Thoughts From Hell

aushwitz

Hell erupts on the Earth

My friend, Eden Vigil Director Lowell Bliss, traveled to Poland to attend the United Nations climate change talks, dubbed COP 24, and toured the Nazi death camp, Auschwitz. He filed Facebook reports. I found this especially poignant, and I share it with his permission.

Deadly moments for a Holocaust tourist:
1. Your tour director apologizing for the long wait in the cold to go through security, just feet away from where twice daily roll calls were held for the prisoners.
2. Saying “no thank you” to a friend who offers you a piece of chocolate because you are on a diet, and then visiting the “starvation cell” where Fr. (Maximilian) Kolbe and many others died from lack of food.
3. Enduring the inconvenience of finding two zloty to pay for the use of the WC, and then listening to the tour guide explain the toilet building at Birkenau: “The prisoners entered the building on one end and sat down. The guards began counting down from five, and then began beating the prisoners out the other end of the door, whether they were “done” or not, so that a new group could come in. The next bathroom break was not until the end of the day.”

lowell bliss

Lowell Bliss 

4. Being told before the tour begins that if you want to sit somewhere warm, you can go back to the tour bus, and then finding out that prisoners coveted the work of emptying the latrines … because it was indoors work, and the feces gave off natural heat.
5. Given the option of visiting the cafes at the museum entrance to purchase a hot cup of coffee or a slice of pizza, and then seeing the display of a prisoners daily ration: a cup of coffee in the morning, a bowl of vegetable soup (likely cabbage) after work with a slab of bread and pat of butter. This was enough calories to keep a person alive and working for an average of three months.
6. Annoyed that my price-gouger of an AirBNB has not supplied wifi for 48 hours, then imagining Corrie and Betsy ten Boom sleeping nine to a bunk, twenty-seven to a bunk bed, on straw, with only three blankets per bunk.

We all have “survivors guilt” at a scene like this, and the only antidote is gratefulness: the coffee I drank for breakfast, the blanket I slept under last night, the hot shower I took this morning, the generosity of a friend to have even offered chocolate, the communion of saints with Betsy ten Boom and Maximilliam Kolbe, the service of the Brussels Airlines flight attendants in transporting me to Poland, the opportunity to help write a different story for the world here at COP 24, — for these things, O Lord, I give thee thanks.

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About Charles Redfern

Charles Redfern is a writer, activist, and clergyman living in Connecticut with his wife and family. He's currently writing two books, with more in his head.

View all posts by Charles Redfern

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