This is a picture I took at Birkenhau concentration camp on Friday morning of last week. Birkenhau is 3km away from Auschwitz and is spread over 300 acres of land. 1.5 million people, the majority of them Jews, were exterminated here by the Nazis. And most of them got off the train just here.
I can't tell you what an profoundly moving experience our trip was. I can't explain what it was like to see mountains of shoes, of suitcases, of clothes, and even of human hair - preserved in the museum at Auschwitz. I can't articulate what is was like to step into a gas chamber, or how it felt to stand next to two ovens in one of the crematoria where tens of thousands of people were turned to ashes just because of their faith.
For all the rubbish that's being taked about a "conflict resolution centre" being built on the site of the former Maze prison near Lisburn here in Northern Ireland (which was a prison where terrorist criminals served out their sentences, and even at that in most cases only a very small portion of their sentences), a visit to Auschwitz puts our recent Troubles into stark perspective.
Our tour guide told us that only about 15% of the senior Nazis were ever convicted for their crimes. About the same percentage of terrorist murders in Northern Ireland were ever brought to (a degree of) justice.
The clear message of Auschwitz/Birkenau is that memorials are for the victims, not the perpetrators.
Monday, October 08, 2007
Posted by Mark at Monday, October 08, 2007