These are the texts written by the 1ère L students after their visit to Auschwitz in February 2006 :
The visit of Auschwitz was something unique. It was very good for the project in class because we really saw what we had talked about in class all that time.
Auschwitz-Birkenau is very big , the overview is very impressing and shocking. The snow strengthened the calm and the oppressing atmosphere. During the visit we saw the « death barrack », it was the barrack number 25 where the girls selected for death had to wait. We saw the ruin of the gas-chambers, it was very strange to be near it, it is a feeling we can have only in this place. After the visit, the two survivors made a speech and three girls of the class read Charlotte Delbo’s poems before a minute of silence laden with feelings.
I was impressed by the size of the camp, there were a lot of sheds. It was all white because of the snow, so it gave me a feeling of peace and quietness , it was at the opposite of all that happened here.It was really strange.
On the site, the majority of the people were quiet and respectful ; but there were some persons who didn’t respect the deaths of the holocaust and some of them were laughing or saying all the time that they were hungry .I found these people very stupid, immature and disrespectful.
It was a very strange day, I was sad, indignant , horrified during all the day, and this feeling still follows me. This day I could smell the perfume of death.
This day was very tiring but I am happy to have had this opportunity.
But when Ida Grinspan talked, it
was very, very interesting. Ida is an ex-deportee of Auschwitz, so she
told us her own story, with her feelings and choices, and she answered
our questions. I think we didn’t have enough time with her !
Auschwitz I. It was so strange. The snow illuminated the camped, which
looked like an old city, not like a place of horror. And the sun coloured
the atmosphere with red, pink, orange... It was beautiful. Atrociously beautiful.
We walked, where they had walked, we were where they had fallen, where they had cried, where they had suffered. Everybody was covered but we were still cold. But them, what did they feel with only a piece of clothing on their bodies. They were cold, they were hungry.
Then Léah and Victoria read a poem by Charlotte Delbo. Ida was in tears because she had known Charlotte Delbo really well while she was in the camp. We had studied this poem plenty of times in class and studied its meaning , but I had never ever felt the importance and the emotion of every word of this poem until I heard it just then. It just seemed beyond the limits of sadness. Ida was really distraught because her mother had died in the camp , and the poem talked about a dead mother. There was a complete silence when the poem finished, and no one talked for ages, I just couldn’t take it anymore, it was so overwhelming. I burst into tears. We all walked quietly back to the bus.
In the bus which was waiting for us in Cracow, we met Ida Grinspan, a deportee, she told us about her life before and during the deportation. Her story was moving. In this bus, I really realized what we have talked about during long months.
In the afternoon, we went to Auschwitz I. To see the entry « Arbet macht frei » gave me the shivers. This camp was very frightening because it gave an impression of peaceful city, with pleasant lights in front of each door . It was impossible to think about the abominations which were practised here.
There, I was very shocked ! We saw accumulations of things which belonged to Jews such as shoes, hairs, bags, dishes and prostheses. It was very shocking. Then we went to a gas chamber. We saw on the wall lacerations of nails. I felt ill at ease.
I was well covered, however I was frozen by the snow and the icy wind of Poland during the visit. I imagined the prisoners equipped only with one fine shirt, trousers and fitted with wooden shoes, working in muddy snow all the day until exhaustion.
How could they have survived in these conditions ?
It was really superhuman.
When the plane took off, we were all very excited to go to this impressive place we were all thinking about. Slowly, I felt into a deep sleep. A nightmare came into my mind. Many nazi officers in black green uniform were howling in German « Schnell ! Schnell ! Arbeit, nicht brot ! Nicht kartofell ! Nur arbeit !! ». This nightmare took end when the plane landed. I thought it was a very strange nightmare, all together frightening and ridiculous.
I felt very disturbed at seeing the camp with my own eyes. I knew that many SS had walked where I was walking now. The visit of the camp lasted approximately 4 hours and we all were paralysed by the cold but none among us dared tell it. We all knew what the Jews had undergone and we felt guilty to be cold !
I can’t describe my feeling even if it’s over now... We’ve seen things we’ll never see again.
There was something strange in the camp : it looks very quiet and very peaceful but the small numbered buildings (also called “BLOCKS”) let us voiceless. We knew the past of these places and that visit of Auschwitz I was very disturbing especially when we saw the prisons or the “medical rooms”. Our trip finished with the visit of a Museum, or a memorial.
Then we walked, the sound of our footsteps made us think of the footsteps taken by the deportees every day to go to work. One moment , I could imagine the suffering of these people which made me sick. But some other times , I found it very difficult to imagine all the atrocities that happened in this place.