May 26, 2018

Auschwitz Birkenau

21 May 2018

Visiting Auschwitz II-Birkenau was a powerful experience for our entire class. Upon our arrival at the site, it was eerie to find that we were the only people there, an enormous difference from Auschwitz I. This was later contrasted by the masses of other tour groups who begun to arrive about halfway through our time at the site. Our tour consisted of information on the different parts of Birkenau (i.e. the bathhouse, the four crematoria, Canada, Mexico, the women and children’s camp, the Sinti and Roma camp, etc.) as well as the tour guide’s in-depth knowledge of different prisoners in the camp and their experiences there. Birkenau is a significant place of Holocaust remembrance for many people, and our experiences there were not only emotional, but also educational and thought-provoking. In visiting both Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II, we had to think about why we felt the way we did at each site as well as how that contrasted with or complemented the information we took away from visiting each place. Unlike Auschwitz I, Birkenau mostly consists of deteriorating buildings on the grounds with only one exhibit called the Sauna. The dilapidated appearance of the camp is educational in a starkly different way than the numerous exhibits at Auschwitz I. The sheer size of Birkenau demonstrates just how many people suffered there. The endless rows of chimneys that remain from all the barracks in the camp represent so many different people who were prisoners at Birkenau, while the remnants of the four crematoria make understanding how so many people were murdered at Birkenau difficult to grasp. Overall, visiting Birkenau was a powerful experience—our tour was simultaneously informative and emotive for the entire class.

For a video summary of our visit, please click here.


Group 5: Isabelle Bukary, Katie Whitlock, Maddie Noyes, Chris St. Aubin