Archive for September, 2012

When we went to Krakk√≥ we took a side trip to Auschwitz. I felt like it was a very powerful and meaningful experience, particularly Birkenau. At the same time I’ve been trying to figure out for a month what to write about it, because as clich√© as it sounds I don’t feel like I can convey the feeling of it. So I’ve decided to just post the pictures with captions. I hope it’s meaningful, if simple.

We went to Auschwitz first. Auschwitz had all the museum information, but most of it was in the buildings where pictures were not permitted. The displays were well done, though.

These were the blocks at Auschwitz where the prisoners slept. One of these buildings was a hospital, another was a prison. There were also buildings outside the main complex for the Nazi officers to live in.

The front of the blocks at Auschwitz. Auschwitz was originally military barracks, so the buildings were at least fairly well done.

Between the prison building and the hospital building was this wall called the death wall. They shot prisoners who had been “tried” here. Most of the victims were Poles. This is a recreation of the wall. The original was torn down.

This is the building where the first gas chamber and crematorium was. Later they built bigger ones at Birkenau and these were no longer used. The first experiments with gas were done on Russian soldiers and it took them a long time (I think days) to die. They got better at it later.

The double barbed wire fence circling the camp. There were signs in German warning anyone outside that it was electric and dangerous.

Then we went to Birkenau. It’s about 5 minutes away and there are free buses to take you there. Birkenau was built to house all the Jews and other prisoners after Auschwitz was full and wasn’t already in existence before WWII. There were brick and wood buildings and there are still examples of each, although most of them were destroyed as the Nazis left and tried to hide what they’d done. Birkenau is also where the gas chambers and crematoria were (except for the one that was used temporarily at Aushwitz) and where the Jews that were sent in on trains specifically to go to the gas chambers were sent.

Most of the buildings where prisoners lived were destroyed and all that’s left are rows and rows of these double chimneys that were inside each building.

Some of the buildings are still standing. This is one of the wood buildings. The chimney in front is all that’s left of the other buildings. In this one you can see the rows of beds in the back. Several people slept on each bed. Toilets were in a separate building.

These tracks led through the “death gate” and ended at two of the gas chambers at the back of the camp.

The gas chambers/crematoria were blown up by the Nazis as they left, but the ruins are still there. This is the entrance. The prisoners went in the door and down the steps where they undressed and then were put into the gas chamber. At the end is the room with the furnaces.

There were several dried pools where human ashes were thrown. This one has a memorial stones in English, Polish and Hebrew.

Auschwitz with kids: We went with our kids, but felt like the displays in the barracks at Auschwitz were too graphic for our 4 year old. We tag teamed it, taking turns going in and staying out to watch the kids. It took a lot longer that way, but it worked. Birkenau was no problem with the kids. Unless you know what happened there it’s just a pretty place with lots of grass and some buildings and ruins.

I would also recommend going early. They make you go with a tour after 10 (sometimes earlier) and I much preferred wandering at our own pace, and a tour wouldn’t have worked with the kids. With older kids it would probably be okay and in the Winter they don’t make you take a tour.


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Avery is starving for education lately. She wants to know everything about everything. Our landlord brought us a children’s encyclopedia a few months ago. It’s in Hungarian, but it’s still her favorite book. Ivan sits down with her and they pick a page and look at the pictures and Ivan tells her all about whales and South America. When they got to the nerves page he sent her to me and we talked about brains and nerves for a while. She loves it, and she’s full of questions. Too full sometimes. I can only handle so many in a day.

Her second favorite thing is her workbook. Her uncles brought her a new one 2 weeks ago and she asks for it every day. She finished the Brainquest Pre-K workbook this year, so we got her the Kindergarten one this time. It’s more challenging and she really likes it. Writing letters wears her out, so we try to only do two pages or so at a time. It’s funny, though, because after a page or two of writing letters she starts to get tired and frustrated, but she doesn’t realize it and wants to keep going. She starts to get cranky and lose attention but if I try to put the book away she gets upset. It’s been kind of tricky trying to keep her from wearing herself out. Luckily there are coloring sections we can turn to when she starts to get ornery from too much writing.

I’m having a little bit of Mommy guilt over not getting her into preschool this year. I think she would really love it and I would really like her to play with other kids more, but it’s been hard finding something I can deal with and we can afford here in Hungary. In the meantime we try to do fun things and go fun places while she’s stuck at home with me. She and Evelyn really like to play a lot lately so that’s helped and we try to go to playgroups and things.

Avery really really really wants a little brother. Her little friend Stephanie has a big family with 7 kids and she just had a baby brother a few months ago, so Avery really thinks that this is how her family should be too. The other day she came to me crying saying “Mooooommm, I really want 7 kids! And a little brother named Luke!”

Avery is learning to brush her teeth. Every night I brush her teeth and then she practices with her toothbrush. She taught Evelyn how to spit out water several months ago and they’re both champion swishers and spitters now. They also love bath time together.

Avery also starts her ballet class again this week after the Summer break. She’s really excited because we have a new little friend that moved to Budapest who wants to go to ballet with her too. She can’t come this week because they are going on a trip, but hopefully next week Avery will have a new ballet friend too.

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