Today I went to Auschwitz and Birkenau with Batya. This was a very different experience. See, PJ and I were separated from our group toward the end of the tour yesterday. What we missed, Batya and I saw today. What we missed was one of the most horrifying and emotional experiences of my life. We saw a gas chamber. I don't really know if there is a proper way to react, but my reaction was terror. I almost couldn't breathe. As I stared up at the ceilings and walls and saw finger nail scratches, I could only picture in my mind how and what these innocent people went through. I was terrified. Then, when I saw the oven where the bodies were burned to ashes, I knew I had to get out. I was almost suffocating.
After we left the gas chamber, we met an Auschwitz survivor. This man was a member of the Sundercommando. The job of the sundercommandos was the most horrific of all the jobs. They were responsible for taking the bodies out of the gas chamber, separating them, taking all of the gold jewelry and earrings off of the bodies, and then taking them to the ovens to be burned. What is miraculous is that the men who were sundercommandos only lived for 3 months at a time, as they knew the secrets of the Germans, and would be killed. This man survived, and we were amazed at his story.
The last part of our trip today, which was the only wonderful part, was seeing a bunch of Israeli high school students together at Birkenau. They were conducting a service in honor of those who had died. Seeing these Israeli Jews there really gave me tremendous hope. I was honored to be there with them. I'll write more in a few days with reactions to Krakow. So far, we're pretty impressed with the beauty of the city!