Byline: Peter Surtees
WHILE driving towards The Ukraine and travelling through Poland, along with my wife, we saw a sign to the little village of Auschwitz or Oswiecim in Polish.
Having read many books and seen so many old black and white documentary films about the concentration camps, we decided that as we were so near, we would pay a short visit to see if it was as bad as it was portrayed.
Finding the actual camp wasn't difficult and we were able to park inside alongside other vehicles including coaches. The feeling we got was that we were at some kind of attraction; in fact 1.3 million people visit there every year. It soon changed when we passed through the barbed wire and electrified fences into the actual compound.
Still there above the gates was the cynical reminder; 'Arbeit Macht Frei' or work makes you free. Nothing could have been farther than the truth.
The actual buildings were built before the war and the camp was used by the Polish Army. Inside the larger building were huge glass fronted display cabinets about the size of big shop windows and about ten feet deep reaching to the roof. There were about eight or ten of these containers and each one was full to the roof with spectacles, different types of brushes, artificial limbs, legs arms etc.
Then there was a collection of human hair, suitcases and travel bags including one which belonged to Anne Frank's father. The collection which disturbed us the most was one dedicated to children's toys. Dollies, prams, lots of soft toys, baby's rattles and bottles with well hugged and loved teddies which no more would feel the tender embraces and goodnight cuddles of their unfortunate little owners.
By now we had both had enough and wanted to get out of the building, but everywhere there were photos and reminders of the terrible things that went on here.
Starting to feel very upset and with tears welling in our eyes, we wondered if there was anything else left in this terrible place to shock us. It wasn't very long before we …