Trip Start Apr 25, 2013
155Trip End Nov 02, 2013
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What I did
We booked a guided tour today, which was really well organized. They picked us up, dropped us off, and guided a group of around 20 through both Auschwitz (I) and Auschwitz-Birkenau (II). Considering over 8,000 people a day come through the complex, they organized and timed things really well, so crowds of people was no hindrance
The guide was good, informative and thorough, giving a clear insight into the atrocities that occured here. The Auschwitz Camp itself, I found surprisingly well ordered and maintained. The buildings were well constructed, and amid wide streets, and mowed grass, could reflect normal residential homes. This was far from the case, as thousands of prisoners were confined in them, often four people to a bunk, sometimes sleeping all together on straw, on the floor, like animals.
In the buildings were, were several chilling exhibits. There were photos, people arriving, being separated and marched to gas chambers, of thin, starved faces, of piled lifeless corpses. There were rooms, piled with the loot, the possessions and even parts of the murdered; suitcases, combs, glasses, shoes, prosthetic limbs and even human hair. No photos were permitted of the latter, but the sheer quantity (and that being only a small fraction of the total), it weighed 2 tonnes, and would fill several large dump trucks. There was even a net made of human hair.
On to confinement and punishment cells, often a place prisoners would be stored, tortured and tormented whilst awaiting execution. There were solitary confinement cells, standing cells (too small to sit), dark cells and suffocation cells which didn't allow enough air to survive. Between this building, a courtyard to the left where thousands were lined up and executed by firing squad. Outside the camp, we also walked through a make shift gas chamber, formerly an ammunition bunker. Here, thousands were murdered in mass, their bodies burned thereafter in furnaces.
The Auschwitz-Birkenau camp was more the layout I expected, and perhaps what we see on movies and documentaries. Still, the sheer size of it is amazing
The gas chambers themselves were demolished by the Nazis, blown up in a desperate attempt to destroy evidence. The remains of these buildings still tell plenty. You can identify stairs going down, a room where people would have been stripped, told they had to shower, and forced into another large room, for death by gas. Nearby, bodies were piled and burned, as often furnaces couldn't keep up.
On the way out, we passed through dorm buildings. What a squallid hell hole
The tour lasted around 5 hours in total over both camps, and it was enough. It was an amazing but sombering experience.
Back around 3, we made use of the gym at the hotel. It was privately owned, and a little awkward, but we relished the chance at a workout, it had been so long!
For dinner we walked into town. It was a perfect evening, warm and clear. There was music, markets, stalls and many people out enjoying the summer. Dinner was goulash on a potato pancake, with a side of delicious meat dumplings. I think Nat has a taste for these now, we will get some more for lunch tomorrow.