Sunday, 15 August 2010


An underlying theme of our Europe trip became World War II and the Holocaust, independent of any plan we may have had. From the ballet in Prague of "Faust" set in Nazi Germany, to the rebuilt Dresden, to the depopulated ghettos in Prague and Krakow we kept being reminded of what had been done and suffered in this part of Europe. Of course the culmination was our day in Auschwitz-Birkenau. Oswiecim.

I decided that there's nothing I can add to the literature on Auschwitz based on a day there. So I thought I'd just post a few pictures and mention a couple of logistical aspects. Much helpful materials is on the Auschwitz website. Although visits to Auschwitz are free and it has been possible to make a self-guided tour, it is now required that visitors in the summer take the guided tours, a way of managing the crowds. We took an English-language tour. It was our first experience with the tour in where the guide speaks normally and you hear it on headphones. This was most effective, as you could hear her no matter where you were, although I got a bit confused when I was three rooms back. Because of the guided tour, we did not get to read many of the labels or enter all the buildings, which I only discovered on the website back home.

You don't go to Auschwitz and not Birkenau; they are different, and Birkenau is much bigger..

Work Makes you Free. The sign had been recently stolen and badly damaged, so this is a copy.

No man's land.

Sign outside a barrack.

We were surprised at how solid the buildings are.

We were not permitted to photograph inside buildings at Auschwitz. We saw the piles of hair, shoes, brushes, eyeglasses, prosthetics, suitcases, the insignia, prison garb, meals, torture cells. Photographs of prisoners on the interior building walls gave their name, date of entry and date of death. Generally prisoners survived about 3 months there. In the 1970s the Khmer Rouge similarly photographed the prisoners in their death camps in Cambodia.

Barracks - each bunk layer was intended to hold 6 people
Train tracks. You can barely see the camp entrance at the end of the tracks and the single boxcar on the siding where people were divided into slave laborers and those to be gassed.
Ruined barracks. Most of were torn down a long time ago, but the chimneys remain.

Entrance to the "dressing room" for the gas chamber/crematorium.
Ruin of gas chamber/crematorium'

Plan showing efficiency of gas chamber/crematorium
View of Birkenau from entrance watch tower.
View from watch tower of brick buidings.

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