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Anne Frank’s Journey, Part 3 – Auschwitz-Birkenau

In this final post of the three-part series about Anne Frank’s journey, guest blogger Chloe Smyth recounts her recent visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau, where Anne Frank and the other inhabitants of the Secret Annex were sent after Westerbork transit camp.

In February of this year, I had the amazing opportunity to visit Krakow with my school. On the second day of our trip to Krakow we went to Auschwitz, a concentration camp to which innocent people, mainly Jews, were transported by the German Nazis.

While this was the coldest day of the trip by far, the cold was intensified by the atmosphere of the concentration camps. I honestly was expecting to shed a lot more tears than I did, and while I was moved to tears when I heard of the way the people were tricked into entering the gas chambers and seeing the glass cabinets filled with real hair, shoes, and glasses, I found myself feeling disgusted at the thought of human beings having the ability to treat other human beings so cruelly. The sombre, eerie feeling you felt walking round the concentration camps, going into the original blocks with the original floors and walls still there, seeing photos of some of the victims, their occupation before coming to the camp, the dates of their arrival and death and just being in the same gas chamber where over one million lives were exterminated is something I will never forget.

I can truly say that my trip to Auschwitz and Auschwitz-Birkenau was mind-opening. The big numbers and brutal details described in history class seemed so distant and unrelatable, but actually visiting the site where it all took place helped me, in some way, to understand the realities of the Nazi treatment of millions of innocent people during WW2.

On arrival at Auschwitz, most Jewish children under sixteen years of age were killed immediately, but Anne escaped the gas chamber despite being only fifteen years old. In November 1944, Anne and her sister, Margot, were transported to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany. They both died four months later from typhus and deprivation.

Shortly after the arrest, Anne’s diary was found by one of the office workers who helped to hide the Jewish inhabitants. When Otto, the only one to survive, returned, she gave it to him. He undertook to publish the diary, and it has had worldwide popularity. It’s a tragic story – she was so very young – yet she was only one of millions who shared the same tragic ending.

Visiting these places, where behind the hustle and bustle of the tourists is so much sadness and tragedy, is vastly important. We must remember and reflect. We must learn from history, weep at the wickedness of man, yet take courage and prepare ourselves, if the need arises, to follow the example of many brave men and women who risked their very lives for their fellow human beings.

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