We went to Auschwitz yesterday. It was really an experience for which words are inadequate but I will try. We saw two of the largest concentration/extermination camps of the holocaust. We saw thousands of shoes, combs, toothbrushes, and other personal items that had been confiscated from the prisoners. We saw lots of children's things. We saw a whole room full of hair that had been shaved from the women and then used in textiles for the German army. We saw where they lived and died. Where they were selected and separated. Where their wasted bodies, finally free of torture, were cremated by the millions. We couldn't take pictures inside the buildings so all I have are some pics from outside.
The highlight of the trip for me was seeing St. Maximillian Kolbe's cell where he died. If you don't know the story, St. Maximilian Kolbe was a priest and prisoner in Auschwitz. In July 1941 a man from Fr. Kolbe's barracks vanished. According to the Nazi policy of retaliation, the deputy camp commander picked 10 men from the same barracks to be starved to death in Block 13 (notorious for torture), in order to deter further escape attempts. (The man who had disappeared was later found drowned in the camp latrine.) One of the selected men, Franciszek Gajowniczek, cried out, lamenting his family, and Fr. Kolbe volunteered to take his place.
During the time in the cell he led the men in songs and prayer. After three weeks of dehydration and starvation, only Fr. Kolbe and three others were still alive. Finally he was murdered with an injection of carbolic acid.
His story gave my mind something to grasp at in the sea of questions that flooded me. How could people have done this? Whe didn't we do something? Why couldn't they fight back? How could someone torture another person, especially an innocent or a child? St. Kolbe gave me a little sip of God in a place that screams of His absence.