I came into Poland with a sense of relief stemming from “D-Day fatigue.” After spending so much time in Normandy, the D-Day story almost became played out (I don’t want to say it this way but don’t really know how else to put it). Coming into Poland gave us a new perspective on the war, as we were now in a land that was invaded by Soviets, then Nazis, then Soviets again. The Polish people have no triumph as the French and British do. There was no People’s War here in Poland and there was no government collaboration to deny existence of. In Poland there was only humiliation and defeat. The Oskar Schindler Museum and the visit to Auschwitz gave an incredibly humbling idea of what the Polish and Jewish people went through. I don’t really feel comfortable talking much on Auschwitz, as I really don’t think there are sufficient words to describe the experience there in the present day, let alone trying to describe how unimaginable it must’ve been during the Holocaust.
The Schindler Museum is my favorite museum that we’ve visited so far. It gives the Polish account of the war starting at with the close of World War I. The most moving aspect of the museum is that it is primarily told from the perspective of various children from the Krakow and other Polish ghettoes. Seeing how such innocents perceived their dreadful surroundings strikes a chord, especially when they were so young that they can’t have known much else then the oppression surrounding them.
Learning Schindler’s story was particularly interesting to me, as I have not seen the movie and didn’t really know anything about what he had done during the German occupation of Poland. It was fascinating to learn that Schindler had a history of weaseling his way in and out of shady business deals, and that he had a history of taking advantage of various different businesses and people. To see his transformation into somebody who reportedly had very personal relationships with his workers and cared so deeply for them that he went to great lengths to protect them from the Nazis was very fascinating, and a good way to see the way that care for humanity was not completely lost among the invading Germans.
On the whole, I greatly enjoyed our time in Poland. It was very refreshing to see the war from a perspective other than that of the victors, and this experience has continued into Germany and seeing how the Germans attempt to atone their war experience.