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  • Tamsin S

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



3 Comments


Reflective Resources
Reflective Resources
Dec 26, 2020

RESPONSE FROM: Nige H

"In the seventies and early eighties I had a large advertising agency as a customer. The person I deal with was the company secretary. Over the years I gradually got to know her well and we built up a mutual respect for each other.


As I got to know here I learnt that she had been an inmate on Auschwitz and still had her prisoner number tattooed on her arm. She kept it as a permanent reminder of everything she had experienced and the people she had lost during her imprisonment. I discovered that it was only her profession as a nurse that made her of use to her captors and it was this that instrume…


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jilhay
jilhay
Dec 13, 2020

Thank you for sharing your story Tamsin, it did give me food for thought.

I have never been to Auschwitz but I can imagine how hard it is to comprehend the horror that happened there. I have seen survivors on the television talk of their experience there and I was deeply moved and full of admiration for these brave and courageous people. It also made me wonder if I would have the strength and courage to survive such a terrible ordeal!

The truth is, that nobody knows what we are capable of dealing with until it becomes a reality!

In the midst of this pandemic we are all dealing with unprecedented challenges that affect every aspect of our lives. We…


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Reflective Resources
Reflective Resources
Dec 13, 2020

Funnily enough I have just found a TED Talk entitled 'Finding Freedom in Auschwitz' by Dr Edith Eger. Like you and Viktor Frankl she emphasises how unbreakable the human spirit can be. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d4do2y1iZWM


As this quote from Viktor Frankl says:


Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation.”


Thank you for sharing your reflections x

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