Concentration Camp

Trip Start Mar 01, 2007
Trip End Jul 01, 2009

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Flag of Poland  ,
Tuesday, June 10, 2008

On the way home from Krakow we stopped at Auschwitz, the largest concentration camp.  It is hard to put into words what it felt like visiting a place where 1.5 million people were murdered. 

We did a guided tour which lasted around four hours.  It started with a black and white video that kind of gave an overview of the evil that had occured at Auschwitz and other concentration camps.  We then toured the camp itself.  There are two camps there, Auschwitz or otherwise know as Auschwitz 1 was the first camp there.  It originally started as a prison for political prisoners of Poland.  It later became a death camp for Jews and others, such as gypsies, homosexuals and others.  Auschwitz 1 has a lot of brick buildings that were used for prisoner rooms.  On the tour we went into several rooms that showed such things as the belongings of the prisoners.  Suitcases, hair brushes, clothes, shoes and little kids clothes and shoes, which was very disturbing.  There was also a big room full of hair that they had shaved off of prisoners heads.  The tour also showed different prisoner cells, such as a standing cell that is not even 3 ft. by 3 ft. in diameter.  Four to five prisoners at a time were forced to stand in this room over night for 7-14 days and then work every day.  There was also a death by starvation cell.  Just really sick stuff.  The Auschwitz 1 tour ended with a tour through the only standing gas chamber.  It was very difficult to go through a place where thousands of people had been killed.  In a room off of the gas chamber was the furnaces used to burn the bodies. 

The second part of the tour was at Auschwitz 2 or Birkenau.  It is about 3 km away from Auschwitz 1.  This camp was huge and had wood barracks for the prisoners.  When I pictured concentration camps in my mind, this is what it looked like.  On this tour, we went thtough a couple of barracks.  The first one was the bathroom facities, which they were allowed to use twice a day for ten minutes.  The second was the living quarters.  At least 10 people had to crowd themselves on each level of bed.  Around 400-700 people lived in each barrack.  We also went to the "decison point" where the train arrived full of prisoners.  At this point a Nazi officer decided who went to the gas chambers and who was suitable to stay and do manual labor.  75% of the people went to the gas chambers immediately.  The gas chambers at Birkenau were destroyed by the Nazis to try and cover their crimes before the Soviets liberated the camp.  The tour ended by viewing the memorial to all of the people that died and suffered here.  I am glad that I had the opportunity to see Auschwitz, but it was very chilling to be there. 
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