We’re having a couple of days in Krakow – dull, overcast and wet. That’s what you expect in Poland in June? They’re celebrating the 20th anniversary of the end of Communist rule today. That makes me feel old.
Auschwitz is one of those things which one simply has to do. Thousands of people were being well managed and we had an excellent guide. She was well-informed and passionate about what she was showing us. Just occasionally I wondered about the roots of her strong feelings – and what it must do to you to tell this story every day of your working life. She showed us the house where the Commandant lived with his family – as in ‘The Boy with the Striped Pyjamas’ – and allowed herself to wonder if his children playing around their swimming pool so close could smell the camp and the crematoria. And she told us with a certain satisfaction that he had been hanged from that gallows just there.
It’s the kind of experience which needs a bit of time to think about. But there is a sort of dilemma in it. One goes and looks at the unimaginable horrors of it .. look at and let it bear in upon your soul. But it’s important to remember that these horrors tell you important things about all human nature. So they are far away from us and close at the same time. Like the ‘mindless killers’ tag in Northern Ireland. No – not mindless killers. People like us who, in the context in which they found themselves, lost their moral rootedness.