Thursday, April 19, 2007

Auschwitz, Poland

Visiting Auschwitz was like a bucket of cold water on your face. And it is a name that represents the worst of the German occupation in Poland and the location of some of the worst atrocities of World War II. The camp consisted of three main camps: Auschwitz 1, the administrative center; Auschwitz 2 (Birkenau), and extermination camp; and Auschwitz 3, a work camp. There were around 40 satellite camps, some of them tens of km from the main camps, with the prisoner populations ranging from several dozen to several thousand. An estimated 2.5-3 million were killed, 90% of whom were Jewish representing most every country in Europe. Means of killing were mostly gassing by Zyklon-B; but included systematic starvation, lack of disease prevention, individual executions and so-called medical experiments accounted for the rest.
The second picture shows a former gassing chamber in Auschwitz II that the Germans blew up in an effort to mask their actions, when fleeing from the Russians. There was one in Auschwitz I and four in Auschwitz II. The third picture is one of the most moving. It is remains of the belongings of the prisoners. Upon entry to the camp, everyone was stripped of their belongings. They were placed in "Kanada", which was a compound of 20+ buildings created to store all the belongings until they could be shipped back to Germany. These also were destroyed as the Germans left Poland, but today you can still see buttons, pottery, silverware, eye glasses, etc. in the ground within the foundations. The last picture is the most peaceful on the surface, but under the surface is turmoil. There are the ashes of hundreds of thousands of prisoners dumped into various ponds and around the perimeter of the camp. The camps were amazingly efficient in their terrors. The thoroughness of the evil is tragic.

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