The Courier-Mail

HAVE YOUR SAY

- HAN­NAH KOTAIDIS

I HAVE al­ways been fas­ci­nated by the world wars and on re­cent trav­els, I was ex­posed to the im­pact World War II had on so many.

The Auschwitz-Birke­nau con­cen­tra­tion camp was a place of tor­ture where more than 1 mil­lion lost their lives.

The for­mer camp is now vis­ited by mil­lions from all over the world.

I had pre­pared my­self, or so I thought, for what I may see. But the truth is noth­ing could have pre­pared me for what I would feel. It was a cold, frosty day in Oc­to­ber. I was with a nor­mally rowdy tour group, led by a lo­cal guide when we en­tered Auschwitz’s gates.

We walked in si­lence as we were shown the cells where peo­ple lived, the hall­ways of the build­ings lined with photos of vic­tims. I was shiv­er­ing, not from the cold, but from over­whelm­ing emo­tion.

Be­long­ings of the men, women and chil­dren are on dis­play but when I walked into the room hous­ing piles of hu­man hair, it took my breath away. The guide led us into the gas cham­ber; it was cold, stale and im­pos­si­ble to imag­ine what peo­ple felt as they stood, naked in these death showers.

Nearby is the death camp of Birke­nau. We stood, freez­ing, in the harsh brick build­ings where peo­ple spent their days. Tears streamed down many faces, in­clud­ing my own. I will never for­get my visit. With the con­stant fight­ing and terror we see in the world to­day, it ap­pears we have not learnt much in the past 70 years. There may never be such a thing as world peace but lead­ers to­day must look at history as a les­son.

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