All Photos: Keith Gandy
I went to Auschwitz for the first time this week. I probably was prepared for the trip to an extermination camp simply because I had previously been to concentration and detention camps in Germany where death was dealt out in the most gruesome fashion. The experience was brief and shocking - scenes would be with me during the 12 hour drive home (traffic and stops lengthened the trip - estimated to be 8 hours by my GPS and Google Maps). I share some of my images and thoughts.
Auschwitz is a three-fold camp location. The main location consists of brick buildings once housing a polish army, taken over by the Nazis, then housing 700-1000 inmates. Individual buildings now houses exhibits and guides you through the atrocities. One building houses hair taken from female corpses and sold to weave cloth and netting. Another room in the same building has piles of shoes of victims, including one pile of children's shoes. Hairbrushes and toothbrushes is also another pile. Suitcases documenting names is another exhibit. Hallways are lined with framed photos of victims. 90% of all prisoners (1.1 million people) who arrived were executed.
Auschwitz-Birkenau is another location three miles away which is the notorious extermination location. People brought in on freight cars would be sorted - some determined to be strong enough to be slave labor were housed (up to 90,000); the remainder were marched the back of the expansive camp straight to "showers" to be disinfected - a cloak for the real intention: To be gassed with Zyklon B gas - which took 10-15 minutes to exterminate the last person crowded into the chamber. In 1944 people began uprising and the crematoriums were disassembled and moved to other locations. Knowing that they were to be overrun by approaching Russian soldiers, the gas chambers and entire facility was dynamited to cover their deeds.
It was at Auschwitz I contemplated the thought: Some people determined that a selection of society was unimportant and unworthy, opening the door for unspeakable autrocities.
Against that thought, I realized that the church must be a movement of believers that embrace God's declaration - everyone is of value - so valuable that He would give his Son, so that they might have life. We must stand firm and be a place of safety for the marginalized of our society. We must be a platform where life is dispensed - not because we have life to give, but because Jesus does.
Let us love, as He loved. Think about that the next time politics or 'reason' demand you to marginalize a group - no matter their skin color, origin or passport color. Even criminals need His forgiveness, grace and love - give grace a face.