I have been in a gas chamber twice now and both times regardless of whether or not I try to avoid it I lose all ability to breathe or even catch the slightest breath. It is an absolutely suffocating experience to share a space where countless of innocent people not only lost their lives but were victims of the terror our humanity allowed to occur. My first concentration camp was Mauthausen in Austria, and I can still vividly remember the feeling of shock that overtook me as I toured the camp and the swift escape of air from my lungs as I entered the gas chamber. However Auschwitz was different. I was no longer in shock I was fully and completely feeling everything. My expectations of utter shock were fleeting as tears streamed down my face over and over again and as I held back the urge to be sick. The tears would not stop and all I could think about was the fear that was once present throughout the camp.The fear that was so great you can sense it. I wanted nothing more than to ease that fear for those people, but that would be to complete the impossible… or erase our past, our mistakes.
This feeling is so intense it sends a chill through your entire body. It is a mixture of anger, disbelief and grief .You are compelled to run out of the gas chamber, out of the confinement and scream but just like those who suffered you must stay and you must feel with all that you are able to just so you can somehow attempt to empathize and to grieve with those who have been so violently affected by our past. I will never be able to understand the Holocaust, Hitler or how we enabled the past to embark in such horrific actions and I do not in any way pretend to understand simply because it is not possible. After touring my second concentration camp all I can do is to simply feel and remember those who have been affected because I believe that is all we can do. We must honor the dead with the living.