Thursday, 15 April 2010

Arbeit Macht Frei

Greetings from Krakow - that's in Poland which is also the answer to question 4a on your MENSA exam booklet, page 3 - 'Mexico is to America' as '____ is to Britain' .

At the risk of turning off all the young ladies reading this blog I've always had a fascination with military history. Did you know for instance that the Gatling gun centered around a cyclic multi-barrel design which facilitated cooling and synchronized the firing/reloading sequence?

Erm...anyway, I've always wanted to visit the Auschwitz concentration camp so we have popped over to Poland for a few days. Once again, finding myself speculating on the similarities between the interior of the Ryanair flight cabin and transportation during WWII.....anyway, I digress.

The camp was nothing like I had imagined. It's essentially divided into two remaining camps - the original Auschwitz which prior to its notoriety was a Polish military barracks and Birkenau which was built specifically for death and forced labour.

Within its walls were hundreds of thousands harrowing stories but the general vibes it emitted were, and forgive me for saying this, more 1980's school trip than anything else. Of course, this wasn't helped by our ridiculous Polish guide who just wouldn't shut up. By the end if was beginning to feel like having the Krankies provide the music for a state funeral.

The people operating the camp were guilty of genuine depravity but the distinct impression I came away with was it was run so much like an efficient factory that within a few days I bet the whole extermination process had become so dehumanised it meant nothing to the people running it. The victims were systematically stripped of property, dignity and life in the same way you'd bang out a sheet of metal, drill the holes and rivet something together. I have to agree that with an author I am reading - that it's arrogant for any of us to look back and say we wouldn't have been a part of it, because the majority of us would have done as we were told like we do in life today and been as much a victim of circumstance as those in the ovens.

On that cheery note I foresee travel chaos on saturday, our departure day, as the Polish prime minister will be buried in Krakow and apparently the airport is going to be an interesting experience with President Obama requiring something like 6 planes! I bet he wouldn't be carrying that much luggage with a budget airline.

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