|I think the wisest decision
we made in Krakow was to hire a taxi to take us to Auschwitz and then to
hire a private guide once we got there. I'm usually such a tightwad
and try to find the cheapest way out, but this was worth it in every possible
way. The total cost for the two of us for the day was about $120, about
twice what we would have paid if we took the group tour. For that price,
we cut the driving time in half, rode in a Mercedes rather than a bus, and
received very personal service from an outstanding and knowledgable guide.
We were able to see all parts of both Auschwitz and Birkenau; our guide had
so many personal stories that she had accummulated from years of guiding
survivors who had come back to visit.
||Before this trip, I knew
that Birkenau and Auschwitz were two separate but closely connected camps,
but I think I've always associated the term "death camp" with Auschwitz.
There has been some criticism today that Auschwitz has been "sanitized" and
that the horror of other suffering groups has been made to seem as terrible
as that of the Jews. There might be some truth to that at the Auschwitz
camp itself (there is much emphasis on the Poles--both Jews and non-Jews)
who were there), but at Birkenau, everything is much more stark and the
tragedy is much more real.
|These train tracks going
under the tower at Birkenau have become almost symbolic of the final horror
of the Holocaust. As we walked through the camp, we and our guide found
ourselves becoming quieter and quieter until we were finally talking hardly
at all. Instead we were just walking about looking and wondering how
it had ever happened.
||After visiting Dachau a
number of times with the students, we felt really fortunate to have gotten
a chance to see the difference. The crematoria at the back of Birkenau
were all "destroyed" by the Germans as they fled at the end of the war.
It was decided that these ruins would stay as they are with a memorial built
nearby to all those who died here. Although it was very difficult for
us to visit Auschwitz-Birkenau, I think it's a trip that everyone who can
take should take. Visit this site for more information about