possessions for their own use. Jewellery, clothes, combs, hair, gold teeth (the list goes on) all put to use. The Jewish people were described as “the gift that kept giving”. Any way the Nazis could use them, they would!
I would like to thank the Union of Jewish Students for inviting me to “Lessons from Auschwitz” trip, and the Holocaust Education Trust for providing these trips. The Holocaust may not be here today, but we must not forget and learn from it. We must learn to live in harmony no matter what race, gender or age.
— Author: Jaimal Patel
Vice President & Sabbatical Officer