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For the second part of the mid-semester break, I met up with another “exchangee” and we headed to Poland. We visited Auschwitz which was amazing. It really seems the wrong word to use, but its power was intense. The girl who I visited the camps with (there are actually two), is Jewish, and her family were from Poland. Her grandparents had been taken away to a Serbian labour camp. Knowing that her family had experienced similar things to what were depicted in the camps, was really daunting.

If you’re going to go to Auschwitz, definitely see both camps. They are really very different. Auschwitz Birkenau has all the original buildings, and seems to span forever. If you do a tour, you only see a section of the camp, but seeing rows upon rows of buildings is breath-taking (not in a good way). At this camp, you can actually go inside an original dorm room, and seeing the beds there, that had up to six people sleeping in them, really made me feel sick. It’s just so hard to comprehend exactly what had occurred there.

Auschwitz Camp 1 is set out more like a museum. There are exhibitions of pictures of some of those who had been killed, and collections of goods taken from the Jews upon their entering the camps. There was an enormous display wall, the length of a large room filled with human hair, and a cabinet full of spectacle glasses. This really rammed home for me that the large numbers of those killed were PEOPLE.

I was told a story by someone I met who had gone to visit Auschwitz a few months ago. They said that while they were in the corridor with all the photos of those who died, an elderly lady asked if she could take one of the photos or get a copy. When the guide asked why the lady answered: “That was my mother, and this is the only picture of her that has survived”.

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