Arbeit macht frei

I visited the concentration camps at Auschwitz and Birkenau on Wednesday. Above the entrance (see photograph) you'll see the words "arbeit macht fret" - or in English, work shall set you free. This was obviously a guise to cover the gruesome nature of the camps.

I couldn't possible imagine the horror of being sent there as part of a death sentence, but I did try and imagine what it may have been like to work there as an employee. (Apparently, as many as 7,000 people were employed there at the camp's peak). What I mean by this is that work can be an enormous distraction from what is going on around us. After a while it may have been possible to become de-sensitised (to a point) to what the camp was really about.

3 comments:

Canadian Headhunter said...

Why did you happen to go there, James?

James said...

Good question. I never gave it any deep thought beforehand. First of all, I don't go for beach holidays, etc. Second, Krakow is a place that I wanted to visit many years ago whilst Inter-Railing, but at the time you needed a visa and I didn't get one in advance. Third and finally, the events of WWI and WWII have always interested me. For example, I finally went to visit the Somme a few years ago and found it deeply moving. Most of all, I like to visit places that made an impression on me as a child and at the time never thought I'd ever visit them. Another example was visiting The Falls, Shankhill Road (Belfast) and the Bogside in Derry last summer - places where English folk wouldn't fear to tread just a few years ago. A less morbid example was visiting River Plate's football stadium in Buenos Aires, which hosted the 1978 World Cup Final. It's hard to explain, but I was probably an impressionable child and as an adult I've taken to exploring what interested me at a such an impressionable age.

Anonymous said...

You just made little mistake : the words that you can see entering in Auschwitz are "Arbeit macht frei" (and not fret)