Hello friends and family, and thank you so much for your patience!
I apologize that I didn’t post this sooner, but we had a bit of technical difficulties the past few days due to a crazy storm the other night, and of course probably the sloowwwwweesssssstttt internet you can imagine, BUT I have FINALLY managed to get all my pictures uploaded!
Obviously you can assume these are all pictures from my trip to Auschwitz, one of the largest death camps around during the Holocaust.
The first half of my photos were actually taken at Auschwitz II, also known as Birkenau.
Get ready for a little history folks: (thanks to what I learned on the tour and also with a little help from auschwitz.org)
Birkenau was the largest camp in the Auschwitz area. It, initially, was intended to be a camp for POWs in 1941; but, by 1942 it opened as a branch of Auschwitz and it’s sole purpose at the time was a center of Jew extermination. And by 1944, it eventually became the place where prisoners were sent before being transferred to labor in the German industry.
Birkenau covered about 175 acres and was designed to hold up to 200 thousand prisoners, and was adjacent to a 2 large gas chambers where prisoners would be sent to die.
The majority of the victims of Auschwitz died in Birkenau. (approximately 1 million people) not only jews, but more than 70 thousand Poles and about 20 thousand Gypsies, as well as Soviet POWs and other prisoners from various nationalities.
After the creation of the first Auschwitz camp, the Nazi group had decided to build a set of train tracks to stop within the camp to make the transfer process more efficient. Sadly they would stuff hundreds of people, and their belongings, into these tiny cattle cars where they would travel for days or weeks not knowing where they would be headed. To which many died of suffocation, illness, or starvation.
The first group of jews to arrive in Auschwitz in the spring of 1944 were Hungarian.
Upon arrival they were thrown out of the cars, and instructed to toss their belongings into a pile (which would later be sorted and reused by the Germans) and then told to split into two lines: Women&children.. and the men.
The women and children were immediately sent to walk this long road, to their unsuspecting deaths, in the gas chambers.
The men who were left behind were put through a selection process of who could work, and who would be sent to death.
More than 80% of the people who arrived at Birkenau were murdered at once, most of those who lived past the selection process eventually died due to starvation, ill treatment, disease, or overwork.
(Photos of women and children walking this exact road to their death)
(the living corridors of those who survived the selection process)
These little wooden cubbies are where people slept, on hard wood slats you could find anywhere from 6-10 people squished onto each level.
During the liberation of 1945, the Germans attempted to destroy evidence of the crimes committed by the camp by creating bonfires to burn documents, and to destroy the crematoriums that were created to dispose of millions of prisoners bodies.
The next set of pictures are of Auschwitz I.
I do want to post right off the bat that there were three places within this camp that we were not allowed to photograph out of respect for the people who suffered at Auschwitz.
The three rooms were:
1. A room with a display of a massive pile of hair from all the women who’s heads were shaved after death in the gas chambers.
2. Block 11 cells, or “death block” which was the, “prison within a prison” where those who were punished for various (rediculous) were sent. (I will give a description of the prison cells with the selection of photos I do have.)
3. Inside the gas chamber.
“Arbeit Macht Frei” or “Work makes you free” (lies lies lies)
This sign is a replica of the original sign that used to be here.
In 2008 the original sign was stolen and later found in 3 pieces, which eventually will be re attached together and placed in a display in the museum rather than out front.
The next photo is an example of the selection process, our tour guide told us that the man you see dressed in the officer’s (looking) uniform was the camp’s physician. If he determined a person was not fit for work and should be sent to death, he would tilt his thumb to the right to the left if they could still work. So as you can see in the photo, he is sending the old man in the front of the line to his death.
The next two photos are a model replica of what the gas chambers/crematorium looked like.
The underground section was the location of the gas chambers, where they would force the people to strip naked, and would then (from vents above) dump cans of white pebbles laced with Cyclone B. After they were killed, selected prisoners whose job was then to drag each body out one by one, shave the women’s heads, then remove any remaining personal belonging (ie. jewelry, gold teeth, metal fillings, etc.) and then burned in the crematorium, or in piles outside.
Brushes, shaving accessories
Many of the prisoners slept on hay on bare floors during the camp’s first opening and use.
A hallway lined with hundreds of “mugshots” of some of the first prisoners at Auschwitz. Eventually pictures were no longer taken, and instead prisoners were tattooed with their “number”
There were normal cells in block 11 where prisoners kept that had windows that were partially bricked up from the outside, and the inmates could sleep on wooden bunks.
But 3 of the more cruel cells we were shown were
1: Dark Cells: Where prisoners slept on a bare floor, and would be confined here for several days or weeks, depending on what satisfied the SS in charge. Instead of windows, these cells had vents covered on the outside by metal screens with air holes punched in them ):
2: Starvation Cells: The same setting as a dark cell, but prisoners here were kept for weeks until they starved to death.
3: Standing Cells: There were 4 of these “cells” Measuring about 3feet by 3 feet, where 4 people would be held. Their only source of air was a 5 X 5 cm opening covered by a metal grill. To get into these horrible cells, the only entry was a small opening at floor level that prisoners had to crawl to get into. These prisoners would stand all night and then be forced to work all the next day. Prisoners held here were, again, held from days to weeks.
The next three photos are of the Block 11 courtyard where many prisoners were taken, stripped naked, and then shot to death.
There are a total of 22 buildings at the Auschwitz site, which was initially used as a barracks for Pole military, then was changed into a concentration that served as a “slow death” camp, where many died of starvation.
The little wooden structure in the above photo was a post for the officer in charge of roll call during adverse conditions. Next to this structure was a post where many prisoners were hanged on a daily basis to make an example of those who attempted to escape/ help others escape.
It was a definite worthwhile experience for me.
To see where so many people suffered brought to light the reality of what happened and the cruelty of that time.
To me it was an important experience to see this historical site, to acknowledge every person who ever suffered here, and to give voice to a generation of people who’s lives were cut so short by the cruelty of others. It’s important to remember instance like these, so history will never repeat itself in this manner. And value the importance of life, and family, and all that we can be thankful for.
Thank you for viewing my more melancholy post.
I promise the next post to be more lighthearted(:
Until next time,