This blog post is a little bit different to our usual. One of our members has recently travelled to Poland and visited Auschwitz Birkenau (the former Nazi Concentration camp) and has very kindly agreed to share their experience with us on the blog.
I recently had the opportunity to visit Auschwitz.
The first thing you are greeted with is the infamous “Arbeit Macht Frei” sign, being translated “Your labours will set you free.” This is a play on a verse in John 8v32 “Then you will know, the truth will set you free” where Jesus is explaining to the Jews that he will return to this earth one day to set them free from sin and death. The use of the verse for the sign was just one of the many mind games the Nazis played with the prisoners during this ordeal. As we know there was no freedom from this camp. The people being transported to Auschwitz had no idea where they were being taken or what horrors awaited them when they got there. (I will say ‘people’ throughout rather than specifically ‘the Jews’, because while the Jews were predominantly the targets of the Nazis, many others were taken to Auschwitz for “ethnic cleansing”, including homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, individuals with learning difficulties or physical deformities and so on.)
The sign is above the entrance to a compound, where the able men and women were made to work. Many didn’t survive the dreadful living conditions they were subjected to through starvation, sickness and exhaustion.
It is very hard to explain the emotions you feel as you walk around Auschwitz. There is a solemn silence, as everyone visiting is very respectful. There is a great deal of reflection about those who lost their lives there and you are surrounded by an overwhelming awareness of the abhorrent deeds carried out in this place.
After going around the Auschwitz camp we were then taken to Birkenau, a site separate from Auschwitz but part of the same camp.
As we walked down the tracks, we walked along what is described as the “Death Ramp”. Men, women and children lined up as they came out of the train carriages (the prisoners were taken to Auschwitz in over-crowded cattle trucks, not trains as we often think. From there, they were separated into two groups:
1. those who were able to work
2. and those who served no purpose.
(A picture of one of the cattle trucks that were used for transportation. There would have been up to 200 people in that one carriage.)
Those who weren’t deemed suitable for work were taken straight to the gas chambers. At no point did they realise what was happening. They were simply told they needed de-lousing after their journey and had to take a shower to be decontaminated. This was another mind game, used by the Nazi guards to avoid hysterics or panic within the camp. We all know how this ended.
It is important to remember the monstrosities that took place here, to make sure that this never happens, to anyone, ever again.
Yet in spite of the majority of the people’s apathy at that awful time let us hold on to the hope which we have in the Lord God.
The fact that the Jews went through such persecution and still survived is an amazing sign of how there is truly a God and he is at work in our lives even now. For we are told in Exodus 6v7 “I will take you as my own people and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God.”
What other nation on earth has survived like the Jews?
For we know that God has said: “As surely as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the Glory of the Lord.”
We hope and pray that day may come quickly.