Tuesday I made it to Auschwitz, the third and last Holocaust site I will be visiting on this trip. Later this afternoon I take a bus to Southeastern Poland and the small city of Sanok, gateway to that section of the Carpathian Mountains. I will there to continue my recuperation from all things taxi, and hopefully, if my new laptop cooperates, coming close to finishing the final draft of my newest book, To Age 13. That I am ready, as I keep repeating, to finally bid goodbye to taxi permanently, is, to put it mildly, an understatement.
Yesterday, while getting bus information for Sanok, I saw the taxi driver who had taken me to the Hotel Felix, my Krakow home the past three nights. Great driver, friendly yet totally professional, reminding me much of my own taxi demeanor, he of 25 plus years driving in Krakow. And there he was, sitting, as he does seven days a week, looking slightly worn, waiting, always waiting. Recognizing me as a fellow veteran, we had quick yet meaningful conversation. Clearly he saw his life position as unchangeable, something he will be doing until physically unable. Not a fate I want to share. Please, no, no, no!
Auschwitz is everything bad that you could or have imagined. Everything you might have heard is true, reality punching you in the face. Like the Holocaust sites I visited previously, the madness and inhumanity is shared but only magnified in scope. Interestingly, my descriptive tongue today is leaden, weighted down by what I saw. That the Germans of that era, regardless of whether they were official members of the Nazi Party, were able to plan, let alone carry out murder on such a scale, says much about German society and culture during the 1930s and 40s.
As I am sure has been stated elsewhere, this kind of hatred cannot be accidental, or in another sense, incidental, confined to a small percentage of the German population. The killing of, not only Jews, but Roma, Gays, Russian soldiers, Polish priests and so many other groups says that German society as a collective whole, was out-of-control. Yes, the treaties post-WW I were unfair but nothing justifies what happened at Auschwitz. Nothing. There is no excuse and there never will be. That is today's and tomorrow's reality, matching the reality of 1939-1945. If the opportunity ever presents itself, go to Auschwitz. You will not have a good time but nonetheless, go. You will understand, once you have passed through the two barbed wire fences, why it was necessary. Go.