Back in 2008 we visited Krakow, Poland in February and again in June.
On both occasions we visited Auschwitz.
On our first visit in February, we couldn’t get to visit the Birkenau section as it was closed off due to stormy weather conditions.
So that warranted a return trip to Krakow few months later.
A Brief History…
Just in case some of you don’t know much about Auschwitz and its cruel past, here’s a short recap…
Auschwitz is one of the many, many concentration camps (better known as “death camps”) that were set up by the Nazis during the second World War.
At any given time it could hold up to 150,000 prisoners.
It was the gas chambers that killed the most people, but starvation, disease, slave labour and many crazy medical experiments also played a big part in the demise of many unfortunate enough to be imprisoned there.
Nowadays, Auschwitz and the Holocaust have become synonymous with the term; genocide.
The site was partially destroyed by the Nazis in 1945 when they were on the back foot. However, a museum was set up to remind and help people understand exactly what happened here.
Auschwitz: Hell on Earth
Prior to visiting Auschwitz, we have visited Sachsenhausen a year earlier, which is situated outside Berlin.
Once you get to the train station at Oswiecim, you have to get a short taxi to the camp.
Upon entering the grounds you’ll pass under the infamous sign that reads “Arbeit Macht Frei” – Work sets you free!
The original sign was bizarrely stolen back in 2009 but later discovered.
This has resulted in a replica sign being used since then. There are plans to resurrect the original at some stage.
We took an audio tour which last a few hours and provided an in-depth account of what happened in the various sections of the camp.
The above photo shows Block 16 which shows exhibits entitled “The Tragedy of Slovak Jews”.
You definitely feel uneasy as you wander around the camp and notice the barbed wire fences that secure the whole camp.
It was in Birkenau where all the mass murders took place. The railway that led prisoners into Birkenau was known as the road of death.
Once the train stopped, women and children were immediately directed in the direction of the gas chambers under the false pretence that they were going for a shower and a disinfection process.
Men who were fit to work were spared, while those unfit were also sent to the gas chamber.
In Birkenau there were many barracks open to the public which had various exhibits on display.
This photo above shows a typical bed setup where there could up to 15 prisoners in each little box.
The conditions that prisoners had to endure in Birkenau were beyond horrific. Torture, firing squad shootings, disease outbreaks and other treacherous conditions were all part of daily life.
It goes to show just how organised and scarily institutionalised the recycling of body parts, hair etc actually was.
We felt numb as we strolled around on both visits.
What’s extremely frightening is that the world doesn’t seem to have learned from this tragic period in time. Genocide is still taking place in various countries.
Auschwitz is without a doubt a very errie part of the world. Some people will be succumb to tears as they discover the horrors that went on there.
You can read all the books about it that you want, but actually visiting the place and seeing it in person is a sobering experience that not everyone agrees with.
“It should not be allowed to happen again” is a statement you’ll hear a lot in reference to Auschwitz and the holocaust, however it has happened since then and STILL is happening.
Some day we plan to return again to Auschwitz to document it a little better.
It’s only taken us 7 years to do something with all the photos we took from our visits there.
Better late than never though!
Have you ever visited Auschwitz?