The Emotions of Auschwitz

UW Study Abroad - CarlyHello, my name is Carly Cohen. I’m a junior from UW-Madison and I’m majoring in management and human resources with minors in Jewish Studies and Leadership. I’ve been studying the Holocaust since I was four years old, when I started as a student at Milwaukee Jewish Day School. The Holocaust has always been a large part of my life. I’ve studied about it a lot, I have many friends who are survivors, and I’ve made it a priority in life to educate others.

I’m writing this as I’m sitting on the bus leaving Auschwitz-Birkenau and all I can think about is that I can say I left the camp. During the Holocaust over 1.5 million people walked past the same gates I did…but they never walked out.

This has been an intense day filled with lots of emotions. I’m happy, confused, sad, angry, and upset.  We started the day at Auschwitz 1 and walked through the whole camp. We learned about what took place and got to see historic artifacts such as hair, shoes, pots and pans, and personal items (toiletries). We walked through the gas chamber and walked the roads passing all the different blocks. After, we went to Birkenau – I wasn’t prepared for what I was walking in to. It is massive. We saw the hundreds of barracks; the memorial that was created; the destroyed gas chambers/crematoriums; the toilet house and wash house for the women; and the railroad tracks.

I need time to process what I just experienced but am confident this experience is one that I will be able to talk about for the rest of my life.

You might be wondering why I put happy as one of my emotions that I’m experiencing. Today, I was part of 7,500 people who toured Auschwitz-Birkenau. Over 1.7 million people visit every year and that makes me happy. I’m happy that our world isn’t forgetting and I’m happy that so many people travel to see the horrors that took place and to make sure that this never happens again.  View the trip’s photo album here.

– Carly Cohen, University of Wisconsin-Madison