Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration & Death Camps

Trip Start Jan 01, 2014
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Trip End Dec 31, 2014


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Where I stayed
Park Inn

Flag of Poland  , Lesser Poland Voivodeship,
Saturday, November 5, 2011

I was going to include this with my blog on Krakow, but thought better of it, because it deserves its own blog.  

Nov 5: Today was our day to visit Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest concentration camp in Europe. I skipped this tour 17-years ago, because I felt it would be too emotionally wrenching. When I visited Hiroshima and the atom bomb museum in 1982, I couldn't continue to look at the pictures of humans whose flesh were melting on their bodies. Since then, I have visited several Holocaust Museums including the one in Jerusalem, so I felt prepared to see the location of where the Nazis killed over 1.1 million Jews and 150,000 Poles. Since 1947 when it was converted into a museum, over 30 million visitors have visited these sites. 

A brief on Auschwitz-Birkenau: I didn't know it before, but Auschwitz was a Polish army camp before it became the Nazi's concentration camp for Jews.  I think this distinction is important, because during WWII, the US government interred Japanese Americans into camps where the housing was tar-papered buildings where the winters (Tule Lake, CA) were extremely cold, and the wooden floors were not sealed from the elements.  One coal-fueled pot-bellied stove in each unit was not enough to warm our "home."  Looking at the brick buildings of Auschwitz makes one believe the prisoners lived in better housing than many during those times, but that's not true at all.  Prisoners at Auschwitz-Birkenau had no freedom - in or outside the barracks.  Many starved, died from medical experiments, disease, or were shot or gassed if unable to work.  The gas chambers of Auschwitz was the largest and most efficient extermination method used by the Nazis.   
 
Birkenau, the extermination camp, with its train tracks going through the towered gate is the best graphic known around the world.   This is where they exterminated the Jews and Poles.  Birkenau was designated by Himmler, Germany's Minister of the Interior, as the place of the "final solution of the Jewish question in Europe."  The housing here are made from wood, and the cramped living conditions with rows of open toilets tells the world how the Nazi's treated their prisoners before putting them to death.   The gas chambers were called the "little red house" and the "little white house," officially known as Bunker 1 and Bunker 2 respectively.   The gassing of Jews began in 1942 at Bunker 2.   The gas chambers at Birkenau were built to resemble shower rooms, and new arrivals were told they needed to shower and be disinfected before being sent to work.  

AUSCHWITZ:
 
 
 
 
 
  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Picture: Note on "location of morning roll call"  Prisoners were woken at 4:30 in summer, and 5:30 in winter by a gong, and had to be ready for roll call by the second gong.  If a prisoner was missing, they were required to stand until the missing prisoner was found - even during the winter months.  
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BIRKENAU:  

 
 
 
 
 
 

 
 





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