Four Days to Go: Preparation...and An Anniversary

How does one prepare for a visit to a place like Auschwitz? Only one thing is for certain; there is no right or wrong answer. Some may wish to rely only on what they learned in school or have seen in textbooks; others may read up on the subject beforehand. Those who have not been fortunate enough to receive sufficient Holocaust education previously may stumble into a visit somewhat blindly, although I can imagine it is these people that would find a visit inescapably unpleasant, as they would be unprepared for the horrors lying behind the glass cases, such as two tonnes of human hair, or for the sheer scale of the camp at Birkenau.

I have chosen the route of expanding on my existing knowledge. Over the years I have heard from numerous Holocaust survivors (as mentioned in a previous post) and read much Holocaust literature, but it has been in the last couple of months that I have focused my attention on Holocaust-related material further. During this time, I have read the following:

'Faces in the Smoke' by Josef Perl
'Auschwitz Inferno' by Filip Muller
'Commandant of Auschwitz' by Rudolf Hoess
'The Sunflower: On the Possibilities and Limitations of Forgiveness' by Simon Wiesenthal (currently reading)

In this respect, I have gained the perspective of life in Auschwitz from an ordinary prisoner, a member of the Sonderkommando, and the commandant of the camp himself. 'The Sunflower' takes more of a theological and moral approach to a situation a prisoner in one concentration camp finds himself in.

On my 'Still to Read' list (which is rather ambitious in four days, but can of course be carried on afterwards):
'Night' by Elie Wiesel
'Return to Auschwitz' by Kitty Hart-Moxon
'If This Is A Man' by Primo Levi

I have also watched two excellent and fascinating documentaries. The first, 'Return to Auschwitz', sharing the title of her book, documents Kitty Hart-Moxon's return to the former camp with one of her sons in 1979. I also purchased historian Laurence Rees' 'Auschwitz: The Nazis and the Final Solution' DVD, televised and produced by the BBC in 2005, 60 years on from liberation.

I intend, in due course, to review all of the above.

In terms of emotional preparation...I believe there is none sufficient. Given the diversity in my previous reactions to Auschwitz, I cannot say what the next week will be like, on the first day at least. It depends on the company I am with, for a start.
I have visited the Auschwitz Museum website many times, poring over photographs to try and familiarise myself with it all once again. However, 2D images are no substitute for the real thing, so I can only hope that I will be able to quell the nerves and appreciate the trip for its educational and valuable purpose.

In regards to the anniversary to which I refer to in the title of this post, today is 70 years since arguably the most daring escape from any concentration camp took place. Kazimierz Piechowski and three other prisoners managed to acquire SS uniforms and an SS car, leaving the camp area under this pretense. They were never recaptured. It truly is one of the most remarkable escapes ever made from any prison. You can watch part of a documentary on the escape here (in Polish with English subtitles).