The 'Hauntings' of Auschwitz?

An inconceivable amount of people were killed at Auschwitz; the constant threat of death and the unbearable suffering were paramount. As well as the buildings that are still standing at Birkenau, ponds and fields are metaphorically washed with the blood of thousands but also, in reality, littered with the ashes of those cremated and never given the justice of a proper burial. In a place such as this, a site of mass murder that has left a stain on the face of the earth and humanity, is it also possible that the spirits of the victims also remain?

The first point to raise about this topic, of course, is whether or not you actually believe in the possibility of the paranormal. Personally, I am not sure as to how credible sightings of ghosts and the like may be, although I do feel that atmospheres can certainly linger in a place where emotions and events impacted incredibly strongly. Auschwitz, then, is one of the first places that comes to mind when thinking of examples.

I am certainly not the first person to consider this point. If you type 'Hauntings in Auschwitz' into Google a plethora of results greet you within a fraction of a second. So, what do people say about possible paranormal activity within the camp? The first result I found was from a blog, which states:

'Consistently referred to as one of the world’s most haunted locations, people report feelings multiple cold spots while wandering the fields, a sense of dread and sadness overcomes them as they enter the gates. Some even claim to feel the hands of apparitions hold onto their own as they walk through what was once the children’s centers or the gas chamber. People burst into tears upon entering and cannot contain themselves until hours after they leave. Some claim that birds do not enter the camp, and in the rare times that they do, they do not sing.'

From a critical perspective, I'd say at least some of this is justifiable without means to conclude paranormal activity. In such a place as Auschwitz, being overcome with 'a sense of dread and sadness' is perfectly natural. When you think what has happened in such a place, and perhaps even challenge yourself to try and imagine what it was like, it would be difficult not to feel such emotions. Crying is also a part of the human reaction to unpleasant or unthinkable events - on my first visit to the camp, at the age of 15, our group of around 40 people were all reduced to tears within the first half an hour of visiting Auschwitz I and viewing the displays of hair, shoes and an urn full of ashes. Reactions differ from person to person, and sometimes from time to time; I have now been three times, but have remained calm and quiet during the latter visits.
Furthermore, I can personally dispel the myth that birds 'do not enter the camp' and 'do not sing'. True, I do not remember seeing any birds landing anywhere within the grounds, but I recall being distracted from one lecture given in Block 12 of Auschwitz I by the cawing of the birds outside. What's more, coursemates of mine have photographic evidence of groups of birds flying overhead and also remember loud squawking in the background. It is fair to say, however, that many animals are regarded as having an innate sense of danger or fear, so perhaps even the birds sense the atmosphere around the camp, dark as it is, and decide not to land in or around it.
As to cold spots and hands being held - well, I cannot dispute that because I have not had such experiences and wouldn't want to say those who have felt such things are 'wrong'. I freely admit that I would be terrified if such a thing happened to me, not only for the unpleasant sensation it would give me, but also the thought of unrested souls still around the camp, almost 70 years later, almost repeating the misery they lived and died with.

To my knowledge, no large-scale paranormal investigations have taken place at Auschwitz. It is not meant to be viewed as the kind of place to feature on 'Most Haunted', for a start, and must be thought of as a mass graveyard for thousands of innocent victims, so respected accordingly. In my opinion, it would not be right to trivialise the site just to uncover possible hauntings and apparitions. Besides, if there are ghosts or spirits around the site, they don't appear to be hostile and cause no harm - if anything, it is the camp itself that sufficiently gives off that message.
On the other hand, would it be excusable for those that work in exorcism to go and 'release' the spirits from their endless torment? Those that believe they have such power can calm spirits, tell them they needn't hang on and to find peace. Accounts differ, naturally, as to whether this works or not, and it is definitely a torturing thought to consider those who died decades ago still cannot escape such a place. Even if this were to happen, though, I do not believe the atmosphere of Auschwitz would change much; too much happened there, and every barrack represents the cruelty, injustice and barbarity of the place.

I was somewhat comforted - if that is the right word - by my fellow Student Ambassador, Amrit, after a memorial service that was held at the end of the day on my second visit with the Holocaust Educational Trust. Rabbi Barry Marcus, who has attended every single project trip (and consequently visited the camp almost 100 times) gave a speech and read and sang prayers for the Jewish victims. On the way back up the train tracks, Amrit turned to me and said, "You know I'm quite a spiritual person. Even though I'm not Jewish, I really connected with the prayers the Rabbi sang, and while everyone was looking at him or downwards, I looked up and around the camp. All I could see were rows and rows of chimneys, and this awful gateway, but I really felt as though all the spirits of those murdered here were being called home. They were listening in, comforted by the fact a Jewish prayer was being said in a place where being Jewish was punishable by death. That made me feel so much...calmer."
I also felt calmer when Amrit said this. If the spirits were indeed 'listening in', they will hear the same prayers and speech many times over, as groups keep visiting, and hopefully know that what happened to them is not forgotten and is being passed down the generations as a warning of man's own cruelty.

Wherever they may be, I hope that all those who perished are resting in peace.