After a traditional Polish breakfast we drove about 20 kilometers to the east to the town of Oscesim, called Auschwitz during the war. We visited the first, and smaller, of the two concentrations camps there. It was very interesting to see this place after seeing depictions of it in many books and movies. Even today, it seemed like a scary place to me. It was sobering to see the exhibits of things taken from the prisoners, such as the separate huge piles of children’s shoes, combs, hairbrushes, suitcases. One pile was women’s hair, which was used as a raw material to make fabric. The punishment block and the crematorium were especially tough to see. In the punishment block, there were solitary confinement cells, and also “standing cells” where prisoners were forced to stand up all night, four people to a 5 foot by 5 foot cell. In the crematorium, there were two large ovens and big steel carts that rolled into the ovens. The room next door was part of a low concrete bunker (a former armory) with holes in the ceiling for pipes to pump in the gas. We also watched a film that told about the liberation of the camp by Soviet soldiers in early 1945, and showed individual survivors.
Back in Pszczyna, we went to the park behind the palace and had lunch at my cousin Peter’s restaurant. The restaurant is in a very old wooden building called the “Skansen.” It is very dark inside. We had some chicken fried in an egg batter, and French fries. After a short chat with Peter (who of course refused to be paid for lunch), we walked around the town square and shopped in some of the new trendy stores in town. Lisa and Allison bought a couple of shirts. Unbelievably, my son Peter said he was still hungry, so we stopped in a restaurant on the square. This restaurant is known in town as having the biggest sandwiches. Peter got a large hot dog, but also ordered something that we thought was like chicken nuggets. Instead, it was a chicken sandwich on a bun that was about 10 inches in diameter! It was the biggest sandwich bun I have ever seen. After the hot dog, he couldn’t even take a bite of this huge sandwich, so we brought it home.