By Dan (Guest Blogger)
Our visit began at Auschwitz I, the initial camp created by the Nazis, which was largely destroyed by the fleeing Nazis when Russian invasion became imminent. We were led on a guided tour through buildings showcasing many indescribable horrors: unimaginable living conditions in the quarters, remnants of starvation and standing prison cells, and, perhaps most powerful, various displays of what was left behind: 2,000 pounds of human hair removed from Jewish victims (more than three times that amount was found after the liberation), rooms piled high with thousands upon thousands of victims’ sunglasses, shoes, suitcases and other such belongings – even children’s clothes, toys, and dolls.
Later, we took a bus to Auschwitz II (also known as Birkenau), a much more expansive area built later in the war to accommodate the ever increasing number of victims being sent to the camp. Auschwitz II was kept entirely in its initial state. It was overwhelming to look at the train tracks in the middle of the camp and imagine thousands upon thousands of victims – those who even survived the week-long train ride packed without enough food and barely enough oxygen – leaving the train and lining up before a Nazi “physician” who, one by one, would send them to the left (the concentration camp, where they would be worked, most likely, to death) or the right (the death camp, where they would be forced into a massive gas chamber and ruthlessly murdered).