The content and opinions expressed in this blog are mine. They do not represent the US Government or US Peace Corps - Jud Dolphin

Saturday, June 12

Part I Auschwitz - Birkenau

It's 1945. A new life begins. From the moment of inception, cells begin to divide. Hundreds, thousands and millions growing and forming tiny legs and arms and fingers. Skin and bone mold a unique face within the womb. Soon a baby will press out and into the world. He will be named Judson Wesley Dolphin.

At the same time in 1945, there is death. The Concentration Camps of Auschwitz and Birkenau are multiplying their victims. Lives are ending to soon and too quickly. Mostly, the bodies in those Concentration Camps consumed themselves. With less than 1000 calories and more than 11 hours of hard physical labor each day, the cells have no choice. They consume one another to survive if only for another day.

Legs and arms loose muscle mass becoming tiny again. Skin seems translucent sagging like wet tissue paper on bony protrusions. Faces dim becoming devoid of emotions. It's like the soul is trying to lessen the horror in some vague way.

Slowly cell by cell, life is taken away. The process will be repeated 1,500,000 times in these two places. Later in 1944 and 1945 gas will hasten the process and crematories will clean up the mess. Mass murder has its own learning curve.

I am visiting the Concentration Camps outside of Krakow Poland. My Friend and travel companion, Fran, says, " I don't want to go, but I must." I feel the same. My life began just as these places became known and the world vowed "never again." I cannot help but feel a human connection. I both want and hate the idea of seeing these places for myself.

Electrified Fencing at Auschwitz

It's about 90 minutes bus ride to Auschwitz from Krakow. Tidy country homes dot the countryside. Fran and I point out the sights to one another from our bus window. All seems so normal and beautiful. The fields are sprayed in deep summer green. Splashes of red field poppies add enchantment. Life is beautiful.

Yet I remember that in 1945, human bodies came in this same direction. Routinely across these fields and hills, they came to Concentration Camps. Legs and arms stuffed into railroad box cars which were meant for animals. With no food or water and barely air to breathe, bodies came from all over Europe. Auschwitz was selected because of its central location. Originally for Polish prisoners, it would now leave a legacy of death for Jews and Gypsies and Homosexuals and other so called political and social misfits.

A film of those years is shown on the bus. A young Soviet photographer captured the pictures as the Camps were liberated. He says, "Time can never erase these memories."

I see for myself. In my mind's eye, images appear as if they are ghost reflections on the glass surface of the bus window. They appear for a few moments and then disappear as the beauty of the countryside takes over. But no, the images cannot be forgotten and even more await me as I draw closer to Auschwitz.

First Crematoria at Auschwitz

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