In a small countryside just outside of Linz, Austria, my emotions run uneasy. Chills climb throughout my body. You can’t really prepare yourself for visiting a place like a concentration camp.
While Auschwitz was the largest concentration and extermination camp in Europe, Mauthausen was one of the last liberated labour and death camps. For almost 7 years, the confines of these walls and what happened within them was a nightmare for so many men, women, husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, and children.
Warning: some of the content that follows may be disturbing.
At this point of my visit, I started to feel a sense of guilt. I’m not German nor Jewish and I didn’t live through this terrible period, but I still can’t come to grips with how we, humanity, let this happen? Why didn’t the World do more to help, and sooner? How could the guards torture innocent people and live with blood on their hands? Didn’t they feel any remorse? These rooms were places I had only learned about in books and documentaries yet I still had so many questions.
Mauthausen stands today, not as a tourist attraction by any means, but as a way to try to understand what upwards of 350,000 victims lived through at this camp. It is a memorial to pay tribute to the victims and to ensure something like this never happens again.
Editor’s note: This story ironically has a positive ending for some. In my research, I learned there are prisoners who did manage to survive life here, including one survivor named Eva.
If you’re in Poland, I highly recommend visiting Auschwitz concentration camp the largest concentration and extermination camp in Europe. It’s best to go on guided tour with a knowledgeable tour guide. There are excellent guided day trips from different cities like Krakow, Warsaw, or Wroclaw.