The sign above the camp which translates to work leads to freedom.
This was the “Welcome Center” of Auschwitz I. This is where prisoners were photographed, documented and later tattooed.
While of course many were killed in the gas chambers, those who made it into the camp mostly died of starvation. The average weight of a woman freed from the camp was about 50 lbs, and the average weight of a man liberated was 66 lbs.
One of the more interesting parts of the visit for me were the halls filled with portraits of the prisoners. When the camp first opened, all prisoners were photographed and logged with their birthdate and their arrival date. Later, the date of their deaths were noted. This was so interesting because while I have read many, many accounts from survivors of the holocaust, obviously they survived. Looking at these images, you would see men in their 20s who only made it 3 days in the camp. It was also important to note that prisoners admitted in winter lived merely days or weeks. Now remember, if they were photographed and logged, they were not sent to the gas chamber. Those prisoners were not kept track of.
So, for example, this gentleman was 47 when he was brought to Auschwitz. He arrived on January 30, and by February 25 he had died.
This young man was 22 when he arrived at Auschwitz on February 26, 1942, and he died on March 7 — a few weeks later.
This young woman was 19, and she survived less than 2 months.
The guards were not allowed to gas aryan children (only Jews), so they were kept mostly for experimentation by Dr. Mengele.
These were the original bunks in Auschwitz I. The beds in this photo would have slept 36 as the SS had the prisoners at 6 to a “bed”.
The fences (at least 2 layers) were electrified barbed wire.
This was the execution wall in Auchswitz I.
The Nazis were meticulous in their destruction of people. They would separate out all of their belongings to be re-used by Germans. This was a room full of the eye-glasses of killed prisoners.
Kitchenware that the Jews had brought to the camp. Upon departure, they were told they were simply being “relocated” and they could bring a certain amount of clothes/supplies to their new home. Of course, women thought of feeding their families.
Prisoners were told to mark their luggage with their names and address so that after their “showers” at the camp, they could easily find their belongings and move into their new homes. This was a pile of luggage found in the camp when it was liberated.
These were the shoes found at the camp when it was liberated. Keep in mind that these were found at Auschitz I, which had far fewer deaths than Birkenau, and these shoes were just the recent ones (Others throughout time had been “recycled” already).
This was a map showing all the places prisoners were brought from. I had no idea prisoners came from as far away as Oslo or Greece.
These were empty gas cans found near the gas chambers.
This was the gas chamber at Auschwitz I.
The crematorium at Auschwitz I.
Fencing around the camp.
Auschwitz II (Birkenau). Since Auschwitz I started as a political prison in Poland before WWII, it wasn’t really as “efficient” as the Germans wanted. They had the prisoners build Birkenau, which had train tracks that led straight to the gas chambers and crematorium.
The Nazis had time to destroy Birkenau and much of the evidence of their “final solution” a few days before liberation. They did not have time to do so to Auschwitz I. Because of this, the gas chambers and crematoriums at Birkenau were demolished and only the basic rubble remains. There has been a large memorial built between the gas chambers to honor the dead. There are 21 of these exact plaques in each language of the victims who were killed. The plaques in German and Polish are covered in flowers and candles.
These are the barracks in Birkenau.
More barracks in Birkenau. The barracks had “furnace chimneys” but were never used. They were built so that the Red Cross inspections would determine the camps were humane. The winters in Poland get down to about 0 degrees. They had no blankets and their “uniforms” were thin cotton.
This was one of the latrines at Birkenau. Prisoners were allowed to use the restroom twice a day. Many had dissentery. Certain prisoners had the job of cleaning the latrine, which it was explained to us, was actually a “good” job to have. The reason being the SS would never step foot in the latrines for fear of disease, so the latrine workers could talk to all of the prisoners and find out news about their friends and family. They also kept a sort of black market in the latrines, again, as no soldiers would enter.
Man. What a day.