The long day continued in a series of overwhelming sites visited by melancholy youths. I was numb, in every sense of the word - my imagination pulled taut out into its furthest reaches, and then left stretched and aching, unable of any further comprehensions. Part of me just wanted to go home. To drink tea, to wriggle within my bedsheets and sleep and ignore everything outside of my house. This was a selfish wish, but one which the guides of Auschwitz understood, and used to help the visitors remember the individuals lost in the Holocaust.
Reality was lowered back around us in a heavy smog with the simple display erected in the final stop on our tour, the same building Kitty worked in, where she sorted through the prisoners' belongings. A long table was littered with a selection of items from a single suitcase brought to Auschwitz by a man to begin his new life with. Clothes filled one end of the wooden surface. A few pairs of shoes next, followed by an arrangement of photographs, of families and single portraits striking similar in layout to those I have hung on my walls. Various paraphernalia for an everyday life; pots, brushes, belts. At the very end of the table was a rusting set of house keys.
Our guide described to us the scene he imagined, of a family packing up, finally leaving a country of oppression to a better promise of work. A family who believed they might be back some day, so after locking their door behind them, slipped their keys into their father’s case. The image was so endearingly clear and within my weary hearts understanding. The mental picture of parents, children, sisters and brothers walking away from their lives is replicated in the face of Kitty, in every victim’s photograph I saw that day, and the ones who did not live long enough to have their likeness caught on film. To say that the victims of the Holocaust wanted to leave the horrors of the camp is an understatement, but I think we can all see some little similarity to ourselves in their wishes. I believe that this basic, instinctual act is something all people want to do at some time or other; simply take their keys out of a heavy suitcase, and go home.