Why Visit Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp?

Alexandros Xanalatos, LLB student, UCLan Cyprus

World war two, a dark, bloody and regretful point of history that shook not only the European but also the International community who agreed to unite and compose a document (UDHR) that would outline the human rights. This declaration was a desperate effort for prevention of future war attempts and crimes against humanity, inspired deeply from the atrocities committed during the war by the Nazi regime, including the highest crime of genocide in camps like that of Auschwitz-Birkenau. There are many reasons for young people to visit such a historical institution, the first and utmost being the sheer raw experience of trailing in the same paths and rooms that prisoners once walked through and faced hard labour, abuse and ultimately death. In most modern states, people learn about these events from an early age in school, through word of mouth or documentaries. Nonetheless, it is often hard to conceptualize the severity and importance of these events and subsequently link them to the modern perception of human rights. Through physically exposing oneself to the history straight from the source of one of the largest modern genocides, they can truly engrave in their mind the significance of being fully aware of their rights but also the constant violations of human rights in the wider universal community. This would essentially breed a more powerful motive to help prevent similar incidents as soon as possible, as a sense of morality tied to an emotional experience will almost certainly be a factor for information and awareness to be spread, starting from the local level.

A trip to Auschwitz is undoubtedly a mortal reminder of the frailty of humans, something that due to the first world’s convenient way of life, only a direct contact with the actual horrors that took place would trigger. It would not be just an informative vacation, but it would rather be a direct awakening of what hate, intolerance and discrimination, even in their seemingly initial stages, can grow into. After familiarizing oneself first-hand, with the events and the consequences of extreme views and expression of these views, then it is inevitable to also see global issues like discrimination in all its forms, slavery, war or free speech infringements through a more critical scope. That would contribute to towards a vigilant attitude and a now embedded filter for questioning and challenging the current political and social developments.

If I get the chance to visit Auschwitz-Birkenau, I plan to give a presentation to my scouts group informing them of the historical context of World War 2 and then displaying the importance of actively challenging human right infringing actions by giving the horrific but most definitely know example of the holocaust and my personal experience of visiting the infamous concentration camp. Additionally, I will share my fruitful experience with my close family as well as my friends aspiring that they will as well be motivated to visit a place like this, that stands as one of the most notorious monuments of Europe and the world.

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