I have visited Auschwitz three times; the first time was in 1998, when I was the only person there, besides my private tour guide. I had found this tour guide through a tour company in New York City.
I recall that my tour guide, in 1998, would not let me get off the road through the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp; she said that there were “snakes in the grass.” She meant real snakes, not Holocaust deniers.
Since then, I have visited the Auschwitz main camp and the Birkenau camp two more times, in 2005 and 2008. I have also visited the town of Auschwitz twice.
Today, I read a news article about what it is like to visit the Birkenau camp today: http://pilotonline.com/opinion/columnist/guest/annette-finley-croswhite-the-holocaust-still-has-lessons-to-teach/article_b8b9912a-2c1d-53f4-a7aa-486249725360.html
The following quote is from the news article, cited above:
ARMS AND LEGS shoved and kicked me. An elderly woman fell to the ground as people battled their way onto the last bus out of town. Fearful of the crowd’s aggression, I grew protective of my companion, a young pregnant woman. “Be careful,” I called out, “she’s pregnant; please let her on.” At that moment the man behind me wrenched my shoulder backwards and screamed into my ear, “Pregnant, yeah right! Let me on because I’m pregnant too!”
In another situation this hostility might have been insignificant. I was standing just outside Auschwitz-Birkenau, however, and these ill-behaved tourists had just left this infamous site of human depravity. Horror stricken, I could not help but wonder at how quickly the process of dehumanization begins in the sea of anonymity and how urgent the lessons of history are today.
I think that the problem is that the Holocaust has now become a joke. So many lies have been told in the past about the Holocaust, that now no one believes in it.
The following quote is also from the news article:
“….the recently opened souvenir center just outside Birkenau is a particularly troubling indication of Holocaust trivialization.
In the store, Polish key chains are for sale next to postcards featuring cremation ovens or black refrigerator magnets with the word “Auschwitz” embossed in gray. Next door, pierogies and pizzas are offered within sight of the death gate and ramp where so many victims were sent straight to the gas chambers or admitted into the camp to face slow starvation and death. A few miles from Auschwitz, an amusement park is under construction. One will soon be able to combine a visit to the death camp with roller coaster rides. What a difference more than 70 years makes!