Up at six and picked up by our minibus at seven, we were on an hour’s drive to a place infamous throughout the entire planet, a place which God ( whichever one you believe in) abandoned and a place where unspeakable deeds were committed. In whose name and why, I personally cannot understand although I’ve learned about the perverse ideology that brought it into being. Nationalism, as represented by the Nazis in Germany, put forward the notion that certain groups of people were responsible for the ills of the country.

The Nazi race theory saw many groups as “undesirables”. These included Jews, Roma, homosexuals and the mentally and physically disabled. ┬áThese were not to be part of the new racially pure Arian Germany. So gradually it turned the people against them whilst accusing them of all sorts of things for which they were not actually responsible. Once the people were persuaded that those groups were indeed the problem, they then dehumanised them, which made it easier to remove them from life itself.

It’s that bit that got to us. OK, the mass extermination is beyond awful and no-one can say otherwise. But the treatment dished out to men, women and children from all over Europe and of all ethnic backgrounds was so incredibly horrendous that you are left puzzling over how ANY human being could be so cruel to another of the species. And also the meticulous detail involved in organising the extermination of the Jews, how they were criticised, reviled, displaced, abused and finally murdered by a plan that came to be “The Final Solution”. A solution to a problem that only certain people perceived to exist, people who must take full responsibility for what happened where we were today, only 72 years ago, only 8 years before I was born.


Our minibus took us initially to Auschwitz on a bleak autumnal day of dark cloud and persistent rain – perfectly suiting where we were going. Our guide led us through 2 hours of visits to the death camp itself, outside and inside. We had been prepared by a video we were shown on the minibus, a film shot by a cameraman of the Russian army which first liberated the camps. The cameraman had little idea of what he was about to film and was brutally traumatised by what was found there. So, entering the gate under the “Arbeit macht frei” sign, we steeled ourselves for what was to come. I decided to build myself an emotional wall before I went in, so dealt with what I saw and heard better than expected, knowing when I’d seen or heard enough and simply walking away.

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The above photo was taken from within one of the Auschwitz gas chambers. I have no words to describe this place.

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The entrance to Birkenau

At about 11.30 we had an early lunch in the bus park but were quickly whisked away just 3 kms up the road to Auschwitz II – Birkenau, a death camp which was the biggest in Europe and dealt with 10 times as many victims as Auschwitz itself. We saw in graphic detail the original buildings, the rail tracks which transported the Jews in but never out, the selection process whereby they were chosen to work or separated immediately from their loved ones, taken for a “shower” and gassed with Zylon-B. The original undressing rooms, shower rooms (gas chambers), and crematoria are all still there although crumbling and broken. These poor souls were duped into thinking that, after their shower, they would get dressed, be reunited with their families and housed in the barracks where they would live and work until the war was over. 10 minutes after entering the area they were all dead. Latterly, as the Soviet army drew nearer and nearer, up to 8000 men, women and children, including babies, were snuffed out every day in this most wretched of places.

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By three in the afternoon, we were back in our room and as has become the habit on busy visit days, we both had a well-deserved siesta. Dinner was taken at that wee restaurant next door where the food was if anything even better than last night and once again embarrassingly cheap. We’re packing now and will be back in Scotland around lunchtime tomorrow.

We had a great discussion over dinner about our latest jaunt around Europe and agreed on many aspects of our journey. We are both entirely converted to travelling by train again and can honestly tell you that, having booked on the Internet in our flat in Dundee, the whole thing has panned out pretty much as we hoped it would have. The travel was brilliant, the accommodation varied from good to excellent, the places we stayed were all in good areas with top-class transport links and, above all, they were all very safe. We’ve had a ball and I hope you’ve enjoyed following our adventures.

Bye, bye for now!

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