While in Poland we visited Auschwitz, a German concentration camp created by Hitler during the Second World War to exterminate all Jews, some Poles, Romanians and other nationalities that he in his sic mind considered not worth living. I don’t know how much they teach you at school, but you are old enough to understand history and I try to tell you a bit more about Auschwitz. I decided not to include any pictures except one general view as I don’t want you to find it distressing. This is going to be a very sad story, but I believe an important lesson for all the future generations to learn from it and never ever allow anything like that happen again. I couldn’t comprehend how one human being could do something like this to the other human being, but apparently it has happened.
During the Second World War Poland was under German occupation and Hitler set up extermination camps on polish territory, where he killed over 1,5 millions people. One of this camps, the biggest one, was in Auschwitz and Auschwitz-Birkenau. Auschwitz camp housed prisoners, was the location of medical experiments, and the site of Block 11 (a place of severe torture) and the Black Wall (a place of execution). At the entrance of Auschwitz there is the infamous sign that states ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’ (‘work makes one free’).
Auschwitz-Birkenau was the real killing centre of the Auschwitz death camp. It was in Birkenau where the dreaded selections were carried out on the ramp and where the gas chambers laid in waiting. Jews, Poles, Slovaks, Gypsies (Roma), homosexuals, asocials, criminals, and prisoners of war were gathered, stuffed into cattle cars on trains, and sent to Auschwitz.
When the trains stopped at Auschwitz-Birkenau the newly arrived were told to leave all their belongings on board and were then forced to disembark from the train and gather upon the railway platform, known as ‘the ramp’. Families, who had disembarked together, were quickly and brutally split up as an SS officer, usually a Nazi doctor, ordered each individual into one of two lines. Most women, children, older men, and those that looked unfit or unhealthy were sent to the left; while most young men and others that looked strong enough to do hard labor were sent to the right. Unbeknownst to the people in the two lines, the left line meant immediate death at the gas chambers and the right meant that they would become a prisoner of the camp. Most of the prisoners would later die from starvation, exposure, forced labor, and/or torture. Once the selections had been concluded, a select group of Auschwitz prisoners gathered up all the belongings that had been left on the train and sorted them into huge piles, which were then stored in warehouses. These items (including clothing, eye glasses, medicine, shoes, books, pictures, jewelry, and prayer shawls) would periodically be bundled and shipped back to Germany.
The people who were sent to the left, which was the majority of those who arrived at Auschwitz, were never told that they had been chosen for death. The entire mass murder system depended on keeping this secret from its victims. If the victims had known they were headed to their death, they would most definitely have fought back. But they didn’t know, so the victims latched onto the hope that the Nazis wanted them to believe.
Having been told that they were going to be sent to work, the masses of victims believed it when they were told they first needed to be disinfected and have showers. The victims were told to remove all their clothing. Completely naked, these men, women, and children were then ushered into a large room that looked like a big shower room (there were even fake shower heads on the walls). When the doors shut, a Nazi would pour Zyklon-B pellets into an opening (in the roof or through a window) which would turn into poison gas once it contacted air. The gas killed quickly, but it was not instantaneous. Victims, finally realizing that this was not a shower room, clambered over each other, trying to find a pocket of breathable air. Others would claw at the doors until their fingers bled. Once everyone in the room was dead, special prisoners assigned this horrible task would air out the room and then remove the bodies. The bodies would be searched for gold and then placed into the crematoria.
Those that had been sent to the right during the selection process on the ramp went through a dehumanizing process that turned them into camp prisoners. All of their clothes and any remaining personal belongings were taken from them and their hair was shorn completely off. They were given striped prison outfits and a pair of shoes, all of which were usually the wrong size. They were then registered, had their arms tattooed with a number, and transferred to one of Auschwitz’s camps for forced labor. The new arrivals were then thrown into the cruel, hard, unfair, horrific world of camp life. Within their first week at Auschwitz, most new prisoners had discovered the fate of their loved ones that had been sent to the left. Some of the new prisoners never recovered from this news. In the barracks, prisoners slept cramped together with three prisoners per wooden bunk. Toilets in the barracks consisted of a bucket, which had usually overflowed by morning. In the morning, all prisoners would be assembled outside for roll call (Appell). Standing outside for hours at roll call, whether in intense heat or below freezing temperatures, was itself a torture. Food was scarce and usually consisted of a bowl of soup and some bread. The limited amount of food and extremely hard labor was intentionally meant to work and starve the prisoners to death.
Also on the ramp, Nazi doctors would search among the new arrivals for anyone they might want to experiment upon. Their favorite choices were twins and dwarves, but also anyone who in any way looked physically unique, such as having different colored eyes, would be pulled from the line for experiments.
When the Nazis realized that the Russians were successfully pushing their way toward Germany in late 1944, they decided to start destroying evidence of their atrocities at Auschwitz. Himmler ordered the destruction of the crematoria and the human ashes were buried in huge pits and covered with grass. Many of the warehouses were emptied, with their contents shipped back to Germany. In the middle of January 1945, the Nazis removed the last 58,000 prisoners from Auschwitz and sent them on death marches. The Nazis planned on marching these exhausted prisoners all the way to camps closer or within Germany. On January 27, 1945, the Russians reached Auschwitz. When the Russians entered the camp, they found the 7,650 prisoners who had been left behind. The camp was liberated; these prisoners were now free.
Now Auschwitz is a museum and millions of people from all over the world go there to see it. I’ve never been there before and the whole experience was very depressing and really sad. We had an English guide so I could understand everything and I was very much shocked. When I came out of there I was full of hatred for the whole German nation. Of course it went away after reasoning with myself, but the whole experience was quite horrifying. But still I think worth seeing. As someone wisely ‘Let it be a warning for the present and the future, let’s learn from the past’.
I gathered the above information not only from my visit there but also from Wilkipedia and historical websites. No words can ever express and describe the horror of Auschwitz and seeing this extermination camp made me really scarred of what human beings are capable doing...