They say no birds sing at Auschwitz. In fact, a deathly silence cuts you to the core, when you are there.
As we mark the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau with candles lit across the world, I still remember how harrowing it was visiting the concentration camp in Poland, in the early 1990s.
Tears streamed down my cheeks and my heart broke to see the rows of wooden cabins with grim comfort that once housed ‘God’s chosen people’ like chickens in a coop.
Jews were transported there by train from across Nazi-occupied Europe between 1942 and late 1944. They were delivered to the camp’s gas chambers and killed with the pesticide Zyklon B. Of the 1.1 million plus prisoners who died at Auschwitz, about 9 out of 10 were Jewish.
I saw huge display cabinets filled with the victims’ discarded spectacles, their hastily shorn hair and their priceless possessions forgotten like unwanted debris.
I saw the row upon row of startled expressions that haunt a stark, white wall. The headshots of shocked human beings shocked me. I put my fingers into the bullet holes in the wall where people had been executed.
And as I stood next to the furnace where their fragile forms were burnt, I could take no more.
You see I had watched the black and white ‘World At War’ documentaries as a child, that described how the Nazis made soap from the prisoners’ flesh and lampshades from their skin. I had smelt the burning human flesh in a nightmare and years later recognised that same sweet, sickly smell as it came from a hospital incinerator.
While in Israel in 2013, I was reminded of the death camps at Yad Yashem in Jerusalem. A slow crowd of mourners can see exhibits, facts and figures from the death camps.
No one could ever deny the existence of the Holocaust, if they visit Auschwitz or Yad Yashem. Let us remember and pray for peace.
Whatever colour we are, whatever denomination we are, whatever faith or religion, man’s inhumanity to man must never be forgotten nor repeated.