Socialist Worker

Never again - witnessing the horror of Nazi death camps

Kate Hurford and Saba Shiraz told Socialist Worker about Unite Against Fascism’s visit to the former Nazi extermination camp

Issue No. 2379

Railway tracks leading to Auschwitz

Railway tracks leading to Auschwitz (Pic: John Lockwood)


Forty five people from all parts of the British anti-fascist movement travelled to Krakow in Poland last week to visit Auschwitz. 

Saba said, “It was so horrific that it seems unreal and it still has not fully sunk in that such a genocide could have ever taken place”.

The trip included a delegation of Unite union members and students from the NUS Black Students’ Campaign. Older activists who had fought with the Anti Nazi League joined younger ones helped by local trade unions to fund the trip.

Saba said, “All I can remember being taught at school then was how it was the work of one man, Adolf Hitler. I didn’t fully understand the seriousness of what had occurred during that period until now.” 

On the first day the visitors travelled round the city in small groups. 

On the second day they walked through the ghetto that the Jewish population was forced to live in during the German occupation. 

Kate said, “The ghetto worryingly brought to mind the condition of Roma people in some countries today. 

“What was particularly sickening was that the top of the wall surrounding it was shaped like Jewish tombstones. 

“We also saw a memorial of chairs covering the square for the many who were shot on one day for resisting deportation.”

Factory

They also viewed the factory where Oskar Schindler employed Jewish workers to save them from death camps. 

Saba said, “The atmosphere inside filled me with admiration for resistance to the Nazis.”

On the third day they made the journey to the death camps, Auschwitz 1 and Auschwitz 2: Birkenau. 

Kate said, “When we got to Auschwitz-Birkenau, one of the first things that struck me was the vast size of the two camps. 

“Between 1940-1945, the camps held around 1,300,000 prisoners and were the sites of the murder of 1,100,000 of the Nazi victims, 90 percent of those killed were Jewish. 

“The Nazis tried to come up with the most efficient methods to carry out their programme of mass-extermination. They shot people until they came up with the use of gas chambers.”

Saba said, “I think that being shown so explicitly what happened was massively important. It has made me understand that this devastating time in history cannot be reduced to the actions of one mentally unhinged man.”

At the root of the Holocaust and Hitler’s rise to power was the wider ideology of fascism. 

Saba said, “Leaving the camps I finally knew what we mean on demonstrations when we chant the words ‘Never again!’ 

“We must draw from the lessons of the past and never underestimate fascist groups”.


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Tue 12 Nov 2013, 17:43 GMT
Issue No. 2379
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