Saturday, August 05, 2006

Work shall set you free

When in Krakow, you go to see Auschwitz.

And there it is, just past a small sleepy town in the hills. As we drove up in our lumbering camper van, passing and being passed by much bigger tour vans, I kept thinking about horror movies where the old house is haunted because it was built on Indian burial grounds. So who would live next door to Auschwitz?

I think about what I know of the war and how I know it, and I realize that my strongest impressions come from literary narratives; Anne Frank and Maus. And that on this trip I've been to the locale of both those stories. In each case, what's most shocking is what's just outside the frame. This is the Anne Frank house? On the middle of this lovely street? In this beautiful city? You mean the war happened here?

(From Maus)

Birkenau, the site of even greater slaughter, is nearby.

I felt powerless to have an Authentic Emotional Response to the camps. Was I supposed to discover new feelings of horror and anger?

When it was time to leave, however, I remember being glad that the gates were open.

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