Auschwitz Concentration Camps
One of, if not, the most infamous historical event in the history of man-kind.
The train track that brought in prisoners
Remaining chimney stacks from numerous housing structures
This road was used to escort prisoners to their inevitable death.
This is the original gas chamber entrance. Here, prisoners would strip down naked. At the end of this building, the gas chamber doors would open.
More burial areas for the ashes of the victims
Cleansing stations for items taken
Surviving confiscated photos of loved ones from numerous victims
This train is a commemorative piece for the Jews from Hungary that were victims of Auschwitz-Birkenau
An original sign to warn the prisoners
One of the many "Block" buildings in Auschwitz
This room was meant for sick prisoners who would be killed by lethal injection to the heart. 121 Polish and Jewish boys were killed in this exact room.
A room from Block 20
On January 27, 1945 ally soldiers entered what was left of the infamous Auschwitz concentration camps in SW Poland. The Nazis had torn down and blown up some of the most atrocious buildings days before. On that cold January day, the ending of the largest mass murder in a single location in human history took place.
According to documents at Auschwitz, Nazis killed at least 960,000 of the 1.1-1.3 million Jews deported to the camp. Jews weren't the only prisoners at the Auschwitz and Auschwitz-Birkenau camps. The other victims included an estimated 74,000 Poles, 21,000 Roma, 15,000 Soviet prisoners of war and at least 10,000 nationalities from around Europe. Auschwitz is known as the most deadly concentration camp in the history of man-kind.
The ally troops found sickening evidence of the true horror of the events at Auschwitz. About 7,000 starving prisoners were found alive in the camp, which is minimalistic compared to the 1.3 million who walked through those gates. Countless amounts of belongings to men, women and children were discovered. More than 110,000 pairs of shoes, 15,000 kitchen utensils, 4,000 suitcases and 400 striped camp garments were discovered along with 13,000lbs of human hair. Everything can be seen at the main Auschwitz concentration camp.
In January 1942, the Nazi party decided to roll out the “Final Solution” or the "Camp of Death." This camp, Auschwitz-Birkenau, was dedicated to the mass murders of Jews.
Auschwitz-Birkenau, with its sections separated by barbed-wire fencing, had the largest prisoner population of any of the three main camps. In January 1942, the first gas chamber using lethal Zyklon B gas was built. This building didn't house sufficient room to kill enough prisoners at once. Four more buildings were built due to the previous building being too small. All four buildings were used until 1945 when the camps were liberated by foreign allies.
The horror continued with disturbing medical experiments being conducted on Jewish, Roma and POW prisoners. The infamous “Angel of Death,” Nazi doctor Dr. Josef Mengele, was one of the physicians using awful practices at the Auschwitz l. According to the camp information, his particular interest was experimenting on twins.
The Nazis began to evacuate the camp in the middle of January 1945 once Hitler knew the war was being lost to the foreign allies. About 65,000 prisoners were forced to march an astonishing 30 miles west where they would board trains to other concentration camps. It's estimated that 15,000 died during that grueling march. If there were any weakened prisoners, the Nazis would kill them off from the groups.
More than 7,500 Nazi personnel are thought to have worked and witnessed the horror at Auschwitz. But only a small amount of those have been prosecuted for their crimes.
Via Auschwitz-Birkenau History website and the Myths and Facts of the Holocaust website
I took a shuttle bus from Auschwitz-Birkenau to Auschwitz l. At this point I had seen a great deal of devastating loss... I had no concept of what was in store for me at Auschwitz l.
As I walked into the entrance of Auschwitz-Birkenau, I felt a chill go down my spine. It was a warm day with the heat reaching 33 Celsius. Even with the heat bearing down at me, I felt uncomfortably cold while standing at the entrance. I walked to the right where the iconic Star of David (flag of Israel) hung in the barbed-wire fencing with flowers around it.
The real entrance to the concentration camp. "Arbeit Macht Frei" means "Work Sets You Free" in German. Chilling.
After walking around other Block buildings, I went to witness the most disturbing part of the whole experience. The hair, clothes and skeletons of the victims.
Out of the respect for the victims who were murdered, I did not take a photo of the hair or skulls. It was too emotional for me. Twenty tons of hair was collected and compiled. This made me sick to my stomach as I walked through the disturbing gallery.
Side note: As I was researching the uses of the human hair, I came across an article from 2009 that accused car manufacturer Schaeffler of using hair from 40,000 victims for textile purposes. Take a quick glance at it here.
This tour was overwhelming. I find myself unable to truly explain my overall reactions of visiting Auschwitz and Auschwitz-Birkenau. In fact, trying to find words to sum up this experience is difficult. It's been a week and half since I saw the camps, yet, I still get the sick-to-my-stomach feeling every time I think about it. It's difficult to contemplate that entire day. There have been other horrific genocides since my birth in 1990. But, this is the first time I've ever witnessed the aftermath.
I highly recommend seeing these two museums. However, I would strongly advise those who go to not book anything thrilling afterward. I wasn't in any mood to do go out that night. The thought of having any kind of enjoyable night would have been disrespectful to those lost.
In terms of preserving both sites, I believe everyone needs to see the two camps. It's vital to history to learn from what happened in those 4-5 years in Poland. Others may think the two sites should be closed to protect the existing history. I disagree. I knew about the Holocaust from documents and documentaries. However, once I stepped foot on those two sites, my entire world turned upside down. Experiencing something like Auschwitz can't be explained. It must be seen to be understand.