It’s been on my bucket list for years now.
And now I can check it off.
I didn’t actually GO to Auschwitz, but on Sunday I took a virtual tour. And honestly, that’s probably about as much as I could handle emotionally.
This year I have been reading a lot of fictional stories from Auschwitz and some non-fiction. I’m not sure why but I have just been gravitating towards those types of stories. So when I saw a Facebook banner for a virtual tour, I jumped on it.
Now let me explain that I am not usually one to click facebook banners for products. Click bait like “see them then and now!” or “16 times Disney got lazy and copied storylines” I will 100% click almost all the time haha but for buying products? Not so much. I usually see them as a scam. And after my bad experience with Knotty Knickers, I’m extra weary of online brands and online companies. I did do a little research though and this company seemed legit.
I bought my ticket in January, and obsessively watched my credit card for any unexpected charges that might have come from this company if they were in fact a scam. The ticket was only $32 and that kind of seemed like a steal…
I selected from the 3 dates available and then I waited the 3 months for the date to arrive. I got a confirmation in my email a few days prior and then I was all set. I logged into Zoom about 5 minutes early, turned my camera and mic off and just sat back and enjoyed!
The man who gave the tour was born in Poland, in Krakow, just 15km away from Auschwtiz. He looked to be in his 50’s or 60’s and had the most amazing speaking voice for such an event. It was calm and soothing. He has worked for the Auschwitz Museum for 19 years I think is what he said? But could be longer?
When Covid happened, he decided to create this entire platform for giving virtual tours! He let us know that the tour was going to be about 2 hours when we started and said that if we needed to get up and stretch and move around that it was fine. Just keep our mics off. He sat in a sound proof room and was just a fantastic guide through this piece of history. He had maps and 3D google maps and videos of places and things.
I was afraid that I would be very emotional, but I only lost it once. While he was talking about the selection process, he stopped on this one picture. It was of a group of children and elderly women. And they had all stopped and most were smiling at the camera. And something that I never even considered before was that the SS men did this on purpose. They KNEW this group was going straight to the gas chamber and they stopped them for a photo. The people in it didn’t know. But the SS men did. Our guide zoomed in on a boy, around 8-10 maybe? And when he did that, I just started crying. It was too much. Especially thinking about my students who are the exact same age, and because of their ASD diagnosis, every single one of them would have been seen as a defect. Even now as I’m writing this I’m getting emotional.
Another thing that I didn’t really grasp was the length of time that someone would have been at the camp. Yes, it was a concentration camp, and we have stories of survivors. But people didn’t survive there. Our guide said 80% were sent immediately to the gas chambers. So 80% of the people who arrived there lived for 30 minutes. That’s it. 30 minutes. Of the 20% who were chosen not to go into the gas chamber, the life expectancy was 2 months. I never thought of it in those terms before.
Anyway, all this to say that I highly recommend them. It’s through The Centre for Holocaust Education and you can find their website by clicking here. They have more tours coming up in May, and in lots of different time zones. My tour included people from all over the USA and England as well. The tours are capped at 65 people. My guide talked for 2 hours and at the end he still had tons left to share but he said he didn’t want to keep us at our screens for much longer and switched to his Q&A time. He answered all the questions from people and I stayed for another 35 minutes before I thanked him for his time and his knowledge and left the zoom call.
Overall it was an amazing experience and I am glad that I did it, and I really hope that a few of you will too!