I remember my first time there, over 15 years ago, probably pregnant with Kelsey. Greg and I were there with 2 teens from our church in Torun. We lasted about 20 minutes. One of the few times, Greg didn't take any photographs. Kamila, who was with us, quietly stated "I'm ashamed to be human" as we turned to leave the camp.
Another visit, with the Spader family in a December, I lasted about 45 mins before joining their teen daughter in a nearby coffee shop to wait for the others to finish. It was cold and dreary, as December is, and I caught a sign describing in a certain spot, guards would toss buckets of water on disobedient prisoners and have them stand there: as an example.
Other times, I sat in the car and read in the parking lot. But you can never really not be there in the camp, even sitting in the parking lot.
One time years later, after dropping off guests at Auschwitz, I drove 2 miles to Birkenau, the site where the prisoners lived, because I had never been there before. It is several acres of land with a few buildings left on it, but most of the camp is no longer there. I went up the guard tower to view the whole camp and saw the brick outlines of the barracks, or horse stables, built for the prisoners. There is a schematic up there to show you exactly how it was and was used.
While seeing Auschwitz is disturbing, seeing what no longer existed in Birkenau hit me harder. I cried as I returned to the car to wait for my guests.
One summer we were enjoying ourselves in Croatia with our friends who live there and from the coastline we could see in the distance a huge impressive building. Greg asked what it was and our friend told us it was a castle and that they take their English camp mission groups there to visit. Greg frowned as he replied, "Huh, we take our groups to Auschwitz." We laughed, but it wasn't funny. I don't enjoy taking our guests to Auschwitz and at the same time, I think it's a must that they do go to see how dark and evil men were and can be - so much, with closed eyes, you turn your face from the images. To also see how resilient and strong many prisoners were to survive.
And so today, my Kelsey is there with her class. For me, this is a milestone in my child's development. I remember taking Kelsey right after she was born for her vaccination. Staring down at her while the nurse injected her, I thought to myself, "What am I doing? Allowing this pain for my baby?" Greg reflected that it's a picture of allowing something painful, maybe harmful, in order to make her body stronger to fight off something more powerful. Then there was the season of instructing our girls how to respond if they feel uncomfortable with someone... again, interrupting their innocence in order to protect them from a greater harm.
As I remember the imagines of Auschwitz, I can't stop wondering what Kelsey is feeling, what is she doing with all the information and images. My preference was to have her go her first time with Greg and I, in fact this summer I wanted her to go with her cousin when he was here, but plans changed and it didn't happen.
I know she is for sure touring the Polish building. That is a tough one for me, because while throughout the museum many, many pictures, the Polish building full of pictures are real people to me. I've been through the cities where they were executed or arrested, even lived in one.
This morning I read Isaiah 53 from my Bible. It's a familiar text to me, but today with Auschwitz on my mind, I experienced my own darkness.
He was despised and rejected by men... as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised and we did not esteem him....smitten by God...upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, by his wounds we are healed...the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all...stricken with my transgression...he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors (sinners); yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.
When I remember Jesus hanging on the cross asking his Father, God Almighty why he had forsaken him, I think of when I just can't look at the evil any longer and turn my head. Did God do the same? My sins!
That's a refrain to a song on Kelsey's iPod that we hear in our house. As much as I cannot completely understand evil that is in the world, today I far more don't understand God's great, pursuing, and consistent love towards me, towards men.
Just got a text. Time to pick her up. I'm curious what she will share. I see this as another vaccination, another layer of innocence taken away in order to protect her and, in turn, that she can protect others. This world still is very dark, and He still loves us.