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Auschwitz and Birkenau Concentration Camps

Woke to a lovely blue sky and only getting to low 20's today - very pleasant! After getting ready I walked around the corner to find a bakery and oh my gosh was it a good one. I love Polish bakeries, I bought some bread rolls for our lunch and a yummy slice all for 7 PLN ( $ 2.24 AUD)

We left our room at 8.25 am to walk around the corner to at the Sheraton Hotel where we were getting picked up for the Tour ( See Krakow) to the concentration camps today . We paid our 155 PLN each ($50 AUD) We were on a small bus with about 25 people from all over the world. It took 1 hour 20 minutes to arrive at Auschwitz - the original camp where we connected with an english speaking guide. There were so many people there. We given a headset for her to speak through and went through a security check. Any of our bags larger than an A4 size piece of paper had to be left on the bus. There were so many people there and it is very well organised to cater to the thousands that visit. You can visit on your own and the entry is free but I am glad we did the tour as it was a little crazy if you didn't have someone directing you and having the guides were very informative.

Auschwitz is the German name for the Polish village of Oswiecim

We spent 2 hours at the first camp and then1 hour at the Birkenau camp which was built in 1940 to hold 100,000 prisoners after the other one was full. It was incredibly sad and cruel beyond belief. Conditions were so bad for those who were sent for the labour camp instead of being sent straight to the gas changers and the average person only live for 3 months in the camp before dying from starvation, disease , beatings or then being selected for the gas chambers as they started to look unwell.

Unlike other camps Birkenau was set up as an extermination camp as Hitlers Final Solution to exterminate all jews and gypsies and others from Europe. The Nazis has removed al the local people from their villages for a 40 km circumference and in Nazi occupied Poland no - one knew what they were doing. It was central to receive jews from all over Europe from as far south as Greece and was far west as Netherlands and north as Norway and east as Russia.

It already had a rail transport system set up to make mass movement of people easy. Camp 1 was already set up as polish military barracks and they just added a gas chamber and some other buildings. Camp 1 based about 20,000 prisoners but camp 2 around 900,000.

Trains initially would arrive in daily with 80 - 120 people crammed into closed in cars. Many died on the journey as no food or water was given to them. Those from Greece has a 10 day journey . There would be up to 1000 arrive on these transports. and they arrived with a suitcase of belongings a they and been told they would be getting re-settled. On the platform they were lined up into 2 lines - men and women and had to pass by a doctor who then based on their appearance sent them in the direction of the labour camps ( Men and womens were separate) or down the road to the gas chambers.

Off each transport usually 75 % went straight to the gas chambers. They were told they were going to the shower block before being re-settled. All luggage was left on the platform to be collected on their return. Down this long dirt road towards a grove of trees they walked to their death. The 2 crematoriums were blown up in 1945 by the nazis as the Russians were approaching and they wanted to destroy all evidence of their crimes.

Once they arrived they went into an underground bunker where they had to undress before being shepherded into the next room "the showers". Cyanide gas was inserted through the ceiling and in 20 minutes everyone had died. This room could hold up to 2000 people.

The Nazis then employed young jewish men called sonder who were kept separate from all other prisoners so they could not tell of what was really happening. Their job was to remove all the bodies, cut off the womens hair, remove gold fillings from teeth and cremate the bodies in the ovens. Cremating took up to 14 hours.

We went through a room that held 2 tonne of human hair that has been estimated to belong to 100,000 women. It was ridiculous. They sent this hair to a textile fabric to make material. We went through another room full of shoes - 80,000 , another with spectacles and hair brushes and cookware they bought with them to start their new lives. Anything of value in their luggage was kept by the SS and the clothes went to Germany to be sold to Germans.

No -one escaped from the actual campsite but 900 people did escape when they left the camp to work in the fields or factories. The bosses in the camp were often prisoners that had been released from German prisons. They were murderers and violent people who were the cruel overseers.

For those in the labour camps life's incredibly cruel and hard. They were starved - their daily rations looked like this - coffee for breakfast, a piece of mouldy bread for lunch and watery soup with a small potato the size of walnut for dinner. They were beaten and locked in stand up cells for up to week for something as trivial as having a missing button. They were only allowed to use the bathroom twice a day and beaten if they did not comply. They were unable to wash properly as they were only allowed in the barrack bathroom for 15 seconds. Up to 500 people slept in one barrack and up to 15 on one of the 3 tiers. There were selections every day and if they looked sick or weak were removed to the " hospital" before going to the gas chambers. The hospital never treated anyone and in there they were given no food or water

The camp director Rudolph Hess live in a villa behind Camp 1 with his wife and family in view of the crematorium. He was hung on site for his part in war crimes.

When the Soviets liberated the camp in 1945 there were 7000 prisoners still there but 2- 3000 of them died within days as they were so sick and starved. After WW2 Poland endured 4 decades of soviet communist rule.

Much of camp 2 was destroyed by retreating Nazis but you get an idea of the sheer size Their degradation and treatment was horrific and the memorial has been preserved as reminder to never let this happen again.

Everyone on the bus slept the drive back to town - emotionally drained I think.

Mum and I went back to the hostel to shower and do washing before going out again to the old town. A bicycle racing track had been set up around the outer perimeter of the square so we sat and watched the racing for an hour or so while having a wine and some more yummy pierogi ( stuffed dumplings)

We then went to a restaurant called Polakawski built in 1897 where had dinner of more pierogis for 10 PLN ( $3.20 AUD) It was self serve and had a strawberry filled one with cream on top for dessert - yum - theirs were boiled which is better for you but not as tasty as fried ones.

I have managed to read about 6 books so far this trip and a few of them are accounts of survivors of the holocaust that we picked up after our visit to Dachau in Germany. We purchased more books yesterday at Auschwitz.

The entry gates

The entry gates


Security

Security


Map of where the transports came from

Map of where the transports came from


Names of victims

Names of victims


Board of where they came from

Board of where they came from


Photo of Jews from Amsterdam

Photo of Jews from Amsterdam


Bathrooms

Bathrooms


Wash basins

Wash basins


Photos of victims lined the hallways

Photos of victims lined the hallways


Guard house

Guard house


Barracks

Barracks


Electric fence and barbed wire

Electric fence and barbed wire


The station that the trains arrived through

The station that the trains arrived through


Station

Station


Tracks of death

Tracks of death


Wagons that held up to 120 people

Wagons that held up to 120 people


Arrival landing and gates to a camp

Arrival landing and gates to a camp


Gate to the womens camp

Gate to the womens camp


Railway tracks

Railway tracks


Blown up gas chamber

Blown up gas chamber


Nazis blew this up as the  Russians approached

Nazis blew this up as the Russians approached


Barracks

Barracks


Triple tier bunks

Triple tier bunks


St Marys Basilica on the Square

St Marys Basilica on the Square


Square

Square


Inside the Guild Hall

Inside the Guild Hall


Guild Hall

Guild Hall


View from top of Guild Hall Tower

View from top of Guild Hall Tower


View from top of Guild Hall Tower

View from top of Guild Hall Tower


Narrow staircase

Narrow staircase


Windy steps

Windy steps


The tower

The tower


Where we had dinner

Where we had dinner


The dining room

The dining room


Carriage ride

Carriage ride


Gardens that ring the old town

Gardens that ring the old town


Lined up for inspection after arriving from trains

Lined up for inspection after arriving from trains


Thousands of brushes

Thousands of brushes


Thousands of items of cookware

Thousands of items of cookware


To walk to the gas chambers

To walk to the gas chambers

Posted by hillbillyramsey 17:00 Archived in Poland

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