Auschwitz - Birkenau
February, 2005
View of the guard tower from the unloading ramp. Here, victims were selected for immediate death or for slave labor.
View from inside the tower.
Yeah, I was there. It was 22 degrees. At least I was dressed for it (sort of). The victims were not.
Views inside the barracks. Early in the war, the buildings were built of stone and brick. As the nazis ran out of materials, later buildings were built of wood from the surrounding forest. Now, 60 years later, many of the wooden buildings have rotted and collapsed. The brick buildings are still standing. Victims were "accomodated" 6 per bunk. The middle photo show the toilet facilities.
As the Russians approached from the east, the nazis destroyed all the crematoria at Birkenau in an attempt to hide the horrors of their crimes. The left photo shows the steps down into the "changing room". Remember the scene from Schindler's list of the victims going down the stairs. The roof collapsed when the nazis attempted to destroy it. The center photo shows the remains of the gas chamber and crematoria. The right photo is the smokestack and several memorials.
A successful escape; seven victims managed to escape in 1942. One of them, a Pole, became a movie star and always played a nazi in World War 2 movies.
Another attempted revolt: the victims managed to smuggle explosives into Birkenau and successfully blew up crematoria IV. Unfortunately, all were killed as punishment.
Sometimes the gas chambers were so crowded that victims were forced to wait their turn for execution.
Many of the wooden buildings have collapsed; only the chimneys remain, standing guard over this place of horror. Never forget...
Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II (now called Birkenau) were originally constructed to house the anticipated millions of Russian POWs. Later, they were used to implement the "final solution" to the Jewish problem; they became death camps. Over 1.5 million people, mostly Jews, were executed here. Rest in Peace...
Entrance to the original Auschwitz, Auschwitz I. "Work will make you free" proclaims the sign. The reality was that work would prolong the number of days to your execution.
The victims didn't know they were on their way to execution; they were told they were being relocated. So, they packed and labeled their bags with all their belongings and family photos and boarded the trains.
Faces from the past. The nazis opened the suitcases looking for items of value. These were photos, probably of family members, from the suitcases of the victims.
The Victims. Fifteen of the 1.5 million executed here and of the 6 million (at least) executed overall. Originally, victims were photographed and records were kept of their arrival dates and dates of death. Later, as thousands of victims arrived every day, there were no photos or records. These photos show dates of arrival and death. All 15 arrived June 17th, 1942. The last one died November 11th, 1942.
Cell block 10, a building of unspeakable horror. In here, Dr. Mengele and his team of "doctors" conducted medical "experiments" on the victims. The building is locked and all windows are blacked out. Visitors and staff are not allowed entrance.
Victims were also executed here, by firing squad. Block 10 is on the left (notice the blacked out windows). The victims of the medical "experiments" were sometimes executed here.
The building on the right of the firing squad range housed torture chambers in it's basement. Each room contained a different form of torture. One of the rooms housed the "standing" torture, documented here. You can still hear the screams in this dungeon.
Justice. The first commandant of Auschwitz was hanged here for crimes against humanity.
The gas chamber. Be silent here.
At Auschwitz I, there was no pretense of "showers". There were holes in the ceiling through which the poison gas entered. In 15 minutes, everyone would be dead.
The ovens. Be silent here.
The manufacturer of the ovens, a German company, knew exactly how the ovens were being used. They "advertised" how quickly a human corpse could be incinerated in their oven. They were also prosecuted after the war.
The ashes of some of the victims. Rest In Peace.
My personal guide, Anna. She holds a masters degree in history specializing in Holocaust studies, and spoke excellent English. She was a tremendous guide for the 6 hours and over 5 miles we hiked around this place. It is huge. Unfortunately, there is no "pleasant" background at Auschwitz. This is the crematoria at Auschwitz I.
In the museum at Auschwitz I.