A shoe, hair and a shower

This one I will write without music in the background. I want to hear the voices that need to be heard.

Last week I was in Warsaw, Krakow and Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland. Why did I write Auschwitz-Birkenau? Birkenau is 3 km away from Auschwitz and was established because they needed more space – some sort of an expansion of Auschwitz. You can google tons of pictures and facts about places I visited. Some are colorful and cheerful and some are gray. I myself snapped a few pictures (zero selfies) too. I will not put them here though.
First thing I read before going there happened to be that after visiting Auschwitz one’s appetite is more or less OK but, after visiting Birkenau, one loses its appetite. I was pretty hungry both in Auschwitz and Birkenau. Appetite depends on both stomach sensitivity and the ability of the mind to block negative thoughts. In addition, I eat to make my time flow faster, to celebrate happy emotions and to drown negative ones. Now that we know where the ability of my stomach to feel hunger in Auschwitz and Birkenau comes from, lets see what is behind a shoe, hair and a shower.

A shoe.
A lot of shoes to be precise.
Witnesses of killed people.
Not all the shoes of all the people.
Just those that weren’t destroyed to hide the evidence
and those that weren’t sold.
Small shoes for children’s legs, men’s shoes, women’s shoes.
And a shoe that poked my eyes and mind.

Heel 5 cm high, stylish for that time.
You were a younger woman probably.
It was important for you to look good, right?
Oh, don’t worry, I do not judge, I am the same.
Except that I do not wear high heels.
I didn’t pack my stuff nor got on the train to Minsk.
I wasn’t worried about the future
nor I found some sort of a weak comfort in feeling attractive in my shoes.
I was neither in that wagon.

Too many people in the wagon.
12 days long travel.
Nowhere to sit, one can only stand.
No pauses for the toilet.
No toilets.

You took them off, right?
But still kept them.
For Minsk.

When wagon door opened, what did you think?
Were you able to jump off the train onto 120 cm lower ground?
Of course you weren’t!

Did you walk barefooted?
No, you probably didn’t.
Some people died in that wagon, remember?
Did you took their shoes?

And later, honey, what did that kind doctor say?
Were you fit for labor or for showers?

Hair.
You liked your hair?
So do I but mine is curly, see.
Oh you had a child?
Yes, yes, show me her picture!
Ah, what a pretty little girl!
Is she 8 on the picture?
Six? She was really tall for her age.
Hahaha, you are a proud mother I see.

How did your little girl feel when it all started?
You had to be brave for her right?
Yes, when you arrive to Minsk, all this will go away.
In the darkness of that wagon, you hid your thoughts from her.
Something was wrong, you knew that.
When her little legs got tired, did you take her in your arms?
Did you hug her and kiss her cheek?
Sung her a lullaby?
Told her a story?
Kept her in your arms as she was sleeping?
Your husband helped?
Indeed, it was fortunate to have him with you.

Were you on the same wagon as a shoe woman?
Oh, you traveled for 4 days?
I agree, you probably weren’t with her then.
You had to separate from your husband when you arrived right?
Did you know what a good doctor decided for him?
Oh, first he dealt with women?
What did he say?
Small children will not be separated from their mothers!
You kept her hand tightly in your hand as they took you to showers.
She died before you right?
In your hands?
And then you?
It took you…what…10 to 20 minutes?
Oh, yes, between her death and yours for you it was an eternity.
I did not mean to be cold nor to poke the wound, I am sorry.

Uhm…lets talk about something else then…
You still didn’t tell me how you lost your hair.
Really? They carried you out like dead animals and shaved your beautiful hair?
What for? Were they selling it or what?
Oh, you died before you could ask them.
After that they dropped you on the pile together with other bodies.
No, you didn’t disappear after that, my dear.
Not even after they turned you and your daughter into ashes.
I saw your hair. I know you were there.

A shower.
Entering Auschwitz and feeling weird.
A thought wants to get out but doesn’t know how.

A weird sense of irony.

People there and then wanted to get out from it.
Now they limited a number of visitors per day
because so many people wants to get in.

People then were told they are going to take a shower.
We are now told we are going to see where they “took a shower”.
People then believed what they were told and thought they are safe.
We now believe that too.
They were wrong, we weren’t.

After Auschwitz, going to the toilet.
It is in the basement, I’ve been told.
They then died nearby.
I pee here wondering if my tampon will hold.

In Birkenau lots of signs “In the process of conservation”.
They then wished for the barracks and walls to disappear to set them free.
We are now trying to conserve them.
I understand why we do it.
Still, it is an irony.

Then. 2000 women and 180 holes for pooping.
Ass next to the ass, no privacy.
Two times a day. Before 10-12 hour work shift and after it.
What is in between?
They were starving so maybe they didn’t need the toilet so often.
Lucky coincidence!

Then. Too few showers.
One needs to wait 4 to 6 weeks for its turn to shower.
Oh my god! What about women?
Imagine a smell of 2000 periods!
Do not worry, as a consequence of starvation, women had no periods.
Another lucky coincidence!

What an irony!

Now. I am walking around Birkenau feeling hungry.
I hadn’t eaten today properly.
When I get back to Krakow, I will buy a big juicy portion of meat,
prepare it in a njam njam way and in the last moment put a cheese on top.
When the cheese melts I will enjoy my meat and cucumber salad with sour cream and garlic.

What a hypocrite!

I distanced myself from the ghosts. It took all my strength not to see my mouse among children’s faces on the photographs of wagons. After I managed to do that, all I felt was hunger in my stomach and irony all around me. Emotions that I expelled while visiting Auschwitz-Birkenau were only now allowed to come out on the surface just to see I am a hypocrite.

I had some idea what was like to live/die there, I have seen and cried while watching the movies. Why did I go there? Why did I willingly become a part of an irony?

Because it is not enough to hear a few words at history classes and learn the facts by heart to get a good grade. That there (or anything anywhere in the world at any time) happened independently of me knowing the details about it or not. My thoughts and feelings are meaningless to this world and cannot change a thing. Still, I owe to the victims to try to know what they went through. This is a way of me giving a voice to them even if I am the only one that hears it.

Daily prompt: Ghost

 

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7 thoughts on “A shoe, hair and a shower

    • Thank you! One needs time to process certain things. I kept wondering how come our guide still tells us a story of those places with so much compassion. I would expect she got immune to the story after telling it day after day. Now I see that is not as easy as it seems.

      Liked by 1 person

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