Day Four

Before I begin discussing the itinerary I would like to say a little bit about my course mates. Over the course of the last couple of days, the close proximity we have with each other and the subject matter we are dealing with has meant we have networked extremely well. Levels of English vary, and often I am the one that is turned to for 'translation' of other accents!
Our group is fairly diverse. I have now established that, among the 13 of us, we have the following nationalities:
- One American
- One Austrian
- One Frenchman
- One German
- One Hungarian
- One Welshman (me!)
- One Pole
- One Romanian
- One Spaniard
- Two Norwegians
- Two Scots
Some have moved to countries other than homeland and each of us come from a different background. A few of us are students, but we also have a lecturer, librarian, worker in 'war tourism' and architect in the group to name a few. The co-operation of such a multi-cultural group from different backgrounds is rather ironic in a place like Auschwitz, but incredibly positive.

Visit to former site of Auschwitz III (Monowitz), 9:00 - 11:00 (actually ended at 10:30)
Our visit was led by Piotr Swetkiewicz, who gave us our first lecture on Monday morning. Hardly anything remains of Auschwitz-Monowitz, the camp where many prisoners were forced to work in factories such as the IG Farben factory. Where barracks once stood there is now only a field; one original barrack remains on the land of a private property, so cannot be publicly accessed. We walked to the site of a previous SS air raid shelter and a building partially constructed from materials once used to build barracks. Piotr also took us to a memorial created by residents of Monowitz (Monowice in Polish) to those who had died in the area, but it consists of a large Christian cross - a sore point for those who lost Jewish relatives in the camp. Furthermore, the memorial is not connected to the Museum, which can be seen by the unfortunate factual errors given on the memorial plaque (such as the dates the camp was in existence). Indeed, Piotr stated that the residents of Monowice worry that the Museum will try and make a commemoration point for tourists to visit, which would disturb the quiet area and remind them of their proximity to the Nazi past. However, he added that this is unlikely to ever be an actual issue.
A moment of relief from the subject was also provided by a local dog, who, far from growling and snarling as other local dogs had, showed us a lot of affection and seemed determined to walk back with us! As I will discuss in a future blog, moments like this are so important on a trip so saturated in darker thoughts and emotions.

If you would like to use any of these photos, please contact me. Additionally, please respect their educational and sentimental value and use them only for educational purposes.

Lecture: 'Rethinking Poles and Jews', 11:30 - 13:00 (overran until 13:25)
The lecture was given by Dr. Annamaria Orla-Bukowska, who works in the Institute of Sociology at Jagiellonian University in Krakow. She talked about the population of Jews in European countries before the war, the culture of politicians using a scapegoat (often Jews or women) for explanation of a country's problems and the idea of a dual identity - being Polish and Jewish, or Polish Ukranian, Polish Roman Catholic, Polish Muslim etc. She also explained the illegal literature written and published about the negativity of anti-Semitism in the time of Communism, when minority groups were largely swept under the carpet.

National exhibitions, 13:00 - 17:00 (actually started at 13:30 and finished at 18:15 but included an hour's lunch break)
I should really have checked my itinerary more closely yesterday as I thought we would not be visiting these as part of our course! The workshop was led by Miroslaw Obstarczyk, a curator of the Museum and Head of the Exhibitions Department. We were split into pairs or threes and given one particular exhibition to focus on; I covered the French exhibition with the only Frenchman in the group. Others gave presentations on the exhibitions and information given from the Austrian, Dutch, Roma and Sinti, Belgian and Hungarian commemorations. We were asked to focus on Nazi policy on the Jews in each country, other groups persecuted, resistance and other such subjects. Additionally, we picked an element of the exhibition to illustrate its significance to the particular country and also described the story of one individual involved in the Holocaust (if any examples were given).

At dinner, even more of us sat together for our meal and discussed a variety of topics. I can honestly say I will really miss these people when we have to go our separate ways! I also find it astonishing that tomorrow will be my last full day in Poland for a while, and certainly at Auschwitz until who knows when? The days have been long, yes, but the experience oh so fulfilling.