Today’s Pic du Jour was taken in a women’s barracks at the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp, the planet’s biggest cemetery. You wanted to be among the six, seven or eight that were squeezed into a top bunk. That meant you were strong enough to climb up and onto it, and that others who were sick wouldn’t throw up or defecate on you while you slept.
That was typical of the dozens of vignettes our guide shared today during my visit to the world’s most notorious death camp. It left me exhausted physically. Emotionally, I’m drained, too spent to piece together, in any cohesive way, a post that combines the scattered thoughts that cluttered my mind during the five hours I spent traversing the massive 400 acre Birkenau complex.
I wasn’t thinking so much about the dead, upwards of a million and a half who were sent here to die and on whose scattered ashen remains I and another 6,000 visitors walked on today.
Nor was I thinking much about the men who sent them there. Man has never been bereft of the hate –and the actions that his hate can justify– to inflict brutal suffering on his fellow man.
I was thinking of the survivors. About what clicks in a person’s mind when they reach the realization that sleeping in a top bunk will improve their chances of a brighter morning on another very dark day.
I’ll post more about the camp visit and a photo gallery when I return home next week.