LAST year in May, my parents and I visited Krakow during a trip to Europe. Being a history buff , we paid a visit to the notorious death camp of Auschwitz. It is only now, almost a year later that I am able to write about my experience. 

Throughout the trip, two conflicting thoughts battled in my mind. While on one hand, I wondered," What was I doing here? This is not something one wants to see", there was also the feeling that everyone ought to see this place, should see the remains of what sheer human hatred and ignorance combined with power in the wrong hands can do. 

It wasn’t the physical look of the camp that was terrifying, but rather the feelings it aroused in the visitor. Some barracks were significantly horrifying to look at, especially the punishment barracks where prisoners who tried to escape had to suffer all kinds of horrible treatments, beginning with starvation. 

When I stepped into the remains of a gas chamber, in the Auschwitz camp (the ones in Birkenau were destroyed by the Nazis in the absurd hope of covering years of genocide), I was overwhelmed by a feeling of helplessness at the sheer uncertainty of human lives glaring at us from the walls and all the worst things that mankind is capable of. Then there were piles of human hair preserved. 

The sight of the pots and kettles the prisoners had brought with them were even more heart breaking. It just stands as proof of how they expected their normal lives to continue which was cruelly snatched away from them for nothing, under the pretext of ‘ethnic cleansing’. Later, in Birkenau, the main gassing facility, I could not help but feel that it was too big to be kept hidden, yet no one ever tried to find out where all those people went. 

There was a lack of interest in them. All said, the Allies did not do much for them either. They never believed the escapees of Auschwitz and the world suffered, not just because of Hitler. One man alone can do nothing.

 Thousands rallied behind him but more importantly, millions closed their eyes to what was happening.  I have heard again and again that these are not topics to dwell upon for they showcase the morbid side to human lives. But it is because we feel that "ignorance is bliss" that tyrants rise and innocent humans die. Ignorance is never bliss; it is just a selfish quality. This is what the Holocaust taught me. All around Auschwitz, there was silence. The sheer silence hurt my ears. The world was silent then to the horrors of the discriminated and today the place is a silent reminder of what silence to the oppressor can do and will do if we do not act. 

(Auschwitz – Birkenau was the largest Nazi camp and is said to be “world’s largest single grave”. At least 1.1 million people died in this camp. 90% of those who died were Jews).

Class XII, South Point High School