I have met Auschwitz survivors and heard their stories. I have been to Holocaust museums and seen terrible pictures, prisoners’ clothing, shaved hair used to line Nazi boots, shoes of children who were killed because they happened to be Jewish, and soap made out of human flesh. Terrible, terrible sights.
This article by Rachel Lucas captures the horrors of Auschwitz better than any I have ever read. Here is a short excerpt. I urge you to go and read the entire thing.
I will tell you right now. The entire day was a series of intensely upsetting moments of terrifying and physically sickening clarity, interspersed with tears, laced with disbelief and all surrounded by a general feeling of impotent but genuine strong rage. We walked towards this guard tower at the end of one of the streets in the camp, and I was overwhelmed with flashes in my mind of what it would have looked like to me in, say, 1943, if I was starving and dehumanized and dying of dysentery and infected wounds. It’s not “interesting” or “spooky” or “creepy”. It is devastating.
As I said, the museum displays are contained within the actual buildings and barracks of the camp. One of those displays is in Block 10, which was the “medical experimentation” building where animals like Dr. Josef Mengele tortured and killed women, men, and children. We stood there on the gravel street in front of this building and all the things I ever read about or saw in a documentary about the Nazis’ experiments flitted through my mind, and I simply could not believe that I was looking at the place these things happened. It’s just a red brick building, sitting there like any other building.
We went in that building, but I will be honest with you, it made me feel physically sick, but it still did not affect me or Rupert the way Block 11 did. That was the “prison” building. It was horrible.
In the basement, you can enter or peek into rooms labeled as “starvation rooms”, dark stultifying chambers where they put people to starve to death; a “suffocation room”, which was sealed and into which the Nazis would sometimes put a burning candle to use up the oxygen; and worst of all, the “standing cells.” You can actually stand in one of these today. There are four of these cells, all in one tiny little cave of a dark room, and they are 3 × 3 feet. Four men would be put in each of these cells at the same time, for days and weeks on end. No ventilation, no light, no ability to sit or lie down. And they were only taken out during the day to slave-labor.
I didn’t take pictures of this. It was truly just too disturbing and upsetting to stand there in that space. I felt claustrophobic and a touch panicky, and I was just a tourist.