Mrs P and I visitied Auschwitz during the last days of winter in 2013. I imagine that winter makes a visit to Auschwitz a more ‘authentic’ experience. It’s bleak, gloomy, cold and foreboding. I haven’t been in summer, but I imagine the area is quite pretty and peaceful at that time of year. Adjectives that are quite at odds with the camp’s history. But all trips to Auschwitz are a little surreal.
I wrote at the time that the buildings and the sense of organisation within the camp felt entirely too modern to be associated with the holocaust. Walking around the grounds, the place where the slaughter of millions of innocent people took place, evokes a sense of horror that is more easily associated with monsters, devoid of the niceities and functions of a civilised society.
It’s tough to relate to what happened at Auschwitz. But the fact is that the holocaust was committed by everyday people, like you and I, who empowered an ideological regime. Everyday people like you and I are often suckers for a populist who assures us that there’s someone else to blame for our woes. Be it a Jew or a Muslim or a Slav or a Hun. And be rest assured, once we’ve dealt with these guys, it’ll all get better. It doesn’t, of course. There are no real monsters. It’s just us.
The logical direction for this post would be to once again rail against Trump or Brexit. But while there is relevance, it was something entirely different that made me think of this photo. Work makes you free. The UK government have decided that I must work an extra year before I am freed from my labours. The pensionable age for a Briton is to be increased from 67 to 68 years of age. The state has decided to steal a year of my life.
This was originally due to be put into action in 2044. But that date has been brought forward by seven years, sweeping myself and a few million others into the higher age bracket. At today’s prices, that’s £8094 that I won’t cash out. And twelve months extra tax that I will pay in. But I do not begrudge this turn of events. The fact is, we’re living longer. And just as relevantly, we’re dying more slowly.
And in comparison to the inhabitants of Auschwitz, the relationship we Brits have with our government is more tolerable by an unfathomable magnitude. Let’s keep it that way.