While I am looking towards going to Germany, I am glad that Kraków, Poland was a part of our program. Buying food and souvenirs in Kraków were not as blow to the wallet as it has been in previous cities. Kraków also provided many beautiful sites to see and adventures to have. On the first day, the whole Study Abroad group went the Main Square, or Rynek Główny, where we all decided to break into smaller groups to eat dinner. Many of us tried a well-known Central and Eastern European cuisine called pierogi. The Square itself is one the largest medieval town squares in Europe. Despite the food and the man-made structures, these are not the main reasons why that I am glad we went to Kraków. The main reason is a serious one and should be treated as such.
As students, we are always taught certain topics in our history classes and to analyze the consequences of these topics. However, I believe being in a location of such historical significance can further enhance a student’s understanding on a topic. Physically being at the Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II-Birkenau camps made me have a sobering experience about the Holocaust. However, it did leave me with some questions that irked me. We know the despicable political party that was the National Socialist, how they came into power, and with Hitler, enacted policies that discriminated against anti-Semitic and other groups in Nazi Germany and Nazi occupied territories. These policies were based on their twisted Aryan supremacy ideology and in 1941 culminated in the Holocaust; a horrific genocide in which around two-thirds of the Jewish population in Europe, along with the Roma people, people with disabilities, and other groups, were persecuted, sent to concentration camps, and murdered. Though we walked through the camps, and saw them with our own eyes, it was hard for me to imagine how one human would let another go through unspeakable atrocities. How would anyone live with themselves after personally witnessing such death and destruction? And how could they come back to the camps day after day?
As the Soviet Red Army approached Poland in November 1944, the SS scrambled to remove any evidence of the atrocities committed at the Auschwitz concentration camps. They destroyed many written documents, plundered goods stolen from the prisoners, and demolished many of the camps’ buildings. Among these buildings were crematories II and III in Birkenau. They have remained untouched ever since and were shown to us in our guided tour. Looking back at it, I am glad we got to experience the camps because they serve as a reminder to us and future generations of the atrocities that happened there and give us a responsibility to ensure such atrocities on this scale is not repeated.
Thank you for reading this blog. Do widzenia.