Tuesday, March 31, 2015

{European Excursions Part 2: Czech and Auschwitz}

That was one long bus ride. Lots of sitting. But we drove through Austria, and it was beautiful. We only took a rest stop there, but I can officially say that I have been to Austria. We arrived in Czech at about midnight, and the walk up to the hotel was really long. Everyone collected their luggage and got their room number and we went to bed, ready for the choir rehearsals the next day.

I woke up the next morning super excited for the day ahead. I was in Czech, and I was going to be a part of the Fusion choir! I was also looking forward to making new friends. After breakfast, we all went downstairs to begin the rehearsal. I hadn't really listened to any of the songs beforehand, so I was a little nervous about that, but thankfully I learned the songs quickly over the weekend.

Although I liked to sing, the fact still remained that I hadn't really gotten to know any of the Fusion kids very well. I was shy, and I didn't really know how to communicate with the kids since they all spoke a different language when they were with their friends. I didn't want to ask them to speak in English, but I didn't know what else to do. I sat with my dad. I talked to my aunt and uncle. But I didn't really stretch myself to the point of going up to someone and talking of my own accord. It was more like they came to me. But I'm so happy that I made the friends that I did. They all made my experience so much better and more memorable. Once you've been a part of Fusion, even just for a week, it's hard to get it out of your system. I had been bitten by the Fusion bug and I didn't want to leave, even though I still had a week and a half left.

Before we actually started singing, we did a few warmups and games to get to know each other a little better. At first I didn't really participate because I was still feeling a little shy, as I was the only American in Fusion. We did a little ice breaker, and one of the questions was who buys your underwear. It was kind of embarrassing, but it definitely loosened everyone up! I was starting to feel more comfortable with everyone, and that's when I started enjoying myself a lot more, because I had people to talk to. I laughed a lot that weekend. We did a lot of singing and in my opinion we sounded pretty good.

After a weekend full of rehearsing, we set off for Poland, but before going to the church we were going to stay at, we visited Auschwitz, a German concentration camp in WWII.

I'm not sure if "looking forward" was the right phrase for going to Auschwitz, but I did want to see it, even though it was a terrible part of history.

Photo by: Marko Spindler

There were an incredible amount of buildings in Auschwitz that were museum-type places. Several of them had the Jew’s possessions in them. Rooms and rooms of shoes, clothes, eyeglasses, suitcases, even hair.

Photo by: Marko Spindler

In one room, which was the hardest building for me, was the room that held the shoes. There was a glass case that held children’s shoes. Thousands of them. And those were just the ones that had been found and preserved. There were shoes in there that would fit a two-year old. It was heartbreaking to see that the Nazis had shown no mercy, even to those who couldn’t even talk, let alone walk.

Photo by: Marko Spindler

Then there were the suitcases. So many people had brought them, in the hope of one day packing it up again and leaving that horrible place, and not very many of them got that chance.

Photo by: Marko Spindler

The gas chamber was very dark and eerie. Upon entering the chamber, there was a long, dark concrete hallway with white marks up and down the walls. The tour guide informed us that those marks were fingernail scratches. When the Jews found out they were being gassed and not cleaned, they began clawing the walls in terror, and they are now left as a permanent mark. There was equipment in the chamber, but I was feeling sick to my stomach and I had to get out as fast as I could. It was too terrible for me to grasp.

Photo By: Marko Spindler

The actual concentration camp was huge. As far as you could see there were rows and rows of guard towers, rows and rows of houses for the Jews. The day that I went it was freezing outside (literally) and the wind was terrible. It was difficult to concentrate on what was happening around, but it was hard to miss the barbed wire around everything and gas chambers everywhere you looked. My dad and I went into some of the houses that the Jews had been put in, and the living situations in there were awful. There were bunk beds that were barely big enough for two, and 10-15 prisoners were mercilessly shoved into the cramped beds, if you could even call them that.

As we left Auschwitz, everyone was rather subdued. We had just witnessed one of the most terrible tragedies in history. Just talking about it with my friends was an uncomfortable subject and the conversations never lasted long. I’ve learned about the Holocaust and WWII, but it never really felt real to me. It never felt real that someone would have enough hatred to try and destroy a whole population of people. Experiencing it firsthand shed it into a new light. It really happened. Families were separated here. People were tortured right where I was standing. Children, grandparents, moms and dads were all killed here. Just because they were Jews. They didn't deserve for that to happen. It’s hard to put into words just how horrible it was because it’s beyond anything I could fathom. I hope that Auschwitz will be a reminder that we should NEVER let anything like that happen again.

* * * * *
After Auschwitz we headed to Katowice, Poland. We were about to do the thing that everyone had been waiting for! It was time to do our Fusion concerts and launch Fusion in Poland. 
To Be Continued

1 comment:

  1. I loved the posts. I can't wait to read the third part......hint, hint. :)