Auschwitz may or may not be on your list of places to visit. It’s not your typical holiday fare, to stand on the ground where millions were murdered. A trip to Auschwitz is not a day easily spent. It is somber and it is difficult, and it is meant to be. Living history is what makes it real for us, turns a textbook event into something concrete that happened to real people, not very long ago in our human history. The evilness makes it feel surreal, and it takes a real emotional impact to ground the experience for us once again.
The act of remembering belongs to all of us. This is how we heal. It’s also how we learn, and how we make sure it never happens again. It seems just as important today as it’s ever been to challenge prejudice, discrimination and hatred.
And it’s a tribute to the dead. Millions of lives lost, cruelly. People made to suffer, to live in agony, to live with the constant loss of loved ones, to live with ghosts, to live without the promise of a future. There are fates worse than death.
And it’s in memory of the survivors, those who survived the camps but lived with the scars. Who were faced with the daunting task of rebuilding. Who struggled with grief. Who scraped their hearts raw in the search for forgiveness. Who went on, alone.
We are all saddened\enraged by what we know of the Jewish genocide at the hands of the Nazis. The Holocaust is a dark shadow for humanity. We all owe a debt of some kind, and we pay it in part by bearing witness.
Three Days in Auschwitz is a documentary by Philippe Mora covering his own trips to visit the site. His mother had been thrown in a concentration camp and was rescued from it just one day before she would have been shipped to Auschwitz herself. Eight other family members perished there. It’s a tough subject but we’re soothed by its graceful score by Eric Clapton.
Mora’s film is not filled with facts or figures, none of the statistics we’re all familiar with anyway. It’s just a humble attempt to grapple with its reality: an act of mourning, an act of vengeance.
Visiting Auschwitz with a heavy heart and a troubled stomach, you find the thing that speaks to you: will it be one shoe, left behind? The remains of an oven built to roast people? The electrified, bard-wired fence that represented hopelessness to the millions of people imprisoned and starving behind it? For Mara it seems to be the train tracks. It’s an image he comes back to often. Auschwitz was chosen by Hitler because of its easy access by train. Bodies were crammed into cars, many dying before they reached their final destination. The trains were incessant. People were “sorted” as they disembarked, some sent straight to death, others sent into slavery first. The train tracks great disturb him.
And that’s the thing. A visit to Auschwitz may make you feel sick. Watching this documentary may do the same. It should. Don’t turn away. Don’t say it’s “too hard.” Remembering is the easiest part of this thing, and you’re lucky that this is the role you were born to play. If ignorance and hatred are what allow atrocities like these to be committed, then education and remembrance can help fight them. Do your part: it’s available on DVD and VOD and in select theatres September 9th.