Good Evening Everyone,

Yesterday was a really emotional day for the group as we headed to The Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration camps. We began at Auschwitz I where the students were exposed to the lives people lived once they were sent to “work” on these bone-chilling grounds. As we walked through the gate into the camp which read “Arbeit macht frei”, translated to “work sets you free”, the guide explained how most of the Jews were mislead into thinking they were heading to a place where they would work and live with their families. Our guide toured us through the blocks, and as we walked inside, each delivered horrifying images and displays of the Holocaust. We saw piles of personal items such as combs, shoes of all different sizes, suitcases and even prosthetic legs of War Veterans that overwhelmed us all. With each room, we fell deeper into a state of shock and sadness. There were several places that were even more difficult to experience, more specifically, the gas chambers, crematoriums, the block that showed real pictures of the men and women of the camp (both with their hair shaved off), and finally, the room that had the display of over two tonnes of real human hair of the victims.

We then transferred to Auschwitz II also known as Birkenau. As we neared the entrance known by the prisoners as the ‘Gate of Death’, we entered into an open space that was larger than anything I could have imagined. The chills down my spine were constant as I looked around feeling so small, and in the distance you could see the train tracks that ran through that gate into this disturbing place. We followed the tracks until we approached the platform and a memorial train car that presented the method people were deported to these camps. The guide brought us through a couple of the barracks, some showing the beds which slept 8 to 10 people in one wide bunk, therefore up to 840 people under one roof. Another was the bathroom, which was one open space with primitive toilets of holes in a long rectangular rock formation down the centre of the barrack. The stench was still in the air as we imagined having to share this space with thousands of people at one time with clearly no privacy whatsoever. Its beyond difficult to put into words what we felt on this day. Tears were shed, hugs were given, and we talked about how hard it was to imagine the horror of these people’s lives. I cannot fathom 1.3 million people being sent to these camps, over 1.1 million being Jewish. The lessons from Auschwitz have been engrained into our students minds; the horrors of the concentration camps and the Holocaust shall not be forgotten, and to teach them through these memories in hopes of preventing such atrocities ever happening again.

Today we packed up and left Krakow for our next destination, Bratislava. Once again we have arrived at another European city with its own individual feeling and appearance. The students had an hour to settle as usual until our walking tour with a local named Jana. She walked us straight into the city centre, taking us to the main square, the Old town Tower, while touring the beautiful streets of this smaller city. We learned some interesting history of certain buildings, laneways and sculptures; and the students were in awe of the beauty inside the medieval walls of the Old Town. They will head back into town tonight to people watch, sit on the patios of the café’s and enjoy this beautiful culture we have seen this afternoon.

Have a great evening everyone, hope you are enjoying the photos!

Krysty Girardo

Program Manager