Must have had too much to drink last night. Head’s pounding. Paracetamol. Alice seems OK, she ate a hearty breakfast; couldn’t face it myself, piece of dry toast. Perhaps I’ve got hepatitis? No. A few too many now and again won’t hurt.
Ah, here’s the coach. Don’t know how today’s going to go … Auschwitz, you can’t visit Kraków and not visit the place, but you know how I am with smells, ugh, the thought makes me heave. Perhaps I’ve got liver failure and this nausea is the start of it.
Bank upon bank of Nissan huts, at least, that’s what mum and dad called them, is it technically correct? Look at those watchtowers. This is where they filmed, no wonder it all looks so familiar, unsettlingly familiar, oh God I do feel sick.
So many teenagers on this new plastic-scented luxury coach, they look grim. Wonder if they have the same feeling that they ought to see it. Here’s our guide a quick talking heavy accent but clear enough. “Walk this way, here is where the women and children … see the hair? See the shoes?” A graphic explanation of what happened, girls and boys sobbing, stunned silence from me and Alice, and the smell – I knew I’d feel sick. I am sick. Maybe it is cancer. Alice has cancer in her family, she looks green too; we can’t speak to each other but hold hands going through the rooms with their gross remains. Imagination doesn’t need to work overtime to envisage what it was like here.
Is it worse for Jews coming here? Is it horrible for Germans? What do the locals think and feel about it? Perhaps I have a virus? So sick, sick at seeing all this stuff, sick of thinking endless questions. Perhaps this place makes people sick because of the unanswerable questions.
Don’t talk to me Alice; don’t even look at me holding a hankie over my face so I don’t have to inhale the aromas of dust, death and decay. Are these things preserved in some way? Pink shoes, children’s shoes. Nuggets of gold from mouths, we are told. Mothers and brothers, fathers and sisters. The children, oh, oh, the children, all all gone.
Polly Robinson © 2012