The seven must see things in Poland, from Salt Mines to Concentration Camps. Here is a link to the guide exclusively published for Happy Trips. And here is a picture gallery of Concentration Camps of Auschwitz and Birkenau.
The iconic image of the Auschwitz – Birkenau concentration camps.
The Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camps were one of the most infamous of the 45 Nazi extermination, concentration and death camps that built by the Nazi Germans during the World War II.
The entrance of the Auschwitz I camp. The reason why they are referred to as extermination camps is because of the German’s final solution. They had planned to systematically kill the captives either by extreme hard labour, starvation, unhygienic inadequate housing, no medical care and finally by gassing them.
Anything or anyone who came in the utopian world of Hitler’s pure bred Aryan world was eligible to be here.
The various reasons were Ethnicity (Jews, Poles, Hippies), sexual orientation (homosexuals), disability (handicapped, mentally ill or old), gender (females), age (children), or rebels, Soviet prisoners of war, spies, deserters, work shy men, beggars, drug addicts, petty criminals, prostitutes, alcoholics, people with brown skin color, pacifists.
Between 1940 – 1945, the Nazis deported at least 1,300,000 people of which 1,100,000 died (90% were Jews).
These were proper categories, with identifying badges for each to be worn by the prisoners all the time.
Various sections of the camp that included a sites of execution by shooting, hanging, mass gassing by means of Zyklon B, murder by lethal injection, crematoriums, prison camps and walls of execution.
This is the main reception area of Auschwitz I where prisoners were processed and registered.
The blocks were numbered and prisoners were housed based on various distinctions.
This is the entrance, the sign on the top “Arbeit Macht Frie”, Work Makes (you) Free would welcome the prisoners. The sign was made by prisoners with metalwork skills and erected by order of the Nazis in June 1940. This phrase was placed at the entrances to a number of Nazi extermination and concentration camps.
The sign over Auschwitz was stolen in December 2009 by thieves, and later recovered by authorities in three pieces. The original is now in the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, and a replica has been placed over the gate.
This is The Death Wall, one of the many innovative and unique ways in which the prisoners were tortured and abused.
Flowers and bouquets left by the visitors to pay respect to the dead in the holocaust.
Crematorium where the dead were turned to ashes in electric chambers.
These are the personal files of the prisoners deported from various countries put on display detailing their journey from being a name to being reduced to a number.
These are pages from the bunker book, a daily log of how many prisoners were shot that day. A simple asterisk in red colour to indicate the fatal end to a ghastly journey.
The empty containers of Zyklon-B, the pesticide that was used in gallons to gas the chambers chambers.
A map on the museum site displaying the geography of the concentration and extermination camps.
This is how the inside of a prisoner housing facility looks.
Initially, each square that you see was supposed to be inhabited by three prisoners. However, the number of deportees increased exponentially.
Eventually, each single rectangle you see was crammed with nine people. Given the extreme lack of space, the prisoners would sleep in the form of a 3 X 3 square, like the structure of a tic-tac-toe
This was the only place for prisoners to relieve themselves, in the entire camp. Once everyday in the morning for 2 minutes.
Because of extreme congestion, an Auschwitz III was under construction. A much bigger, much lethal killing machine.
The half built chimney of the gassing chamber. In the background you see the weave of the gassing chambers that were under construction. But by then, the Red Army had already reached arms length.
The Nazis attempted to conceal and hide the camps by blowing them up.
As the Allies and Red Army advanced, it became clearer that the war has been lost by the Nazis. They didn’t want the surviving soldiers to be incriminated in war crimes. So they blew up as many gas chambers as possible.
This is one of the handful of gassing chambers in Auschwitz – Birkenau whose caved in remains speak of the horror against mankind.
The goods wagon used for deportations. Prisoners were transported from all over German-occupied Europe by rail, arriving in daily convoys such as these. This would be followed by an immediate selection process. Those deemed unfit to live would be immediately led to gas chamber and executed. This selection are would often be the last place where families saw themselves together for the last time. Ever.
The barbed wires with electricity running through them during the World War II period of 1940 to 1945.
The barbed wires would mean different things to the prisoners and the survivors. To some if was a sign of hope and home, when they would be on the other side of the barbed wires. Some saw it as the ultimate sign of liberation – death. They threw themselves on the wires, self-electrocuted themselves and freed themselves from all never-ending agony, as they saw it.
A tiny prayer written in four languages in front of the pond of ashes. “To the memory of men women and children who fell victim to the Nazi genocide. Here lie the ashes. May their soul rest in peace.”
The Auschwitz Birkenau Concentration Camps – Foe 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 the various countries of Europe.
“The one who does not remember history is bound to live through it again” – George Santayana
How do you say goodbye to such a place? What do you leave with? What are your parting words? After having seen both the camps when I was walking around one last time, I looked around and wanted to believe that all of this was indeed not true.
There are few theories that the extermination and concentration camps were indeed part of a conspiracy theory and were all untrue. Holocaust denial is actually a crime in many European countries with imprisonment up to three years.
Auschwitz II or Birkenau was an even larger, better built facility to annihilate the population that was ‘life not fit to live.’
It is said that the survivors of the holocaust, once liberated, were offered food and medical care. Starved for years and on the verge of dying, some of them just wanted a hug first.