Day 14 – Auschwitz (8/5/23)

Another memorable day.

The vast majority of people know something of the Holocaust – the plan by the Nazis to exterminate European Jews which was hatched in 1942 – so I won’t go into details of that specifically. Far better people more qualified than me have told that story.

Some of the following may sound unsentimental. It’s not meant to be – in no way am I minimising the unprecedented scale of the human tragedy perpetrated by the Nazi regime. I’m just trying to keep a sense of sober reporting on a truly difficult subject.

The journey was about an hour and a quarter from our hotel, starting at the ungodly hour of 7 a.m. to meet our slot of 8.45 a.m. Apparently it can get incredibly crowded, so an early start is indicated.

Auschwitz is actually the German name of an unpronounceable Polish village which already housed a barracks, so the infrastructure was already in place.

We actually visited two sites. The first, Auschwitz 1, was relatively small, and the second, Auschwitz 2, better known as Birkenau, was much larger in area and built exclusively by the prisoners in Auschwitz 1. Birkenau was built for two reasons only – as a concentration camp and to exterminate the European Jews.

Walking round Auschwitz 1 was sobering, of course. I took hundreds of pictures, most of which were to gain a scale of this operation, planned with chilling efficiency by the SS. I am having to be very selective here, but there are photos of information boards which, if you can read them, will repay your attention. I will not comment on them. They really paint the picture.

“Work makes you free”
The red dots on the left of the map indicate the location of the gas chambers
Map indicating how Auschwitz was so conveniently placed for transportation of prisoners
Model of the main gas chamber at Birkenau
The gas used to murder the inmates (an insecticide). In other camps, they used carbon monoxide from car exhausts
Cyclone B canisters
A pair of identical twins, of special interest to Dr Josef Mengele
Death Wall
Hospital. Death sentence in here.
Entering the gas chamber
Incinerator chimney
Birkenau gate
Ramp where selection took place
Remains of Gas Chamber 3
Remains of Gas Chamber 2
Gas Chamber 2

It is the scale of the slaughter which hit home here. The huge piles of shoes, dentures, specs and suitcases.

No words.

Quite enough. In fact, probably too much. Back to the hotel for a meal and bed.

Tomorrow we travel to Warsaw for the final leg of this journey.

8 responses to “Day 14 – Auschwitz (8/5/23)”

  1. Blimey!

    1. Yep. Sorry if it’s hard going. Have you been here?

      1. No. I’ve been to Dachau, but Auschwitz is an order of magnitude more affecting, I should think.

  2. Auschwitz was run with chilling efficiency. To avoid panic, before reaching the camp, Jews were told they were being relocated where they could find work. Nazis sold them “work permits” and they had to buy their own one-way train tickets. Most had no idea they were going to be killed only hours after arrival. All possessions were confiscated, sorted by those “allowed” to live and eventually recycled. Hence the photos of piles of cases, shoes, glasses, clothes, combs, brushes etc waiting to be processed. Gold fillings were removed and melted down. Hair longer than 6 inches was cut and made into various materials. Even the ashes from the incinerators were used as fertilisers. Absolutely nothing was wasted. Quite unbelievable, but a part of history that should never be forgotten.

  3. A time to to take and remember.

    1. Absolutely. It must never happen again.

  4. A very thought provoking blog today. We cannot change history but I hope and pray we have learnt from it.
    Dawn ________________________________

    1. Amen to that, Dawn.

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