Impressions and reflections on Auschwitz and freedom
This Guest Post is by Tamsin who recommended I read Viktor Frankl’s ’Man’s Search for Meaning’ last year. Tamsin went to visit Auschwitz in 2018 and records her impressions and reflections here:
For a long time I have grappled with the themes of imprisonment and freedom in my personal life, having been trapped by very abusive parents and then by a very controlling husband. Having read a couple of biographies of Holocaust survivors I felt drawn to go and experience Auschwitz in person- I wanted to know more about what it is possible for the human spirit to survive.
I went with my 16 year old daughter. My son chose to stay away knowing he wasn’t ready for such a journey. I was hit straight away by the vast size of the place and the eeriness, visitors are encouraged not to make noise and this was largely respected.
Our tour guide had lost her grandparents in the Holocaust and she was passionate about keeping the history alive. Even though she tells the stories several times a week I could see she was still moved by what she was telling us. The overriding shock was the scale of this place. It was possible-just- to imagine these things happening to a few people but scaled up to hundreds of thousands was almost impossible to comprehend. Some of the exhibits are clearly designed to shock you into this incomprehension- a vast room full of suitcases, shoes, human hair. Huge corridors with every inch of wall covered with photographs of victims all in their striped clothing with the age at death- many still in their teens.
It took me a good two weeks to digest all of this and although I had hoped to feel some sort of positivity around what people are capable of surviving, it was impossible for a long while to find that when being hit by the massive scale of the horror that most did not survive.
Surviving trauma is a strange thing, something which at different times brings feelings of anger, pride and often guilt about knowing something has got me through more unscathed than many with similar experiences. I guess it will always be a bit of a mystery but looking back at my trip to Auschwitz 18 months on I do now get more of a sense of awe at just how unbreakable the human spirit sometimes is. I wouldn’t go back there again but it is something I’m glad I did. x