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New Website, New Blog, but the Old Blog Archive remains: September 28, 2023

After many years of wanting a real website, this month I finally have a website designed by the very knowledgeable Rey Rey Rodriguez ( TheMindOfReyRey ). My old blog,  Vacation-Travel-Adventure  continues with the same address but it is located in the "Archives" tab on my new website . The new blog which is a continuation but with much better resolution for 4K screens, it is now at .

Auschwitz-Birkenau Tour: June 29, 2013

Yesterday we visited the Museum of Wartime Krakow (1939-1945).  The museum is housed in what was once Oskar Schindler's Factory.  Schindler is the same Schindler from "Schindler's List" movie fame.  It is a worthwhile visit and a good education before visiting Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Today, we took a tour of Auschwitz-Birkenau. It was hard to hear/read of all the brutality suffered here. It is estimated that 1.1 to 1.5 million people died in Auschwitz-Birkenau. I can't even begin to put those details into words.

The sign over the entrance to Auschwitz I says "Arbeit Macht Frei" (Work Sets You Free).  This was a ruse.  These were death camps.  

Another sign at the museum states:
"From 1941 to 1943, the SS shot several thousand people at the wall in the courtyard between Blocks 10 and 11.  Most of those executed were Polish political prisoners, the leaders and members of clandestine organizations, and people who helped escapees or facilitated contacts with the outside world.  Those shot here also include men, women, and children who had been taken hostage in revenge for operations of the Polish resistance against the German occupation.  Prisoners of other nationalities and ethnic origins, including Jews and Soviet POWs, were also shot at the wall.  Nazis dismantled the wall in 1944; after the war, the execution wall was partially reconstructed by the Museum."
This is a detail from the reconstructed execution wall.

The crevices of the execution wall are filled with small stones, crosses, or other remembrances.

The camps were ringed with high-voltage electric fences.  Some prisoners, rather than continue their daily tortures, committed suicide by throwing themselves into these fences.

Several of the "barracks" now contain exhibits.  Some of the items in these exhibits are the personal effects taken from those who were murdered in Auschwitz-Birkenau.  These personal effects: human hair, eye glasses, suitcases, shaving items, prostheses, shoes were stored in warehouses in preparation for sending the items back to Germany to be distributed among German citizens or recycled.  Prisoners referred to these warehouses as "Canada" as many had relatives who pre-war had moved to Canada--the land of plenty.  When the camp was liberated by the Red Army on January 25, 1945, the warehouses contained only a small fraction of what had been confiscated by the Nazis.  The huge piles of human hair, some still braided, are on exhibit, but cannot be photographed. The hair was packed in bags with the weight (200-250 kg) of each bag scrawled on it. The Nazis sent the hair back to Germany to be used in the manufacture of "hair cloth."  Human hair was also used in upholstery.

Photography of the other personal effects was allowed. The suitcases inscribed with the owners' names were the most affecting lending an identity to the statistics.

 Braces, crutches, prosthetics 
Piles of suitcases with the owners' names--names with the hope of survival

 Women's shoes
Brushes of all kinds: shaving, shoe, clothing, toothbrushes

Next our guide took us to Birkenau.  This was the arrival point for deportees from Polish cities and other countries.  Deportees were transported from as far away as Norway and Greece.

The deportees arrived at Birkenau in overcrowded, barely ventilated railway cars.  If they survived the transport, they were lined up outside of the railway car, where an SS officer quickly decided who was able to work and who could not.  Those who were judged unable to work (women, small children, the disabled, elderly, or frail) were directed to go to the showers. This was another ruse because they were walking into gas chambers. Those who were judged able to work, were worked to death, starved to death, tortured to death.

This railway car has become a shrine with small stones piled on every horizontal surface.

The wooden barracks have decayed leaving only the brick fireplaces that provided insufficient heat to the prisoners.

Brick structures built using bricks recycled from Polish villages from which Nazis expelled the residents.

The sign at the memorial to those who died at Auschwitz-Birkenau: "For ever let this place be a cry of despair and a warning to humanity where the Nazis murdered about one and a half million Men, Women, and Children, mainly Jews from various countries of Europe."

Each year, 1.5 million people visit Auschwitz-Birkenau.  I hope we come here because we want to make sure this terrible history will never be repeated.