A small group of us visited Auschwitz concentration camp accompanied by a survivor, who now lived in Israel.
Our visit to the original site Auschwitz 1, was somehow not as horrible nor as moving as I had expected. WHY? Housed in many of the former barracks were numerous “exhibitions” each catering for differing target audiences. Hence Czechoslovakia, The Soviet Union, East Germany, Yugoslavia, Belgium, Denmark. Bulgaria, Austria, France, The Netherlands and Italy, all had their own say, all with a slightly differing take on their true involvement in the holocaust, a veritable Tower of Babel.
We left this place and visited Auschwitz II – Birkenhau. Not an interpretation panel or “experience” in sight – just the place and the wind blowing through it. AND OUR GUIDE.
Almost our first stop was the dormitory of the newly arrived inmates – a bleak long room with bunks running along each wall and stone latrines running down the middle. It was here, he told us that the survivors (himself included), first found out what had really happened to the rest of their (his) family. The smoke just over a line of trees, seen through the barracks window was indeed all that was left of them. On being told this the new inmates within 12 hours, each had made up their own mind if they would have the mental fortitude to live or die. This internal struggle was easily seen and defined by fellow inmates. In the parlance  of the camps, those who had given up the will to live had a name for their condition, all clearly visible in their eyes.
At the onset of this condition people were known as “MUSELMANN” and had weeks to live, at best. In the terminal state of this condition, people were known as “LUNATIKS”, unable to recognise anyone, walking as ghosts in this horrible place. They had just days to live. Our guide within no more than 100 words had distilled the true horror of this period and this place.

As we were returning to our coach, I asked the Israeli guide if Israel would survive
His answer was  “I hope so!”, but there flashed in his eyes, and it may have been my imagination,               the briefest of what I had imagined was the look of a “Muselmann”.

The process of developing this experience was a place and one man.
Barracks - Auschwitz - Birkenau
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