Monday, February 18, 2013

Leaving Auschwitz

As the bus pulled up to Auschwitz, the concentration camp, last Friday, I knew that God was with me. And that this experience was not to be taken lightly. I think that it is hard to put the entire experience of going to visit Auschwitz (the concentration camp) and Birkenau (also known as “Auschwitz II,” the death camp) into words.

How can I put into words the feeling of walking into the courtyard where countless Jews, Catholics, Gypsies, etc. were forced to stand and be divided into those who worked, and those who would die immediately?

How can I put into words the sense of pain in the barbed wire fence, the watchtowers, the cramped living conditions?

How can I express the joy and love in praying before the cell of St. Maximilian Kolbe in Block 11?

How can I express the anguish in walking into a room that holds two tons of human hair that was cut off of the prisoners? Walking up to the wall where so many people were shot between Blocks 10 and 11? 
The windows on Block 10 (left) were boarded, so that none of the prisoners there could see the shootings happen. 
How can I express the hope as I prayed the Chaplet of Divine Mercy in Birkenau with my classmates, on the very soil where so many died?
Praying at the remains of a gas chamber in Birkenau. 

How can I express the horror at standing at the end of the train tracks into Birkenau; the train that led victims straight into death in the gas chamber?

And how can I possibly put into words the feeling that comes while walking down the path, past the train tracks, out of Auschwitz and Birkenau?

The realization that, as I walked out of Auschwitz, very few people during the Holocaust were able to do the same.
Photographs were many times taken of the prisoners in the early days of Auschwitz. 
Why would I be given the opportunity to walk out of Auschwitz when over a million victims were not? 

Only God has all of the answers, and I know that so many prayers and sacrifices to God were made by the victims, to love in the midst of suffering. But why them and not me? 

What I do know is that with my life I have a responsibility. A responsibility to love. A responsibility to be present. A responsibility to live with a passion, to bring everyone that I meet to God’s loving embrace!
Leaving Auschwitz burned me with a desire to be a sacrifice of love in a whole new way.