Like anyone with an ounce of soul, I came away from the museum moved, horrified, repelled and bemused, the latter because one was confronted with ‘man’s inhumanity to man’. For all the labelling that identified the perpetrators as SS, the fact remains that they were by and large Germans perpetrating crimes on ethnic and cultural minorities and anyone who was weak and vulnerable. They did so with the cooperation of other Germans, Poles, Slovaks and especially Hungarians, and with the tacit acceptance of the Allied governments. It is neither the first, nor has it been the last, act of genocide. It is not the only place of horror on European soil. Yet it is unique in that it preserves for us to see the willingness of an ideologically possessed group to employ industrial methods to achieve an inhuman goal.

I don’t think one can understand it sufficiently, certainly not from a purely historical point of view. Perhaps a philosopher or poet might capture something of its meaning. It is, ultimately, beyond comprehension; indeed, beyond even the simple act if commemoration. The Holocaust condemns everyone, ultimately. It is the seminal event in history, because it has become a symbol of all other suffering and evil.

Why come to Auschwitz? To become a witness, so that one can bear witness. There is evil, and where it cannot destroy good, it will destroy everything else in despicable but ultimately futile acts of depravity. We are now witnesses to what can be, so that one day such things will be forever past.