After we walked around Auschwitz we went over to Birkenau, commonly called Auschwitz II.
To be honest, Auschwitz was more like a museum, and Birkenau was a lot more real and powerful, for me at least.
Nothing had really been changed or touched since the war (except some added rails and plaques to make it more helpful for visitors).
“Arbeit Mache Frei”
–meaning work makes you free
track than went from Auschwitz to Birkenau
barracks at Birkenau
There were rows and rows and rows of barracks that housed the prisoners. It was crazy to see how large this camp really was.
inside the barracks
Each section had 3 rows of “beds” that were about 5′ x 6′ and would sleep 5-6 adults per row.
3 rows of beds for the prisoners
flooring of the barracks
barbed wire surrounds everything
The gas chambers and crematoriums at Birkenau are just piles of rubble now.
They were destroyed while trying to cover up evidence of war crimes.
gas chamber, one of many
“On their arrival in Auschwitz most Jews were sent by the SS for immediate death in the gas chambers.
However, they were often forced to await their turn in this clump of trees if the gas chambers were full at the time”
this was one of the carts that would carry ashes to be dumped in ponds
“The ashes of the people who had been murdered in the camp were dumped in ponds and rivers, and strewn on fields as fertilizer. This cart was recovered from a pond near crematorium IV. The pond was one of the many places in Birkenau with the ashes of people who had been murdered and their bodies had been burned”
“To the memory of the men, women, and children who fell victim to the Nazi genocide.
In this pond lie their ashes. May their souls rest in peace.”
“In this building, brought into operation at the end of 1943, newly arrived prisoners designated by the SS for forced labor in the concentration camp were registered and disinfected. From now on they would be known only by a prisoner number which was tattooed on their forearms. Here they were also issued with striped prisoner uniforms and had all their body hair removed. The SS also made additional ‘selections’ here, sending all pregnant women to be murdered in the gas chambers. The poor state of hygiene in the concentration camp, and the hordes of insects, brought illness and epidemics which threatened the efficient functioning of the camp and the health of the SS who ran it. This building was therefore used in periodic campaigns the delouse the prisoners and their clothing”
“Newly arrived prisoners had to undress in this room. Clothing, valuables, and documents belonging to non-Jewish prisoners were taken for deposit in the camp storage rooms.
Property belonging to Jews, whether they were murdered on arrival or assigned to labor in the camp, was confiscated and taken to the nearby warehouse area known as ‘Canada’. After sorting and disinfection, it was shipped to various destinations in Germany, mainly for the use of German civilians”
“In order to make prisoners conspicuous and to prevent escape, all their hair was cute off. This is the room where camp barbers cut and shaved all the hair from the bodies of male and female prisoners. They did so with blunt instruments and at great speed, so prisoners were often injured. The procedure was particularly humiliating for women, since the barbers were often men and they were shaved in the presence of jeering SS men. The tattooing of serial numbers assigned to prisoners as part of the registration procedure was sometimes done here. The numbers replaced their names”
“Prisoners showered and were disinfected in this room. They were frequently harassed in various ways. Several hundred people at a time were crowded here. Water that was usually ice-cold or scalding hot poured onto them from the shower heads in the ceiling. Prisoners usually received neither soap nor towels. After the shower, they went to the next room, where they were supposed to dry off”
“Prisoners were assembled in this room after their shower. Naked and wet, standing or sitting on the concrete floor and exposed to drafts, they waited as long as several hours for the distribution of special camp clothing. Eventually they were driven down the corridor to the room where they were given camp clothes”
autoclave (using steam) to disinfect the prisoners clothes
autoclave (using heat) to disinfect the prisoners clothes
family pictures confiscated upon arrival to the camp
confiscated pictures of children
“The first to perish were the children, abandoned orphans,
The world’s best, the bleak earth’s brightest.
These children from the orphanages might have been our comfort.
From these sad, mute, bleak faces our new dawn might have risen.”
“The corpses of prisoners shot while trying to escape were often displayed here as a warning to others.”
“Thousands of prisoners were marched out of the camp each day to long hours of slave labor. In the evening they returned exhausted, bringing with them the corpses of those who had died.”
I was able to touch the beds that prisoners slept on and I felt the striped uniforms worn by prisoners.
It’s hard to comprehend that.
I don’t know if I will ever get over the shock of what I saw.
There are some things in history that are hard to believe actually happened, the Holocaust is definitely one of them.
“In spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart. I simply can’t build up my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery, and death. I see the world gradually being turned into a wilderness, I hear the ever approaching thunder, which will destroy us too, I can feel the sufferings of millions and yet, if I look up into the heavens, I think that it will all come right, that this cruelty too will end, and that peace and tranquility will return again.”