Auschwitz-Birkenau Jewish Concentration Camp Report from the Road
Today we went to Auschwitz and Birkenau Concentration Camps in Oswiecim, Poland. I have been to Darkau in Munich so I sort of knew what to expect, but the magnitude of the site was unbelievable. We weren’t allowed to take photos inside most buildings, but outside was okay. It poured the rain and I got drenched, but I did manage to get lots of photos and some videos which I will put up when I get home.
There is no way that I can convey the images that we saw today. There was over a ton of women’s hair on display in one room and that was only about a third of that recovered. They had been selling it to India, etc. for making rugs and linings for coats, etc. There were displays with thousands of pairs of glasses, displays of thousands of shoes, some of which were wooden shoes as we think of Dutch shoes. There was a huge display of childrens shoes and one very moving display of artificial limbs taken from those who were handicapped. The ones in better condition were sold for reuse. There were displays of cooking/kitchen equipment as the prisoners were told when they left their home to pack their most important things, but they could only bring one suitcase each. They thought they were being ‘relocated’.
When new prisoners were brought into the camps, and they were given their uniforms, they weren’t new uniforms, but rather the ones taken off those prisoners being extinguished. There were various bits of information both tatooed on the prisoners and on their records. Of course, we all know that the star of David was tatooed on those who were Jewish, but those who were political prisoners were tatooed with a green right triangle and there were others. They took those with the most hardened criminal records and elevated them to supervisors and gave them much better quarters to do atrocities to the other prisoners. They took three photos of each prisoner except the Jewish ones. They didn’t take photos of the Jewish prisoners because they were denying that they were there. They said the camp was for bringing morality to the society and enforcing laws (that’s what they told the rest of Europe). However, a few Jewish prisoners were accidentially photographed and those are cherished as evidence that they were lying.
The Birkenau Camp was huge and had four gas chambers as opposed to only one at Auschwitz. The two camps are about 3-4 miles apart. However, the barracks at Birkenau were better than those in Auschwitz which were simply straw or straw mattresses. In Birkenau although they had the bunks, 5-7 people would sleep in each bunk. The lower bunk was the worst assignment as there were huge rats in Birkenau and they tended to enter the sleeping area.
In Auschwitz there were toilets, but multiple ones in a room and bathroom time was restricted. There were no partitions and everyone went together. In Birkenau they were simply holes cut in the floors. Most didn’t stay at the camps more than a couple of months before they were extinguished. Often upon arrival they had a ‘doctor’ who decided who was ‘fit to work’ and only about 15% were deemed acceptable. The women and children were told to go to the showers where they were to clean up. Then, they extinguished them through the showers.
I encourage you to be vigilant as the world has already seen what can happen when controlling types and those willing to do anything, get too much power. I’m not saying that it would happen, but we can never guarantee that it wouldn’t.