auschwitz-birkenau, part 3 of 3.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Before visiting, I didn’t realize that there are actually 4 parts to ‘Auschwitz’:  Auschwitz I, Auschwitz II, Auschwitz III and Auschwitz-Birkenau. 
DSC01467 Between all 4 camps, historians estimate the death toll to range between 2-4 million.  The exact number will, of course, never be determined.  Half are believed to have died in the gas chambers, the other half on account of the brutal working conditions and/or diseases that resulted from these conditions.  And of all 4 camps, Auschwitz-Birkenau was known was the deadliest of all.DSC01468In our wandering about the camp, I stumbled across this ‘block’, reserved for Polish women and children.  DSC01483
Historians report remarkable instances of resistance within the camps.  I think that is what fascinates me most of all; that within the closet thing to Hell on Earth, hope still lingered and a bit of faith still remained.
During the Holocaust, Poland lost 6 million citizens – aproximately 1/5 of its population.  3 million of those killed were believed to be Jews, while the other 3 million were believed to be Christians (predominantly Catholic).
I don't think I ever fully realized just how many groups outside the Jewish population were targeted by the Nazis.  Apart from Jews and Poles, the Nazis targeted the physically/mentally handicapped, homosexuals, Gypsies, Soviet POWs, and members of anti-Nazi political parties.  I found myself wondering: if the Nazis hadn’t been stopped when they had, what and who would be left of Europe, what and who would remain in the world?  Scary.
Obviously, seeing all 4 camps in one day would have been impossibly overwhelming.  I think that each camp warrants its own day or else you run the risk of sort of normalizing the magnitude of it all.  I would like to visit the other camps eventually.  I’d also like to visit the Majdanek labor camp in East Poland.   My Polish friend's grandfather spent 3 months there as an imprisoned Polish Catholic.  He still remembers the number of his barrack.

*Information on the general oversight of the ‘Polish Holocaust ‘ can be read here.   Other general info. on the Polish victims of the Nazi era can be read here.
Alex, Speaking Denglish said...

a trip i certainly hope to make during my stay here - it's hard to realize the magnitude of the camps until you are there. i've only experienced Dachau but it was definitely heart-wrenching

TexaGermaFinlaNadian said...

Wow, what a trip to remember. Heavy stuff, but would be really an experience to see it all. Thanks for sharing with us that might never make it there :)

Dani said...

Dear, I adore that question you asked in the camp, about whether people still laughed and smiled. What a beautiful thing to think! I so often look for the bad in good, but how much better to look for the good in bad!

Anonymous said...

i love that question, too! what an interesting thing to ask.

xoxo jen

Maggie May said...

Horrifying. Thank you for sharing.

Unknown said...

I've lived in Germany for seven and a half months total (a big gap in between) and I have yet to visit a concentration camp. I think I'm a bit frightened of it all, I tend to be really emotional so I keep putting off the trip.

But I should go, I know I should.

Thank you for sharing this.


Anonymous said...

So scary and unfathomable. I went to the Dachau camp on my last trip to Germany. It was really difficult hearing some of the things that went on there. I had to just step outside a few times.

Anonymous said...

I've been to Majdanek (as well as Auschwitz-Birkenau). Majdanek was by FAR harder for me to stomach, so to speak. It looked like...well, like a concentration camp, while Auschwitz has been turned more into a museum (not a bad thing, of course). But Majdanek was absolutely haunting.

Anonymous said...

really great way to sum everything up and give your thoughts on are definitely right about who knows what would be left of europe of the nazis had not stopped when they had. super scary to think about.

i wanted to stop by Treblinka when i was out that way but never did. i heard it was not well preserved and very hard to find. kind of made me want to go more to be honest.

thanks for sharing this experience and your photos with us!

Sophie said...

wow...i definitely want to visit. while on holiday i read a book about the soviet union which opened my eyes to so much european history. its made me want to find out so much more information about both nazi germany and communist russia.

sarah nicole said...

Wow. Thank you for sharing this, Jenni. It's so important to remember.

RetreatingAndAdvancing said...

Oh dear, this is so awful.. Thanks for sharing, its important!
Poor Piotrs grandfather :(

artichoke said...

ugh, so creepy! In a weird way it's cool you got to check it out, though.

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