Auschwitz / Auschwitz II – Birkenau

It has now been two weeks since we visited in the infamous death camp of Auschwitz. Much has happened between then and now, but I feel that I can finally get my thoughts down coherently about the experience. Having learned generally about Auschwitz and the horrors committed there in high school, I was somewhat mentally prepared for the visit. However, I was completely unprepared for the areas that the tour guides ask you not to photograph. I did not know that there is a room with a case filled with thousands of pounds of human hair. I was unaware that there is a basement in one of the buildings with multiple kinds of jail cells aimed at different kinds of torture for their inmates. I did not know that walking into a gas chamber was part of the tour. These experiences were not something that I could prepare for, and it has taken me these two weeks to fully decompress. What made it harder was how perfect of a day we had. There was sunshine, a nice breeze; It was very confusing to be in such a place during such a nice day.

I do not know much, if anything, about my family’s history other than generally having European roots, so seeing Yad Vashem’s Book of Names was more than a little shocking. In Yad Vashem’s sponsored building they have a large book about twenty feet long and about three feet tall filled with four million names of victims of the Holocaust. On one of the pages, there were hundreds of victims with the last name Laufman, a potentially old spelling of my last name, Laughman. Thinking that I may have had distant relatives who were murdered in the Holocaust is a hard realization from someone who has no knowledge of any Jewish history. Since visiting the camp I have spent the last two weeks wondering about these people. Were they at all related to my great grandparents? How common of a name could it be? Is it fair for them to stand out more to me than other names in the book? I suppose that overall I just don’t know how to feel other than sad, but I think that is part of the experience.

Spencer L

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