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3:59pm on Sunday, 25th April, 2010:

Places I'm not all that Fussed about Visiting #8


Continuing the occasional series...


Auschwitz concentration camp stands as a powerful reminder of the atrocities carried out by the Nazis in the first half of the 20th century and as a memorial to their victims. Too powerful for me, I'm afraid: I would not want to go out of my way to visit such a place. My brother did, and found it a deeply emotional experience; I'd go if I were in the area and had time, but I wouldn't specifically set out on a trip to it like he did. I've no family connection to the victims, so have no personal reason to visit it except insofar as every human being has a personal reason — to gain insight into the enormity of the horrors that their species can enact on itself (which is why my brother went there).

I don't mind visiting places for emotional reasons per se, but if the emotion is unpleasant then I'm going to be reluctant. I doubt that any feelings of upliftingness I might get would compensate for the feelings of despair and outrage that are guaranteed. Knowing in advance I was going to Auschwitz would make a visit even worse — it would give the trip the air of a pilgrimage, which I'm against because it turns the objective from "going" to "having been". If I happened to be close by anyway, OK, then I'd perhaps take a day trip.

Auschwitz isn't so much a place as an embodiment of emotion. Some people like to visit that emotion, but it's not something I look forward to myself, even if it turned out to be positive in the end.

Still, 700,000 people a year disagree with me.

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Copyright © 2010 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).