to desire the replica

posted on: January 19th, 2009

On this day, a few years back; January 2002 Oswiecim, Poland.



From the diary;

“Auschwitz 1 & Birkenau…. Won’t/can’t go into it all as the sites and feelings are burned into my brain for all time. I was almost completely alone at both camps and in the silence and the snow it seems both terrifying and beautiful at the same time if such a thing can be said. It was as if the souls of millions were screaming up from the ground to look at what had been done. It still shocks me; what terrible monsters we mere mortals can be, but also what strength and grace some can call upon in the darkest of moments.

I spent the day walking both camps, tears frozen to my cheeks and found myself ashamed for the things that we humans have done, and continue to do to one another. The brick building filled with piles of unclaimed brushes, suitcases, a mountain of shoes taller and dustier than should ever be, and the cream coloured dress patterned with the bright red cherries, a sweetheart neckline and a flared skirt. It hangs on the wall, filthy and patched with a multitude of miss matched fabrics. Those little red cherries broke my heart. Whatever happened to the young woman who wore it? I wish that I didn’t know.



Both were overwhelming places to be but I am glad that I went.  Auschwitz has experienced a lot of restoration to allow people to see it and I think they have done a remarkable job- the buildings are sound but the small traces of all of those people remain, as do the torture chambers. It is devastating to a level that I am unfamiliar with. Birkenau remains mostly untouched and I am glad that I went in the snow and quiet of January. The feeling of seeing all of those chimneys stretching for as far as you can see….I can’t explain. I can’t imagine seeing these places amid the waves heat and summer tourists.



At the end of a long track there is a pond. It has a weird surface–not like a normal pond and this is due to the fact the the pond was the dumping ground for some of the ashes from the crematorium. I found myself standing in front of it.

I was standing in front of a pond made from human ash. Jesus fucking Christ. What do you say to that?

I visited Dachau in Munich last summer and there is a large plaque outside saying “Never forget” in several languages. It has always bugged me, that plaque, because these things still happen.

I took a bus back to Krakow and am now in a cafe that was once a wine cellar. It’s beautiful, smokey and quiet and candle lit. My head is full and my heart is heavy.”

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suz Says:

I remeber when you went. I still have your post card. It just left me achy and silent.

I was there in March 1997…all I could do was weep walking through both; the piles of hair, the chimneys, the wall with the holes. I recognize everything in your photos.

I loved Krakow, the castle with the story of the princess eating dragon.

[...] This is a rather enormous iron sign standing at the gates of a death camp! I can tell you from personal experience that standing under that sign is a feeling like no other that I’ve ever had before. [...]

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