One of the things I collect images of for my scrapbook is buildings I like the look of – doesn’t matter if it’s a one-room cottage or a vast palace complex, if I like it, I stick it in there. (I also like browsing real estate magazines for the perfect house, secure in the knowledge that it doesn’t exist and I will therefore never have to worry about how to pay for it.)
There was one picture, however, which I thought long and hard about before including in my scrapbook. It was from a magazine – the travel section. A handsome two-story brick building glows in the warm light of an autumn day. A large tree opposite the building balances it and reflects the autumn colouring. A large wrought-iron gateway stands in the foreground. It looks spacious and idyllic.
The fence seems a bit out of place here. Tall grey fence-posts, bent in at the top, wrapped in barbed wire. There are letters in the wrought-iron archway. They spell ARBEIT MACHT FREI – work makes you free.
This is the entrance to Auschwitz. Over a million people walked in those gates who never walked out again.
But I put this picture in my scrapbook, all the same. I keep it there to remind me that looks can be deceiving, that the foulest evil can present the fairest face, and that the most handsome of buildings can nonetheless stand at the mouth of hell.
It reminds me not to place too much stock in what the home of my dreams might look like. For in truth, what we desire above all else for our home is something no cut-and-pasted clipping can display: to live in peace, loving and loved.