- If there is a universal food, surely it is the Döner Kabab. Discuss.
- A moat, no matter how big or small, is just about as cool as it gets
- Europeans are touted as the height of ‘civilisation’ but they still haven’t figured out air-conditioning
- I need TV in English
- Having watched the word cup in 5 languages and 6 countries, I can safely say the Italians are the most bias.
- Which is the greater problem? That beer is available for 0.29 Euro or that I’m a borderline alcoholic? Discuss.
- I’ve always found definitions of alcoholism too ‘liberal’
- It would be no mistake to call the Currywurst genius
- I can’t help but laugh when a kid has a temper tantrum in German.
Archive for July, 2006
For ever let this place be a cry of despair and a warning to humanity, where nazis murdered about one and a half million men, women and children, mainly Jews from various countries of Europe
Auschwitz – Birkenau, 1940 -1945
Douglas Adams once quipped that if anyone could possibly comprehend just how big the universe was then you would simply keel over dead on the spot. I remember thinking that there are probably bigger things that are harder to comprehend.
It’s not hard to get your self a little worked up at the thought of losing a loved one. We all know these are the more traumatic moments in our life. Then the thought of losing more than one person becomes quite the catastrophic thought. But losing everyone you know, or a whole race of people. That’s incomprehensible.
I was in Prague a few days ago. There’s a Jewish museum that was actually started by the Nazis when Prague was under occupation. They were trying, for historical purposes, to remember a lost race.
It was with this prelude that I trekked off to Krakow. Krakow is a stunning place. It was the Nazi’s administrative centre while they occupied Poland so they didn’t destroy it like Warsaw and other parts of Poland.
Just an hour and a half by bus, only about 60km is Oswiecim, better known by its German name, Auschwitz. The town of Oswiecim is still a beautiful, functioning Polish country town, I note as we travel through the town on the Bus. It was a beautiful day when I visited yesterday, still, no clouds and the temperature was in the high 20s.
The Bus then turns a corner and you are all of a sudden circling the remains of the concentration camp. Barbed wire, gun tarots – just like the photos I’d seen of it.
After getting my bearings I walk in through the visitor’s centre and to the front gates of the camp. Still in place above the gates are the words “Arbeit macht frei”, “work brings freedom”. Has anything more sadistic ever been written?
For the large part of your walk around the camp you are just going through the various lodgings that housed the prisoners – the different blocks. There are various displays explain different parts of life on the camp. The rooms were all so sterile and freshly pained a gunmetal colour. The fact that probably thousands had died in each of these rooms is quite shocking but because of its sterility it is hard to get your head around. Every so often though your skin crawls a little and I’d feel really uncomfortable and want to leave a room.
Some of the halls are lined with pictures of the prisoners; they all stare emotionlessly at you as you walk through. On the occasional photo someone has put a flour to commemorate a relative.
Between blocks 10 and 11 is what is known as “the Wall of Death” where thousands were executed for various “crimes” against the Nazis. Block 10 is where they performed experiments on prisoners, mostly experiments on women for sterilisation reasons. Block 11 was where political prisoners were kept and often tortured or experimented on. In the basement you can see the solitary confinement rooms and so on. The washbasins in there were often the site of executions.
Then you move on to the gas chambers and crematorium. You can walk in there and see it all. It’s an old converted bomb shelter and that’s how it looks. Except there’s a furnace there which is clearly designed for the mass incineration of people. I had to move out of there pretty quickly as it leaves you feeling quite sick.
Next I caught the shuttle bus to Birkenau, also known as Auschwitz II. Oswiecim is, in a funny way, quite picturesque. It is green and leafy. The buildings actually aren’t too ominous. If you didn’t know what had happened there it could have been anything else. Birkenau is different and actually even more horrendous. This is where the most killings happened with 5 (I think), purpose built, gas chambers and crematoriums. Moreover, just the sheer scale of the compound really reminds you just what a killing machine this place was.
The Nazi’s blew a lot of it up just before the camps were liberated, if that’s what you can call it. You can still see the underground chambers though that could, and did, kill several hundred people at a time.
Birkenau isn’t a museum as such, like Oswiecim so it is less sanitised. You can still walk though the houses that everyone slept in. This gives you a much better understanding of how the lives of the prisoners were. Again, I found it hard to spend too long in these places – but something I’m glad I’ve done. This needs to be understood as much as one can.
Crimes against humanity are their own category of crime because they diminish what it means to be a human. Conceptually I’ve always understood that – it’s important to know. However, when it’s cold facelessness is staring at you it becomes apparent just how little you can possibly understand of that horror.
- Nature documentaries are narrated in the same voice around the world (I’m listening to one in Czech at the moment and knew exactly what it was before I turned around)
- Czech is a seriously fucked language
- Cheap airfairs are not only an ecological disaster but have meant that Bucks and Hen’s nights have evolved from bus tours of night clubs to the ravaging of foriegn countries
- Why do people keep assuming that I want to go to strip clubs and think it’s great when the ‘happy ending’ is only so many Czech Crowns – bargin mate!!
- Why is it so hard to buy soap in Prague
- Waiting around all day for a train is boring – especially when you are too tired to read and keep falling asleep in public trying
- Modern art has a huge handicap. Religious leaders liked to prove that they loved god the most. Therefore they poured countless amounts of time, energy, resources and financies in works of art which would become instantly recognisable as master pieces. With the death of god and an over emphasis on functionality, who will fund the master pieces of today? Did grandure die with god? What can we do to rectify the situation? Is it just about money? How can you be sure that the person you give money to will become the modern day Michelangello? What will be her inspiration?
- It will probably be god
- Why are all these artists named after the Ninja Turtles?
- I made a Welsh guy say ‘not the Dart’ lastnight