Eastern Europe Trip: Our Visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau

It was, quite simply, an experience like no other. A four hour visit touring Auschwitz-Birkenau for thirty two students and four teachers from St. Paul’s High School was an experience that we will carry with us for the rest of our lives.

Never will we forget exactly how we felt and what we thought as we learned about the horrors and gruesome acts of violence that went on at both Auschwitz and Birkenau. However, what we took away from our experience at the camps and what we learned about this abominable act of evil is much more important in helping us understand the injustices that are taking place in the world today and what we can do as individuals to overcome this evil that exists right now.

When we arrived at Auschwitz-Birkenau in the early afternoon, it was incomprehensible and somewhat eerie how the camps silently gave off evil vibes. As we toured around the entirety of the camps, a sense of enlightenment and awareness came over us all.

What had happened at these two particular camps, the insensible acts of evil, became much more real when walking on to the exact location where thousands upon thousands of innocent lives were lost. With each step and each terrifying fact spewed out from our tour guide about Nazi torture tactics or death counts, the tour grew more and more emotional as the afternoon wore on.

One of the most impactful moments of the tour and the height of our emotional visit came when we actually entered a gas chamber, still completely intact, which was used by the Nazis to either burn the bodies of the dead or exterminate Jewish populations in large amounts.

Our visit ended with a small vigil in the back end of the Birkenau camp where Father Boutilier led us in a few prayers along with a few other students. These prayers allowed us time to reflect back on our day which allowed us to start to fully absorb what we had experienced and learned in the last few hours.  This experience was nothing less than extraordinary yet a strong reminder that evil has no place in the world today.

Photos courtesy of St.Paul’s High School, Winnipeg.

Thane Tomlinson is a student at St. Paul's High School, Winnipeg. Class of 2019.

  • Rene Ritchot
    Posted at 13:17h, 12 July Reply

    My daughter of the same age and I just went, in April 2018. I’m so glad you experienced this at such a young age. It was for me, as it was for you a unforgettable memory. 4 hours passed as quickly as 30 minutes.

    My son will be attending St Paul’s in September and hope he will be able to participate in many of these Jesuit retreats. Keep up the great work.

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