The gate of iron, the outrageous lies;
That work sets free, yet in truth? All dies.
Endless horizon, eyes become sore;
Claws of barbed wire, for ever more.
Red brick, red brick; a sickening trick.
Row after row, all the same;
Horrifically normal; even mundane.
Reality hits, slapped out of slumber.
Terror, fear; it’s more than a number.
Mountainous items- bags, clothes, a bowl;
Each different shoe, belonged to a soul;
A life that sang, laughed and cried;
A life so taken, cruelly, and died.
Wrong indeed, and without cover-
To believe one life, more value than another.
Cannot un-see; it won’t be rid;
Tattooed right into, your closed eyelid.
But atrocities we, cannot spurn;
Even though it seems, we never learn.
I recently visited Auschwitz and here are the photos I took:
I am still processing the experience. It was unlike any other. Something in the pit of my stomach was gnawing the whole time; I think the place surprised me in ways I was not expecting. The sheer scale of Birkenau shook me - an endless sea of concentration camp. Wave after wave of barbed wire and outlook posts. It was mammoth - and yet conversely, made me feel so very claustrophobic. The mundanity of Auschwitz surprised me too - it felt like a slightly old fashioned industrial estate, and was in better condition than I was expecting. The ordered red bricks, in their inherent normality, chilled me beyond my worst nightmares.
But it was the personal items of those who lost their lives that will live with me forever. The mounds and huge piles. A number is just a number and can be arbitrarily extrapolated away from emotional connection. Seeing the items destroys this; it makes it real. These were people. They had things like us. This could have been you.
I still do not know how to describe Auschwitz, which is why I wrote this poem. I might never know. I wasn't sure if to take photos, and definitely if whether to post them. I decided in the end to do both. I have long been fascinated with the idea of documenting stories and the past somehow - and I felt this was even more important in this case. It is not comfortable, but unless we face these past histories, we risk repeating the same atrocities. God forbid, we may already be doing so, which makes it more important we talk and discuss and share - so that we will never forget.