It was autumn. The clear sky again promised a fine day. In general, I love the sun. However, that morning it disturbed me tremendously – more than ever! I would prefer cloudy and light rain. Rare case.
I rode and looked, as usual, out the window. My bus from Krakow took me to a small town – Auschwitz. It is already too much to write about the purpose of the trip. I will only explain that it was … not a dream, because the destination is too far from beautiful. But I had a great desire to go there. I thought it was my duty to visit Auschwitz, because I am Russian. I am the daughter of Soviet people, the granddaughter of a Red Army soldier, and that says it all. I just know and remember that Auschwitz was not built for Jews. Unlike Sobibor, Majdanek, Chelmno and Treblinka, the Germans created it as a prisoner of war camp. The scale of the territory assumed that the flow of them from the USSR would be inexhaustible. But it dried up – and then instead of Russian (Soviet) soldiers, trains with Jews began to drive there. Later, the same bitter fate befell the gypsies. Auschwitz has become a gigantic death factory. And the city of Auschwitz has become inseparable from the tragedy of thousands of people. And even though the memorial is only a small part of the town, for me, alas, it was and will be a synonym, a symbol of the Holocaust. This is largely why the “shield” on the road “We love Auschwitz” (meaning its inhabitants) seemed to me cynical. Of course, I was wrong, but … my heart “thought” so.
The bus took me to the memorial complex. There he had a final stop. I left. The hotel was opposite which was quite convenient. However, I was worried about registration. I had to put my things somewhere, since the museum is allowed only with handbags. However, in vain I was afraid: I was settled without any problems already at 9 in the morning. Looking ahead, I will write that I liked the hotel. Modest, cozy, with an excellent breakfast in my understanding. But back to the purpose of the trip.
Leaving everything superfluous in the room, I took my passport, since the ticket to Auschwitz is personalized, phone number and my key. I regarded this minimum as a necessity. And the point is not that the bag would no longer fit, but … it simply wasn’t needed there anymore. I walked “lightly”, but my soul did not feel lightness. I was embarrassed by the huge blue sky and the sun, and the fact that I was in a red coat. Unfortunately, I could not take the second one … And even if I did, I would hardly be able to wear it. The temperature that day was 22 degrees above zero. This greatly confused the mood, as did the motley crowds of tourists. I have never met so many people from different countries anywhere before! Honestly, I was just shocked! But then my turn came, and after a series of checks they let me go directly to the territory of the memorial.
I am the kind of person who does not like to go anywhere on a guided tour, and I came to Auschwitz on my own. I thought that it would be more comfortable for me. However, tourists walked in groups, groups – in waves. Naturally, I was confused … I did not expect such an invasion! Even at the very gate (yes, with the inscription “Arbeit macht frei”) I stood like a fool and did not understand that it was “Auschwitz”. After walking a few more meters into the depths of the camp, I felt almost annoyed … Everything around it seemed so the same that I did not know where to start and where to go.
I also forgot to write that I took with me a guide to the camp, published there, in Auschwitz. It was he who helped me collect my thoughts. Having tuned in, I studied the route. And since coming up with something of my own on the go was stupid, I was determined to stick with it. And I must tell the truth: I did not regret it.
The route starts at the gate “Arbeit macht frei”, where a prisoner orchestra played at one time. There he first saw off, and then met with marches on the way from work prisoners. The tragedy here is that the latter, dragging the corpses of their comrades, most often hated the former. And the first, knowing this, played for them in order to support them. Most of the musicians did not leave the camp. But this is only one episode, only the first point of the route. Its continuation, I must admit, surprised me. I thought: “4th block right away? Why?” It seemed to me that he should be in the middle, perhaps at the end, but not at the beginning of the inspection.
Probably, I need to say a few words about the blocks themselves … They all look like twins, which is why, from a habit of looking at them, it is very easy to get lost in three pines. But this, perhaps, I am exaggerating. The rectangular red brick blocks are arranged in three rows parallel to each other. Now, when I remember their location, I imagine a kind of chessboard surrounded by barbed wire. Each block is two-story, but the layout inside is different for everyone. Each block has its own number. In addition to them, on the territory of Auschwitz there are also economic and administrative premises, a kitchen and behind the main enclosure of the camp – the building of the gas chamber and the crematorium. The paths seem to be covered with gravel, and between the blocks, like large carpets, the lawns are green. On the one hand, they seem to soften the picture, on the other … sometimes they seem too bright, unsuitable for a mournful place. But this is my subjective opinion.
I go back to the 4th block.
From the very beginning I knew that it was he who was the most terrible. It contains the most compelling, undeniable evidence of the mass destruction of people. But there were so many tourists that the first floor, allotted to the history and documents of the concentration camp, I passed as if in some kind of fog. It turned out to be inconceivably difficult for me to stand and read, or rather, delve into every text in a foreign language. The only thing I managed to do below was to look at the photographs. Then I went to the second floor of the block. It would seem that there are only two halls. However, the first one presents a very detailed model of the local gas chamber and crematorium, jars and pellets of “Cyclone B”. Opposite him, in the second room, there is hair. 2 tons of female hair! And the tailoring fabric of them … Right on the fabric lies a pair of thin children’s braids. Frankly, I remember them more than the total mass of hair behind the glass. The lights in that room are dim enough … But you can still see the differences. You can imagine both a girl with long blond braids and a gray-haired old woman. I thought this hall would shake me to the core. But it turned out that I almost fell into a stupor there.
I left there like a zombie, and together with an avalanche of tourists went to the 5th block. Again the first floor, but no documents. Only the personal belongings of the unfortunate. Glasses first. Just a whole bunch of glasses! Then the tales are the prayer clothes of the Jews. And then – prostheses of disabled people poisoned in gas chambers. With my mind I tried to convince myself that these are people, that every thing behind the glass is a person. But I didn’t feel it. I still didn’t seem to fully understand where I was.
Things were also presented on the second floor. It would seem that there is no difference. But, entering the first hall, I suddenly gasped, and … then everything went on increasing. What amazed me so? Tableware. Pots with flowers, teapots, mugs, plates, coffee pots … All of them seemed to still retain the warmth of human hands, the atmosphere of home love and comfort. It was as if I saw them in the suitcases of the people sent to the camp. I imagined the ramp, the train pulled up … I had only to take a couple of steps, and a lump came up to my throat. So here they are – suitcases! How much!!! And all-all are signed: name, surname, often country, sometimes the year of birth of new arrivals. But I don’t “see” them already on the platform. I “see” only bags, baskets … Nazis with dogs. I understand what’s next, and, moving to another hall, I really see, with my own eyes I see some incredibly large number of shoes. To the right and to the left in the windows there are huge mountains of boots, boots, sandals; men, women, children … The whole hall – one shoe! Against the general lifeless coal background, a red flirty slippers caught my eye. A bright woman immediately introduced herself. Maybe not young, but stately, with a fashionable hairstyle. Beautiful. And after that it got even harder. When I looked in another room at shaving brushes, brushes, jars of cream, all of them were no longer objects for me, but people. The realization of where I am came to me in full measure. No, this is probably not entirely accurate, since I was still following the tourists, and my route continued.
6th block. The entire first floor is dedicated to the life of the prisoners in the camp. The striped uniforms and uniforms of Soviet soldiers are displayed because they were the first prisoners of Auschwitz. Or, to be more precise, one of the first. This floor also displays several realistic paintings by two survivors of the camp. Their laconic graphics primarily speaks of the cruelty of the capos and the Germans (Nazis). However, I remember more not even the halls there, but the corridor, where photographs of prisoners hang in three rows on the walls. All these people died in a concentration camp, but when you walk along the corridor, there is such a nagging feeling … As if their eyes are looking directly into your soul. In all photographs, you see the eyes first, and then everything else. The look of these people cannot be forgotten! He digs into the soul THERE and remains inside – deeply, deeply, like a splinter. And you want to pull it out, and you understand that it is criminal, that it is better to live with her than to exist in ignorance without her.
On the second floor, the exposition is dedicated to children.
7th block. In it you can see the living and sanitary facilities. For some reason I remember not the mattresses on the floor and not the bunks, but the wall paintings in the washroom. Happy kids and cute cats did not fit in my head with the way the prisoners of war lived there. However, I will not describe everything in detail. I will only say that in the 7th block, the entire corridor is in the photographs of prisoners. It seems that they are somewhere else (I mean only pictures in three angles), but I can’t remember anything specifically right now.
At first, the tourists bothered me. I thought: “How hard it is to walk so hard – with this unstoppable, carrying avalanche !!!” One group immediately replaced another, and each group consisted of 25 people … Sometimes I wanted to comprehend, understand, read and, as a rule, I did not However, after the prison block, the tourists suddenly went to the crematorium. Apparently, they were offered only a shortened route. And in the end, as I wanted, I remained on my own.
But one turned out to walk even worse! Without a doubt, this place has a memory: its own energy. At first I did not feel it at all, but the further, the more it begins to press. With every step it gets harder – morally. And now I understand why blocks No. 4 and 5 are at the very beginning of the inspection. Honestly, I could no longer look at the photographs of the prisoners. She walked past them, lowering her eyes. It seemed to me that I was well prepared. I’ve read and reviewed so many things! But … you just can’t be prepared for that.
I visited the Soviet bloc then at the limit of my possibilities. But the last blocks, Gypsy and Greek, I have not mastered. The memorial takes all my strength … I thought that I would not go to see the crematorium either. But I did it with a group of tourists. They were already leaving when I joined them. I didn’t stay there for a second.
The huge sky and hot sun now seemed even brighter. I was not enough for Birkenau, alas! But I didn’t regret that I came. For myself, I did what I had to do. And I was bitter that, seeing so many tourists from different countries, I did not meet a single Russian there.
Auschwitz is not a monument to inhumanity, but it is a memory of it. Auschwitz was created as a camp for Russian (Soviet) soldiers, and, in my opinion, it is natural that it was our troops, led by Marshal Konev, who liberated it.
In conclusion, it is difficult to write anything else.
Take care of each other. And do not forget all those who, at the cost of their lives, won our lives for us.