“Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it” – George Santayana’
This quote from poet and novellist George Santayana (from Spain) certainly rings true.
It is hard to know where to start and what to include in this post.
At the entrance of the Auschwitz Concentration Camp is a sign that says “Arbeit Macht Frei” which is in German and translates to “work sets you free”. This is largely ironic as when Jews were brought to the camp they were told that “there is only one way out – through the crematorium chimneys”.
- Auschwitz opened in 1940 and was the largest of the Nazi concentration and death camps;
- In the years 1940 to 1945 the Nazi’s deported at least 1,300,000 to Auschwitz (1,100,000 Jews; 140,000 – 150,000 Poles; 23,000 Roma (Gypsies); 15,000 Soviet Prisoners of War; 25,000 prisoners from other ethnic groups). 1,100,000 of these people died in Auschwitz;
- Evolved from detention centre for political prisoners to extermination camp;
- Auschwitz was a part of Adolf Hitler’s ‘final solution’ – this was to isolate and exterminate those he deemed unfit to be a part of Nazi Germany. This included not only Jewish people (men, women and children), but Gypsies, educators, artists, communists, homosexuals and the mentally or physically handicapped;
- Many of those sent to Auschwitz were promised a better life and hence brought many of their belongings;
- Upon arriving at Auschwitz, people were examined by Nazi doctors (or just glanced at) who determined their fate. Those deemed unfit to work (including children, elderly and pregnant women) were sent to the showers. They were told they would meet wth their loved ones afterwards;
- The showers were constructed so as to look like a normal shower, however there were holes inthe ceiling where Zyklon-B poison gas leaked into the area;
- One of the jobs that those Jews deemed ‘fit for work’ were sent to do, was to remove the corpses of those in the showers. Whilst doing this they were to remove any jewellery and cut off the women’s hair. The hair was later sent to Germany for use in certain products;
- At its’ peak, Auschwitz housed 20,000 political prisoners;
- Some of the prisoners at Auschwitz had to march to nearby Birkenau to build new facilities when Auschwitz was nearing capacity;
- When the camp was liberated due to the Soviet army’s nearing approach, Nazi’s sent 60,000 prisoners on a ‘death march’ – 60km of marching to other concentration camps. At least 10,000 of the prisoners did not survive the march.
Birkenau was constructed to alleviate the congestion at Auschwitz and to make a better process for extermination.
Possessions of those who thought they were going to have a better life.
The gate (“Gate of Death”) through which prisoners were transported by train. Photo taken from where would have been the disembarkment area and where women and children were separated from men.
Cattle car used to transport Jews… 60 to 100 in one car.
Women’s bunk in a ‘barrack’ in Birkenau. Three levels – five women on each level. Sometimes more. No light, no ventilation.