The bus approached Auschwitz along the two-lane country road as I looked outside the window and saw small farm house with large fields, tractors, and bailed hay.  We passed through a couple small villages, each one identical to the previous.  Each passing sign marked three or four less kilometers until our final destination, Auschwitz (in Polish the town is called Oswiecim).  The most horrific site of mass murder during the Holocaust was simply named after the town in which it was constructed. 

 

Today the town’s inhabitants live around Auschwitz and many are either employed by the historic foundation running the camp as tour guides, security, or grounds keepers or they work at concession stands selling food and books outside the gates of the camps.  This site was harrowing and immediately I became enraged.  How could the Polish citizens resettle upon this land after World War II as if nothing had happened inside the gates of the concentration camp, inside the barracks, gas chambers, crematoriums?  Certainly I was furious with the German for constructing this death camp, but somehow I felt even more hatred towards the Polish for allowing this to happen on their soil, and then continuing to use the land around the camp is if over a million people had not been executed in their village.

 

My visit to Auschwitz was even more powerful because one week before I left my grandmother told me that she had been in Birkenau before being moved to another camp.  She told me which barrack she was housed in for her short stay there and I took the time to go inside that barrack, sit down on the earthen floor, and experience a tiny bit of victory because I knew that someone in my immediate family survived through the worst of the German’s camps.

 

Ariel Eckstein ‘07