BY HANNAH CRITES
I took one picture when I was in Auschwitz.
I went to Auschwitz with no plans of taking pictures out of respect of the dead. I have wanted to visit since learning about it in my 7th grade history class. It fascinated me. I just couldn’t fathom that such a place with so much evil and death could exist on this earth.
As I grew older and began to understand more and more the horrors of the holocaust, I realized that I didn’t want to go as a tourist. I wanted to go with the purpose of self gain and adventure, but in memory of those who were murdered there. I wanted to be able to really reflect on the events that occurred in that horrible place and pay my respects to my brothers and sisters who died there.
The atmosphere of that place is one of dread; of hopelessness. It rained almost the entirety of my visit, which helped create this mood of misery. It was cold and wet, I had been traveling since 8 p.m. the day before, didn’t sleep on the bus at all, and really just wanted a comfy bed and long nap.
I was excited to get there and I really tried to put myself in the shoes of the people who were in the camp. After a while, it was depressing. I got really upset and cried for those who had to see such terror. I got angry at those who allowed such a thing to happen and didn’t try to stop it.
Auschwitz got to my head. The gloom and death surrounded me, and I couldn’t handle it. You want to mourn while in Auschwitz, but anger is a dangerous feeling to have while visiting. I tend to dwell in my anger and let it steam and boil over, and that’s never good. But luckily, I wore my St. Michael the Archangel medal that day and when I was close to hitting boiling point during the tour, I felt the cold metal chain on the back of my neck and prayed a silent prayer to St. Michael.
I craved to be free from the gloom and sadness. I wanted to remember those who passed, and not have the whispers of anger and hatred echoing in my head.
My eyes fell to the ground and I noticed the smallest, simplest pink wild flower, growing strong and healthy from the ground that so much misery and death had occurred. It was small but so beautiful.
What I saw in that flower in the grass was hope. Despite the gloom and sadness of Auschwitz, there was still life; there was still hope and beauty in the world. I found comfort in that simple little flower.
If I was able to find that in such a small, simple flower, I can only imagine where the prisoners found it in their struggles. It’s something I reflected on a lot while on the pilgrimage in Poland, where do people find comfort in times of darkness? Why was it that simple tiny flower that gave me hope?
For Poland in its time with Communist USSR, it was a simple man from a small village who became pope and encouraged them to not be afraid.
I scrambled to get my phone out of my purse to take a picture of this tiny sign of hope, because I need those moments more often in my own life, moments when I can find even the tiniest bit of good in times of struggle, because if I don’t, that can be very destructive and ruin my soul.
It’s a reminder for me that a light in the mix of darkness cannot be overpowered by the darkness. A reminder to keep my eyes open to those reminders because they are what keep me going on the adventure of life.