Auschwitz, 1945 – Auschwitz, 2015
A 70 years gap metamorphosed a place of unimaginable horrors – from which one could only dream to escape – into a must-visit place people rush in. There is a thin line between posterity reverence and tourist curiosity, but once crossed, this line suddenly reverse and becomes pregnant with the unbearable lesson of all the remains.
Between the people who suffered and died here, and the people who gather now to pay their respects, there is only one, but huge difference made by two, three generations living in peace. From the outside, it takes much thinking and even more empathy for the people now to relate to the people back then.
Theoretically, the tourist – travelling by all kinds of cars, armed with smartphones, cameras and technologically ubiquitous, able to access all the information needed about the world outside – has nothing in common with the prisoner – forced out of their homes into a train to a destination unknown, robbed of all belongings, separated from their families, and cut off the world inside a labour camp to eventually meet, without explanation, death.
It took a long time for this place to find itself a meaning, to become a lesson for the future generations, to prevent the birth of similar contexts and places. Now the lesson is consistently taught to those willing to learn. Facing the facts and the faces is everything but easy; the bonding intensifies to the point of identification.
Thus the gap becomes a bridge, and the tourist feels the prisoner.
The sound made by our feet on the alleys between the blocks rows is the same sound their feet made. We close our eyes, and suddenly we’re bare hands, lost in a place with no connection to our own past, lives, and the world outside. The air is thick with lost hopes. The rooms are crammed with prayers. The letters, written white on black, seem to be read, increasingly loud, by a choir of faded voices. And here we are the surviving spirits of those whose spirits broke for a moment in time, 70 years ago.
Auschwitz is never empty. But leaving the place only a few of them actually left, we carry all the rest of them within our heart: they all escape. During the hours spent in this must-visit place, we slowly become the living proof of unimaginable horrors that must never repeat.