OUR AUSCHWITZ – BIRKENAU EXPERIENCE (August 11-12, 2016)

TOTALLY DRAINED!!!….This was how we felt after we visited Oswiecim and saw the biggest concentration and extermination camps in the world : The Auschwitz I and Auschwitz Birkenau concentration and extermination camps.

 Being in these two camps was a hard eye-opener for us! The lessons we have learned in school and the scenes we have seen in the films about the World War II particularly during the supremacy of Germany in Europe came alive and became more real!  Nothing is so compelling, so strong, so harsh and so dramatic as the presence of these two camps. They are the living testimonies of how evil a man could be; of how cheap a human life could be; of how hopeless somebody could be; and how low a fellow human could be; and how one race could play God over the others!  It showed oppression, discrimination, heartlessness, lack of compassion and  inhuman nature of mankind! Our visits to these two camps would surely be imprinted forever in our minds and hearts! And we were lucky to be here; to feel the eerie atmosphere that hang in the air and to remind us that there was once in  the world and human history a period as dark and horrible as this one! May we never forget the millions of people who suffered and died here and may we never allow this dark part of history to  repeat itself!

 I. THE AUSCHWITZ I

Auschwitz was the largest Nazi Germa concentration camp and death camp. In the years 1940-1945, the Nazis deported at least 1,300,000 people to Auschwitz

 1,100,000 Jews;        140,000-150,000 Poles;   23,000 Roma (Gypsies);  15,000 Soviets Prisoners of War;  and  25,000 Prisoners from other Ethnic Groups

1,100,000 of these people died in Auschwitz. Approximately 90% of the victims were Jews. The SS murdered the majority of them in the gas chambers.

Auschwitz Info Board

ARBEIT MACHT FREI…. These words stand on the port of the Nazi concentration camp in Oswiecim.  Ironic and misleading…because no matter how hard the Jews and other people worked during their stay in the camp, they were never freed. Majority of them died either in the gas chamber, by guillotine, or by a bullet! Some died by a disease, hunger or criminal medical experiments.

Inside the Auschwitz I

Our visit to this camp was made even more depressing because of the gloomy day. It was raining the whole time. Though it didn’t stop the approximately 17,000 visitors of that day to walk around in the camp- in silence and thoughtful attention- passing and entering the different blocks which now served as exhibition halls for different countries involved in the WWII.

Inside the exhibition halls/barracks

We became acquainted with the plight of the Jews and other nationalities who had the misfortune of landing in this camp; we saw the sorry states or condition of the barracks, the Wall of Death where people were mercilessly shot dead, the square where roll call was made everyday which sometimes lasted up to five long hours, and worst, the gas chamber where hundreds of thousands of Jews were sent to their death.

Wall of death, gas chambers and the barracks

II. AUSCHWITZ II – BIRKENAU

Not far from Auschwitz I, about 2 kilometers, is the biggest extermination camp of Germany in Poland – the Auschwitz – Birkenau Concentration and Extermination Camp. There is a free shuttle bus to this camp which departs from Auschwitz I every ten minutes.

 

Just like our visit to Auschwitz I, our visit to Birkenau was also very emotional. In fact, it was more emotional, more tiring and more draining that in Auschwitz I. In the first place, it was bigger; second, we got to walk around freely at every hook and corner of the area; third, the remnants of the cruelty of the Nazi regime was strongly to be felt; fourth, we were confronted with the harsh reality of the unimaginable , very inhumane conditions of the Jewish people and other ethnic groups during the WW II; and fifth, it was if the ghosts of the victims are all still roaming around the area, crying for help and giving us goosebumps all the time!

Our visit to the camp started upon entering the so-called Gate of Death, the gate where the trains passed through to enter the camp and brought thousands and thousands of people to their deaths. Somewhere on the rails was a part of the train donated by the Hungarian government to commemorate the Hungarian victims. Next we walked to the valley of death, as I called it. It was a long path where prisoners were forced to walk on in going to the death chamber (which they didn’t know yet of course). All we could see at this point are just ruins of barracks where the people were detained and unending barbed-wire fences . All were burned down by the Nazi self to hide their inhumanity to fellow mankind.

The Gate of death and fences everywhere

The gas chambers were also burned down; all was left were heaps of stones and big ruins. There were memorial stones for the victims on the place where gas chambers formerly stood. The building where the newly-arrived prisoners were screened, scrutinized inhumanely, had their hair shaved off, decontaminated and received the camp’s clothes was also open to public. At one side was a big wall poster where pictures of the victims were on display…it was a time and place for silence and reflections.

Ruins of gas chambers and some of the barracks left

Also found in the camp is the International Monument for the Victims of Auschwitz. Here we saw the memorial stones from different countries who were victims from this horrible event. Aside from this, we were also able to enter some of the depressing barracks particularly the ”waiting”area”where sick prisoners were put awaiting their death and the barracks for pregnant women and women who were parts of the medical experiments. All was terrible!!!

International monument for the Victims of Auschwitz

III. LAST WORDS

KL Auschwitz , which was founded as an instrument of the Nazi terror and repressive measures against the Polish people, is the symbol of Holocaust – the mass extermination of the Jewish nation.There is no other place on the earth where more Jews, Poles, Gypsies perished as a result of criminal methods in such a limited time and in such a limited space. The grounds of Auschwitz and Birkenau camps constitute the biggest cemetery in the world and a place of Genocide.  

Auschwitz Info Board 

Our visit to Auschwitz and Birkenau was surely one of the most unforgettable experience we have encountered not only during this camper adventure, but also in our whole journey. It was a special experience to be here and to walk around the two camps, reminding us of the dark period in the world history, a period that we must not allow to recur. The camps taught us to value our lives more, to be thankful to the people who sacrificed their lives so that we may enjoy the freedom and equality we have now. It also serves as a living reminder that we are all equal, that we all have responsibility to one another, and that freedom is a sweet gift that everyone has right to

Campsite : Parking , Auschwitz Museum

                     Uli. Stanislawy Leszczynskieg  , Oswiecim

Coordinates :   N: 50.02658   E: 19.20020

It is a big mix-parking found opposite the Auschwitz Museum. Tourist information is just around the corner. Fee is 40 zloty/day; plus extra 20 zloty for overnight stay. There is also a possibility to park inside the museum grounds, or at the parking area in Birkenau.

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2 thoughts on “OUR AUSCHWITZ – BIRKENAU EXPERIENCE (August 11-12, 2016)

  1. A very thorough and thoughtful write up. I agree with your conclusions; I visited myself some years ago. A very poignant trip as a number of my family members met their end at the camp

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  2. Hello Joseph…indeed our visit to Auschwitz has been very touching, emotional and an eye opener for us. I could just imagine iow your own visit could have been more than that as you had your own personal experience. May this dark part of history never be horgotten. Thanks for your comment….

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