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.


  1. We must have just missed eachother, as I got back from a rather rainy week in Poland on the 3rd June. Warsaw and Krakow. Just fascinating to see a country on the up just 20 years in from free elections. They have a way to go in some respects (1960s rolling stock – trains and trams), and appalling roads, but we loved it.

    And Auschwitz was something we felt we had to see for various personal reasons. It was well done, with the main countries involved being assigned a housing block to display their take on the camp, and what happened.

    The enormity of the experience has really set me thinking about how on earth you begin to forgive.

    Someone said on TV last week that there are some young Germans who just don’t believe it, and even a few who still think it was the right thing to do. Frightening.

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