AU in Krakow

6 American University students, 1 coordinator, and 1 professor--in Poland. This should get interesting.

Monday, July 26, 2004

The People of Oscwiecim

Today I went to Auschwitz-Birkenau for the second time. Needless to say, there are no adequate words to describe what one feels while touring this place. Since this was my second visit, however, I feel as though I managed to detach myself (at least a bit) from the emotion and horror one feels in a place that symbolizes such evil and suffering. This time I chose to reflect more on what it must be like for the people of Oswiecim (Auschwitz in Polish – also the name of the town right by the concentration camp site) to live with such a painful symbol literally in their backyards. I have to wonder if being a citizen of Oswiecim isn’t terribly depressing since everyone associates their town as the site of mass murder and deat? To some Jews, the entire country of Poland is merely a cemetery and a site of the attempted destruction of their people. If that is so, then what is the town of Oswiecim? Is it merely a specific cite of that mass murder? Or is it a real community with all that goes along with that word? As we approached the city limits of Oswiecim, I got an overwhelming feeling of sadness and regret. Regret that so many people had to perish because of the insanity of a few mad men. I wonder if that is how everyone who sets foot in Oswiecim feels? If so, how can life there be bearable? I suppose that the answer to that is detachment. If you detach yourself from the fact that over 1.5 million Jews, Poles, Gypsies and other peoples were murdered here, perhaps life here is bearable. And if you are born into this community (as was our excellent tour guide was) you may not even think about it until you see the next busload of tourists coming through. As we sat on a bench immediately after the end of the tour of Birkenau, we noticed that the name of one of the streets leading away from it was called “Ulica Ofiary Fascitow” – “the Victims of Fascism Street.” To me this symbolized the fact that no matter how many years pass, the people living in Oswiecim will have a constant reminder of the atrocities committed on the outskirts of their town. And although detaching yourself from that specific event might sometimes work, I am sure that life in this place is forever a bit more sad than elsewhere.


  • At July 26, 2004 at 9:42 PM, Blogger PTJ said…

    One wonders whether this is fair. Why should the people of this town have to bear that burden, especially if they had little to do with the events themselves?

    On the other hand, doesn't someone have to bear the cost of remembering?

  • At April 23, 2009 at 5:04 AM, Blogger shanee said…

    I personally think that anyone capable of this city today must be antisemitic.


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