Thursday, September 27, 2012

Auschwitz I

Stepping into Auschwitz I was a humbling experience and the gloomy weather only accentuated the feel. It was the first of three large concentration camps within a short distance of one another. Today, with the large number of bunkers intact, it has become a large museum. Inside varying blocks are artifacts and information panels. With the masses of tourists and our guide providing facts, numbers and general information of what occurred in the area, it was easy to remain disengaged. The emotion wasn't as strong as I had been expecting. Individual stories were never told. There were only brief moments of reality, with a photo of a prisoner, a child's shoe, and a few rare stories, such as standing on the location of a 19 hour outdoor winter roll call. 

"Several hundred women prisoners, mainly Jewish
were held in two upstairs rooms of this block and used as
human guinea-pigs for sterilization experiments conducted
by Prof. Dr. Carl Clauberg, a German gynecologist, from
April 1943 to May 1944. Some of them died from the treatment
they received, others were murdered so that autopsies could be
performed on them. Those who survived were left with
permanent injuries.
Other SS doctors also conducted experiments on women
in this block."

Execution wall.  Windows in bunkers on either side were blacked out.
That still didn't stop the prisoners from knowing what was occurring,
especially since the blackened windows were not soundproof.
Instead of flowers, Jewish tradition places rocks on graves
or memorials, which is how the execution wall now stands.

The mound of shoes spanned both sides of a large corredor
Children's shoes. Those who didn't meet initial execution were
mandated the same workload and hours as an adult. 
"You are in a building where the SS murdered thousands of people.
Please maintain silence here; remember their suffering
and show respect for their memory."
The only surviving crematoria is also the smallest. The others
were slowly destroyed before the liberation. The final large
crematoria (in Auschwitz II) only being destroyed
the night before liberation. Meaning, mass murders
occurred up until the final hours. 
"This is where the camp Gestapo was located. Prisoners
suspected of involvement in the camp's underground
resistance movement or of preparing to escape were interrogated here.
Many prisoners died as a result of being beaten or tortured.
The first commandant of Auschwitz,
SS-Obersturmbannfuhrer Rudolf Hoss, who was tried
and sentenced to death after the war by the Polish
Supreme National Tribunal, was hanged here on
16 April 1947." 

It was the non-museumesq Auschwitz II - Birkenau that tugged more at my heartstrings.

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