Birkenenau in German means a “meadow of birch trees,” just as Weidenau, the name of my home town, means a “meadow of willows.”  Both conjure a beautiful, peaceful scene.  But Birkenau, the bigger one of two Auschwitz camps created by the Nazis, is the most gruesome opposite of peace and serenity one could imagine.

A German by birth, I always dreaded being confronted with the physical reality of the Holocaust even though I was just 5 years old when the war was over.  Now, as a 76-year old, a one-day 62-mile “bicycle ride for the living” from Auschwitz to Krakow finally brought me to the murderous place.

I took what I saw in silence, as many of the visitors around me.  Just as Adorno noted, “Nach Auschwitz ein Gedicht zu schreiben ist barbarisch” — to write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric — words failed me, or they seemed so petty in the face of the remnants of crime of such magnitude.

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3 Responses to Birkenau

  1. Mechthild Doepner de Alarcon

    Das hat mich sehr beruehrt . Wir haben als Schueler ( FJMG Weidenau) Bergen Belsen besucht u. sahen Dank Louis Thomas zahlreiche Filme u. Dias ueber das 3. Reich u. bes. den Holocaust. Bin nicht sicher , ob ich den Mut haette, Auschwitz zu besuchen. ————- Ansonsten, herzlichen Glueckwunsch zu Ihrem Nobelpreis. Ich hatte das uebrigens bei unserem 50. Abiturtreffen 2016 ( fast ) vorhergesagt. “Most likely to succeed from FJMG”.

    • Mechthild Doepner de Alarcon

      Kindly inform me of your “moderations” in advance; in all fairness. Would be happy to submit my commentary in English. if necessary. However, as a foreign lg. teacher. I like to do all I can to encourage foreign lg. study and work against U.S. ( n.b. NOT American ) insularity &isolationism.

  2. Mechthild Doepner de Alarcon

    I would be happy to translate my remarks; although I do not like to encourage U.S. ( NOT American ) monolingualism & isolationism.

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