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Auschwitz

Our entire class spent the weekend in Poland.  On our last day there we visited Auschwitz which was the largest Nazi concentration and extermination camp.  This was one of the most emotional days of my life.  As a student I have always read about the concentration camps and what the Nazis did to the Jewish community, but it often just feels like a bad movie.  When  going to Auschwitz it was straight in my face and there was no way to avoid the suffering that had happened there.

We first went to Auschwitz I and walked through the well known gate that stated “Arbeit Macht Frei”.  In German this means “Works Makes You Free”.  This part of Auschwitz was not the biggest but on the grounds of this camp they had a museum.  In different blocks there were different exhibits.  

Auschwitz Gate

Auschwitz Gate

The most emotional to me was the block with different objects from those at the camp.  When people would leave for Auschwitz there were told that they were going to be resettled and to bring all of their belongings with them.  Once they arrived at Auschwitz all of their belongings were taken from them.  The people were then put into two groups.  Those that could work and then those that could not work.  Those that were unable to work were immediately killed in the gas chambers.  All of their belongings were taken along with all of their hair cut off.  In the museum they have rooms filled with shoes, hair, pots, pans, clothes of those that died at the camp.  They even have suitcases with names of people because they were told to label all of their belongings.  I almost could not make it through this part of the tour.  Knowing that these items belonged to people that were murdered was unbearable.  They even had children’s clothes and toys.  It was the most disturbing thing I have ever seen.  The images in those rooms will be with me for the rest of my life.

Shoes

Shoes

We then went to Auschwitz II- Birkenau.  This was the largest of the 3 parts of Auschwitz.  The size of this camp was unbelievable.  It was such a strange feeling because it was such a beautiful day outside.  The sun was shining, the grass was green, and there were even flowers, but you were also surrounded by barbed wire.  It was such a paradox.  We went into the living quarters of the prisoners and we were also taken to the ruins of the crematorium and gas chambers that were destroyed by the Nazis before the liberation of the camp.  We also saw the memorial built with plaques in over 20 different languages. 

Birkenau

auschwitzruins

Around 1.1 to 1.5 million people were killed in Auschwitz.  The actual number is unknown because some were never registered.  This was an experience that I will never forget and I hope that anyone that has an opportunity to go and visit will.  It is a difficult task to do, but it is important that we all understand what happened and so something like this can never happen again.
Memorial Plaque

Memorial Plaque

6 Responses to “Auschwitz”

  1. Dear Leslie,

    Thank you for writing this article. I think it is important to tell people what you witnessed. I too have been to a prison camp and it is something that truly you can never forget.

    I was at Dachau, which is very near Munich, Germany. Before my visit I did not realize that the prisoners worked in the factories producing products for the Germans. The factories right next to the prisons were larger than the huge place where the prisoners were kept, as you say.

    I remember that the prisons held 10 times what they were originally built for. The prisoners were slave labor. I was in a recreated barrack which was built for 200 people and had 2000 people living in them.

    I recently read a book that blamed pyschiatrists for the philosophy that humans were handicapped and mentally ill were experimented on and killed and this set the way for Hitler. Many of the German psychiatrist should have been war criminals, but most stayed free. Many continued their experiments after the war in many countries including the United States.

    You know that Dwight Eisenhower had the prisons much photographed as he did not want people to ever forget what the Natzi’s did. The president of Iran and many Muslems say the Holocast never happened.

    I can see why many Jews will not go to Germany.

    I have not been to Vienna, but to Salzburg and Innsburk.

    I am glad you have had the opportunity to live in Europe a while. Enjoy your studies and travel in Europe.

    Very best wishes.

    Dick Bartlett ’62

  2. Oh man,
    what a life changing moment. Its not everyday you get to see that kind of history. I’m glad you had that experience, I feel as though I would be weeping just like you Leslie.
    Can’t wait to see you at Augie in the Fall so you can tell me all about it!
    ;)
    -Laura

  3. Wow, this post took me back to when I visited Germany and your right, its truly a life changing type of thing. To think that not long ago this kind of evil really existed and almost took over the world. Its crazy to think. I did not see a pile of shoes like the you did, as I went to a camp outside of Dresden, but I can only imagine the feeling you would get in your stomach after seeing something like that. Well, thanks for the post, great stuff.

  4. I think that this was a very sad thing because they didn’t have very much to eat when they were in the concentration camp and when they had the chance to eat they couldn’t because they were very sick. I think that you can relate this to Rosa parks because Hitler took over the Jews and Rosa parks had to give up her seat and that is what I think about.

  5. I dedicated my life to medicine and aiding life and its always a wonder to the me the depths that inhumanity can go to. Are the supplies of compassion dry at the well pumps of our souls?

  6. I had a grandad who went back many years later and think it gave him a bit of closure it was a very emotional day.

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