Posted On 3. August 2016 In WYD2016

Visit to Auschwitz – Birkenau

WYD2016, by Sebastián Denis •

“We prayed at the memorial that Pope Francis will visit tomorrow”, the youths from Paraguay commented on the afternoon Thursday, 28 July. “That morning we went to Auschwitz and could not return in time for the Pope’s welcome because the visit to the concentration camp is by numerical order and ours happened to be on that day and it is far away.”

Situated some 43km west of Krakow, Auschwitz was the main extermination centre in the history of Nazism. It is estimated that 1.3 million people were sent there, of which some 1.1 million — about 90% — were Jews. It is also here that St. Maximilian Kolbe and Edith Stein (St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross) and countless others were martyred.

The three main camps were:

  • Auschwitz I, the original concentration camp, which served as the administrative center for the entire complex. Almost 70,000 Polish intellectuals and Soviet prisoners of war died there.
  • Auschwitz II (Birkenau), an extermination camp and the place where more than a million deportees were executed. This section housed the women.
  • Auschwitz III (Buna – Monowitz), used as a slave labor camp for the IG Farben company. (Source: Wikipedia)

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The rainy and gray day allowed us to imagine the horror

Before entering Auschwitz I, the youths celebrated Mass under the rain, which did not stop during those days…All the participants from Latin America from Ecuador, Mexico, Paraguay and Argentina, who were staying at the school that hosted them were there. Afterwards they visited Auschwitz II (Birkenau). “The rainy and gray day provided an atmosphere that allowed us to imagine some of the horror”, they commented.

After all these experiences, it was very good to stop at the Shrine of Rokinitka, close to Gliwice on the return trip.

“Finally we prepared with all our strength for the Stations of the Cross”, concluded their report of the day. “And we hoped that it would not rain during the weekend vigil”.

Original: Spanish. Translation: Celina M. Garza, San Antonio, TX USA

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