Lest we forget.......

I have often recounted the experience of my visit to the Auschwitz Concentration Camps in Poland, as it has an enormous impact on my life. To the extent that for many months after, I would get tearful just at the memory of the visit. Through school I had learned about the two World wars. I had also seen many films and documentaries on TV. I thought I knew about the holocaust, but nothing prepared me for the journey that I took that day. To walk through the corridors full of faces; the rooms full of human hair, spectacles and suitcases; the rubble of the gas chambers; the railway line that brought innocent people to their deaths….. That day my eyes were opened…..

As we walked into the camp, the weather changed. The clouds shut out the sun, the sky turned grey and it began to pour with rain. It was late in the afternoon, the camp was empty now and we were given the privacy to walk around and absorb the moment. I took a long slow walk up the middle of the camp along the side of the railway line. The rain kindly disguised the tears that flowed down my face.

As I reached the end of the line, I was surrounded by the derelict gas chambers. I could feel the sense of helplessness and desperation, I could hear the cries. As I looked to the sky, I could feel the tears of those that lost their lives pouring down upon me. I turned and looked down the track. I know it was in my imagination, but I could smell the steam engine. I could feel people walking around me, moving towards the gas chambers that once stood here….

This was truly a time to reflect. I suddenly became riddled with anger – anger that pointed directly at myself, at my ignorance. I am in my 30’s and until now hadn’t bothered to try to understand what World War II was about. I stopped, stood motionless and made a promise to myself that when I returned home to England, I would make an effort to learn more about what happened – I felt I owed it to those that died here and to those that died to protect our freedom.

Even now, as I write this piece, I can still feel the sadness of that afternoon. An educational trip to remember, another trip that has made a significant impact on my life – I will forever be a little more humble, a little less complacent and a lot more appreciative.

Graham xx

Lest we forget.......

Graham Ettridge

Swindon, United Kingdom

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