Auschwitz, Animosity & Present Tense

Samia Tamrin Ahmed24179640926_3f247b8175_o

The sunny day and beautiful open blue skies were out of place at the location we were strolling in. We were at the infamous concentration camp in the Polish town of Oswiecim. Auschwitz was the largest of the German Nazi concentration camps and extermination centers where more than 1.1 million lives were taken. A gloomy winter day with a grey horizon would have been the default setting for such a place. Its proximity to Krakow allowed us to visit the memorial and museum to pay homage. Growing up hearing of horrors of torture, I was wondering if I could digest the gory reality of the place. Yet, it was alright, and we kept walking along the solid buildings with shocking melancholy. 

Nazi concentration camps were known for the gas chambers and torture on Jewish people. At the site I got to know camps were initially built for other political prisoners, homosexuals and gypsies. A pre-visit to the Topography of Terror in Berlin gave some background idea on the systemic targeting of victims. There was a lot of discretion regarding records of newly arrived men and women and lies told about disinfecting their bodies, as if for sacrifice. They were told to take an innocent shower that would indeed kill them. Pictures show how people were judged upon arrival – robust health meant they could be workers in the camp (irrigation or ponds) – imminent death if otherwise. Auschwitz has an extension – Birkenau which has a train track and platform where victims were received towards a horrific destiny. All this was gloomy indeed, no wonder there was a media uproar when a tourist took a selfie at this place in 2014. We sure could not think of doing something like this.
The museum and its exhibits convey long stories of detrimental endings and unbridled suffering. The original buildings are open and conserved to show the living quarters, washrooms and toilets of inmates as well as the office room of the supervising officer. Corridors are lined with photographs of registered prisoners; men and women with shaved head have cagey anxiety on their faces.
It hurt when I stepped into a room full of hair inside a glass enclosure. I felt how human dignity was being snatched from simple people. Gold teeth and artificial limbs were taken off dead prisoners. Shoes and spectacles are piled up in remembrance of lost souls. There are certain quarters prepared just for the children; walking along the claustrophobic wooden bunkers is heartbreaking. If people were not killed immediately, there were other horrible means of inflicting torture. Disobedience meant one could be executed (shooting or acid shot to the heart), hung backwards by tied hands, starved or confined in the ‘dark’ or ‘standing’ cells. Doors to those cells were tiny enough for a small animal – when a person did enter the phone-booth sized cubicle, he was not standing alone in punishment. Four people had to stand all night before another hard day’s work.
I am often bound to acknowledge that a certain place has tortured souls floating around. I look around in silence as if to grasp their presence. Then again, torture has not left us. Think of the schools and abandoned buildings turned to torture cells during our liberation war. In this day and age, Rohingya Muslims face marginalization and eradication, forced to living tormented destinies. Children are subjected to deplorable treatment and torture by adults who were supposed to protect them. War, too has not left us. An Economist report titled, ‘Pits of hell: Assad’s torture dungeons’ retells the fate of Syrians who were tortured and executed. The regime altered sports stadiums, abandoned homes, hospitals and schools into jails in order to silence any form of opposition. Survivors tell horrific tales of atrocities conducted at a systemic level. Amnesty International is running a petition campaign to raise voice on torture prisons in Syria and the shocks, burns, beating and confinement that is commonplace.
Auschwitz the concentration camp is accessible to all, to let generations be aware of horrors of war and discrimination. Memorials exist for placing homage to history and embodying the valuable lesson that torture, conflict, annihilation are elements to be erased from the earth. Despite the existence of the UN Convention against Torture, protection of human rights is a vague concept. Cruelty, perhaps is too deeply ingrained in the human DNA. Before we know it, Saydnaya will be the next Auschwitz.



Those Eyes

Why do you instill fear
in my noble spirit
with your penetrative stare?

The glare, those piercing eyes of yours,
seem to read
the secrets of my soul.

I may never know what they mean
or what they mean to cause,
after I am left in a trance.

I cannot decide
If those eyes doom me
to a future I cannot escape from,

or, if they protect me
with the glory of an esoteric vision,
from the harm of the world.

This fear, anxiety, reverence
Coming from a mere memory,
As you remain far away.

Yet, those penetrating eyes of yours
Have never left
The vicinity of my soul

Tribute to my Fairy

Wherever my super awesome fairy godmother shall fly,
I will gladly follow ….

the blue wisp of the Mediterranean air,
wondrous trail of the fireflies,
springtime in Half of the World,
the blue doors of magical beginnings,
or just a cozy apartment at Haw Par Villa…

There is a reason I find spiritual people to guide me,
hence need more time with them…
for wisdom to be exchanged.

Yet,there is no reason for love…
wherever the wonder woman shall fly,
I will gladly remain her shadow.


The Danger of a story not told

Stories, everybody’ve them, hidden, yet written on the face for all

Stories from images, sounds and senses are part of human

From the past, yesterday, today and tomorrow, emerge experiences

…experiences potent enough to make or break one

Before, the past generation shared openly, to learn and resolve

Through oral traditions and evening chats, granny mirthed

People shared together, openly. for the joy of the moment then

little known was the long years and harmony enhanced


(internet source)

With time, however, a dustbin was born in our minds

a dust bin with strong lids, dark, tightly closed,

only opened by choices we make every second of our lives

from where it emerged, the dust bin, I also wish to know

But I know how well and often we take experiences down that bin

1964, Maumau fighters in Kenya, disgruntled, dumped the feeling down that bin; closed

suddenly, an ancestral land disappeared, resentment dumped into the bin; closed

conflicts, anger, fear lost glory went down that bin; closed

no one shared, nobody talked, hushed silence bred filth in the bin!

Dirt, rotten from fear and emotions grew enormous

self esteem flew out of the window as stress levels hiked

a pill for HBP and suddenly am too tired to share with family

My child came to me, laughingly, but I wearily coil “a busy day son!”

Meanwhile, rot starts to smell heavily on mood and attitude

I know of a time in 2007 when the bin exploded in Kenya

when in 1994, bins exploded in Rwanda terribly ending lives

Not forgetting the young man in 2010 who could handle it no more

a life cut short too soon…

Just to mention but a few of the dangers of stories untold

Stories heal, stories console, stories reveal humanity in us

So powerful is its ability to create dialogue

Through stories, bridges for humanity emerge

Could Fear be Driving You?

Could Fear be Driving You?/ Dennis Odeny

Have you ever wondered why everyone is constantly on the move? Doing one thing or another if not lost in oblivion of drunkenness? Practically, everyone is on the move, constantly thinking of ways to make their lives better, more interesting or more stable. Everyone strives for more and more and if not striving, then stuck in a religious mantra of contentment if but to create a comfort zone of operation. Today, while someone is up and about trying to amass as much wealth as possible, another is holed up in a monastery, a church or a religious structure with every sort of spiritual connection available. Some, too timid to face the life, stick bottle after bottle between their lips in an attempt to drown their misery.

So, practically, money, religion, drugs, among other drives is definitive of humankind. Why would people be so obsessed with these things? Why would someone be so daringly religious that they can die for their belief? Why the monotonous routine to get a few dollars? Wondering? Well, here is what I think…

Fear…        7374815-doubt-and-fear-just-ahead-green-road-sign-with-dramatic-storm-clouds-and-sky

(Internet source)

Many scholars believe that behind every human motive is a fear so great and immense. Forget the nonsense about passion or money here, the raw source of motivation of all humanity is fear.

We fear quite a lot of things in our lives. Right from birth, the child grows up to value and crave for the attention of the parents and fear when the mom walks out for the shopping center. The child would bawl for attention because of the fear of loneliness. Teens often have a lot going on in their time when they try all antics possible to get attention. The fear of sinking into oblivion drives many to have fancy dress codes and haircuts if only to be noticed and create a sensation. The fear of losing importance is so great that they will try so much to ape artists if only to turn a few heads their way. In fact the fear normally creates a sense of insecurity in many who end up doing things they would never have thought of doing, if only to identify with a sect or clique.

Others thought money was a great drive in life…are you one of these people? Think again. You see, an example if my hypothetical friend who gets just enough to maintain his lifestyle. However, he, like many, will forever be on the lookout for stability if only to be assured of the same income tomorrow.

So, the money factor changed to the question of stability. Am I going to afford this house tomorrow? Will I manage to pay my child’s school fees tomorrow? How will life look like tomorrow? The fear of tomorrow among the working class is actually so strong that it drives the economy of any country. The rich getting richer and would always want more while the poor getting poorer as they hop from job to job with the hope for a better and stable placement. Meanwhile, the escapist goes behind the altar and spends ages praying and hoping that the fear will go away; yet it looms behind the doors. So my friend would say “it’s all in God’s hands now…”


(Internet source)

Well, we probably worked hard and managed to pay the fees after all and old age appears to be catching up with us. We may think that with all the successes we are lucky to have escaped it. Till the bug starts “what if my children never visit me? What if I do not have any friends? What if …” These questions roam about the aging mind and makes life unbearably lonely when you look back and all you can see is a stream of years with nothing to show for it. Fear emerges in all forms, “am I losing importance? “

And while we think its gone, it crawls back in and nags us to our grave; fearing what life will be when we finally pass out and stop our last breath. Fear, it is real, but, do we have to fear this much? Do we have to be driven by fear? Is fear entirely positive? What can we do to overcome some fears that derail our logic? Meet you in the next episode on dealing with human fear next week!