Monday, March 14, 2011


I slept most of the way to Auschwitz, but several times I awoke for a few minutes and looked out the window. The weather was rather miserable. It seemed to me that I had never seen such thick, milky-white fog. It seemed to mute, stifle, and numb everything, including me. It was no longer snowing, but it was still very cold.

We arrived in Auschwitz, and before long we were divided into tour groups. The ground was soggy and damp, and it was so quiet. Our tour guide led us around, showed us the prison buildings, the living conditions, the firing squad wall. In one of the buildings were huge display cases- filled with mounds of eyeglasses, piles of shoes. There was also a massive pile of human hair, the hair of the women and girls. Some were still tied in pink ribbons.

Finally, we approached a grass-covered mound out of which rose one brick chimney. There was a black door in the side of the mound- though which we entered. An empty room with a concrete floor, a low ceiling. Square openings in the ceiling, through which poison was dropped. As we left the gas chamber, I saw Nathan make the sign of the cross and knew that he had been praying for them.  

I am glad that I was with my friends; their nearness was my comfort throughout the experience. When the tour was over, I needed a few moments of relief and I stopped thinking about what I had seen. Instead, I observed my fellow students. Ever so often someone would reach out and grasp his friend's arm briefly. Eyes met silently. The girls embraced one another. As I watched these quiet expressions of friendship and solidarity, I felt a rush of affection for all of them, my fellow students, gentle Catholic youth. The words of Viktor Frankl, whose book I had so recently read, came to mind. The salvation of man is through love and in love.

1 comment:

  1. Hannah, your writing is so moving and so beautiful. Your description brings me back to that place, and your hopeful words move me.