“Nothing gold can stay.” These were the words that first entered my mind as I walked up the path leading to the infamous gate of Auschwitz. This may seem odd but it truly is what I thought of. The camp was built as Polish Army barracks and was never intended to be used as a concentration camp. In 1940 when the Nazis invaded Poland and began taking mass numbers of Poles prisoner they ran out of prisons to put them. The Nazis solution was to take over the camp we know now as Auschwitz and turn it into a prison for the Polish soldiers. It wasn’t until about the year 1942 that the camp began to hold Soviet prisoners, Roma (the correct term for Gypsies) and Jews. So although the camp was built for a good purpose it was twisted and was not allowed to be kept that way by the Nazis.
The second thing to cross my mind was the size of the place. I had been told beforehand that the camp wasn’t that big but for some reason (perhaps the images Hollywood and other movies have presented) I still had this picture in my head of an overly large and threatening prison. However, Auschwitz is rather small. Instead of a vast land the feel was that of buildings that stood tall and loomed over you. Knowing what happened there made me feel like the buildings would grow taller and taller until they would meld into each other and block the sky from view taking all hope away with it. Even the ground was uneven and rocky. I had expected that for tourists they would have smoothed out the walking paths. I’m not sure why I expected that but I did (maybe it’s some American standard way of thinking). It was necessary to constantly be watching where you put your feet. It made it all the more hard to imagine what it must have been like for all those who were held there.
The last part of my time at Auschwitz that I want to tell you about is the gas chamber. I don’t have much to say about it. It was the first gas chamber and hundreds of people could be killed at a time there. It was used for a relatively short period of time due to the fact that it was too small for the Nazis and their purpose. The feeling of being in the gas chamber was one that I’ll never forget. It was cold and dark and the walls look like they’re rotting. The floor, walls and ceiling all look stained and foreboding. The outside of the building is no better, having a large single brick chimney erupting from this small cement barrack. The only word that I can think of is: Why?