Three Minutes in Hell

A grassy knoll with a quaint but noticeably large chimney suddenly gives way to a concrete wall with one door. We file in, ushered faster than we were in the other parts of the tour. I can tell no one outside can hear us in here, but it does not matter because we are silent.

There seem to be two rooms. The first room we enter is not very big. It is dark and there is sunlight coming through paint-can sized holes in the ceiling. Everything is varying shades of gray concrete. The smell is unfamiliar and I become dimly aware of stains on the floors and walls. I hear someone whisper “Zyklon B,” pointing up at the squares of sunlight, and I feel others unintentionally hold their breath.

My eyes stay wide but register nothing, staring vaguely forward. My breathing is normal but I think my lungs must be collapsing. The ceiling is too low. I think my ears must be bleeding. I need to get out.

I don’t really notice what is in the second room except that there is more metal and brick than concrete. Must be the chimney. I think I am walking faster than you are supposed to walk.

I step out. Everything is the same as it was 180 seconds ago. I wonder how many people have ever walked out.


@Auschwitz-Birkenau, gas chamber, September 2017

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