WARNING: This is not our normal fun travel photos. It is our reverent pictorial essay of what happened at Auschwitz and I share it to remind us to never let this happen again.
Today William and I traveled to the small town of Oswiecim Poland to visit Auschwitz 1 and Auschwitz II or Birkenau. Before I tell you about our visit I want to give you a few tips should you decide to visit one day. First, stay in Oswiecim. It’s a lovely town and only a few KM to the Memorial site of Auschwitz. The second tip is to make reservations for a guided tour months in advance. If you don’t have reservations you are likely to get in but will not have the guided tour. The last tip is to have dinner at LaRossa restaurant. Our dinner here was outstanding and what we would have paid over $100 for in the US cost us just under $30.
William and I had visited Dachau, a concentration camp near Munich, Germany so we both had an idea of what we would see here at Auschwitz. What we were not prepared for was the enormous size of this site.
The Nazis opened this camp in 1940. The camp expanded over the following years until it had three main parts: Auschwitz I, Auschwitz II – Birkenau, and Auschwitz III – Monowitz as well as 40 sub-camps. At first Poles wee imprisoned here and later they were joined by Soviet prisoners of war. Beginning in 1942 , the camp became the scene of the largest mass murder in human history. The majority of the Jews deported to Auschwitz were sent directly after arrival to their deaths in the Birkenau gas chambers.
This is the entrance to Auschwitz I. In German it reads “Work will make you free”
And here is the entrance and guard rooms of Auschwitz II. The prisoners referred to it as the “Gate of Death”. We began our tour here at Birkenau through this gate.
Here is an actual train car that was used to transport the prisoners to the camp at Auschwitz II.
Here is an actual photo on display at the camp where the prisoners were lined up for the selection process as soon as they arrived at the camp – men on one side and women and children on the other. Most all of the Jewish people were taken directly to the gas chambers but a few were kept as laborers.
Auschwitz is 472 Acres in size. There is no way my photos can convey that size to you. It made me angry to realize how obvious this mass murder operation had to of been and I questioned how it could have gone on so long.
Here is the entrance to the women’s side of the camp. All you see on this side of the camp are the chimneys as Hitler tried at the end of the war to destroy all the evidence of what was going on here.
This is the other side of the camp where more of the buildings are still standing.
The camp was surrounded with a double row of electrified barbed wire fencing. There were cases in which desperate prisoners who could not bear the camp terror chose to throw themselves on the wire.
The SS blew up the gas chambers and crematories at Birkenau in an effort to hide their crimes. The remains have not been disturbed since January 20th 1945. The German authorities calculate that 1,440 corpses could be burned a day here.
At the back of the camp at Birkenau there was a memorial for all the victims who died here which we visited before going the 3 KM away to Auschwitz I.
Here are a few pictures of Auschwitz that I want to share before telling you of the evil I learned about once inside this camp.
At roll call the Camp Orchestra had to play. Here is both the actual building and the photo on display of the Orchestra.
The prisoners had to march and the music was played to help keep them in step.
Many prisoners were taken from their cells and tied to posts as torture and as an example of what would happen to others. Some were stripped of their clothing and taken to the killing wall to be shot. Here are those two locations.
This is the location of public hangings in the camp.
This is one of the gas chambers, the opening in the ceiling where the gas was put into the chamber and the crematorium which still remains at Auschwitz I.
Inside the museum we saw piles of glasses, prosthetics, prayer shawls, hairbrushes, dishes, shoes, clothing and other things that belonged to the prisoners.
It is estimated that at least 1,100,000 Jews were sent to Auschwitz along with nearly 150,000 Poles, 23,000 Gypsies, an 15,000 Soviet prisoners of war. The majority of them perished here.
May this never happen again.