Several years ago, my friend and I visited Auschwitz. I did not upload any photos at the time, I felt that the entire experience was too personal, too harrowing, for social media. Today, on the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, it seems appropriate to share something.
I would not be the first person to say that, to visit Auschwitz-Birkenau, is a day that a person cannot easily forget. There aren’t words to describe how you feel standing there, in the eye of a history that we think we understand. My friend and I had actually met during university, when both of us signed up to a module about war crimes & crimes against humanity. There were three of us in total – friends who had met because of our common interest in the horrors of history. You think you know so much about it – until you are standing there and realise you know nothing at all.
So I am sharing some photos from that day. I have decided against sharing any photos of personal artefacts such as spectacles, shoes, shaving brushes, etc.; for some reason it wouldn’t seem right. It would also feel wrong for me to share the images of suitcases, suitcases with the names of so many written in white, painted on the upper side – their owners had believed that they would one day be returned to them. It is all there, there to be seen, right there in a small town in Poland. And if you are ever presented with an opportunity to visit this place, I would recommend that you consider it, if just so you know that it is so much more than you think. It is not a photo, a poem or a film. It is history. And history is now.
Today, on the 27th January 2015, I think it only fitting that we should all make an effort to educate ourselves about Auschwitz. And not just today, but every single day. And not just this Auschwitz, but every Auschwitz. Every horror. It is important that we don’t fall into the trap of thinking that this has been consigned to history. It hasn’t. There are massacres of human beings occurring right now, as you read this. So read the newspaper and get educated. Use social media to know more about this planet and its inhabitants. Read a book, read 50, then 50 more. Notice the parallels with the world that we live in and remember that an acorn of contempt is soon an epic structure of hate.
Hatred is a descendant of intolerance; and intolerance is itself a product of distrust. Distrust is the child of suspicion, and suspicion the offspring of fear. It is the fear of difference. So ignore the difference, it is nothing. If you are looking into the eyes of a human being, ignore the difference. Remember that they are a human being, first and foremost. First and last.