Why visit Auschwitz?
The question had been gnawing at me me since I began planning my trip to Eastern Europe. We all desire travel experiences that are challenging, that take us out of our comfort zones and offer us a glimpse into a world that is vastly removed from our own. But although World War II and the Holocaust are defining moments of world history, it didn’t seem so much a part of my history.
For Indians like myself, Auschwitz, Hitler, and the war can be remote and blurry. India at the time was busy fighting its own battle for independence from the British. Our primarily role in the war came in the form of Indian soldiers recruited to fight in the Queen’s army. In fact, the war was a catalyst for India’s independence, draining Britain’s resources to the point where running distant colonies became untenable. The war ended in 1945; India was free by 1947.
We learned about World War II in grade school and college, but India’s rich and long history, spotted by a series of conquests by foreigners, took up most of our time. I grasped the horror of Auschwitz only when I visited a WWII exhibition in London in 2007 when I was 25.