View Full Version : Auschwitz/Birkenau - aug 2008 -

08-06-2009, 02:02 PM
a little visit to this place last year in poland

a little history

Auschwitz-Birkenau was the largest of Nazi Germany's concentration camps and extermination camps, established in Nazi German occupied Poland. The camp took its German name from the nearby Polish town of Oświęcim. Birkenau, the German translation of pol. Brzezinka (birch tree), refers to a small village nearby, mostly destroyed by the Germans.

Following the German invasion of Poland in September 1939, Oświęcim was annexed by Nazi Germany and renamed Auschwitz, the town's German name.
The camp commandant, R. Höß, also Hoess, testified at the Nuremberg Trials that up to 3 million people had died at Auschwitz. The Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum has revised this figure to 1.1 million, about 90 percent of whom were Jews from almost every country in Europe. Most victims were killed in Auschwitz II's gas chambers using Zyklon B; other deaths were caused by systematic starvation, forced labor, lack of disease control, individual executions, and purported "medical experiments".
In 1947, in remembrance of the victims, Poland founded a museum at the site of the first two camps. By 1994, some 22 million visitors—700,000 annually—had passed through the iron gate crowned with the motto "Arbeit macht frei". The anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz by Soviet troops on January 27, 1945 is celebrated on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Holocaust Memorial Day in the United Kingdom, and other similar memorial days in various countries.

Auschwitz I was the original camp, and it served as the administrative center for the whole complex. The site for the camp was chosen on January 25, 1940 by the Nazis. On April 27, 1940, Reichsfuhrer SS Heinrich Himmler signed the order that initates construction of Auschwitz Concentration Camp in Poland.[8]

On May 5, 1940 Rudolf Hoess was chosen as the first commandant of Auschwitz Concentration Camp. On June 15, 1940 the Nazis open Auschwitz Concentration Camp, officially to provide 100,000 labour force for I.G. Farben Factory.

The camp was initially used for interning Polish intellectuals and resistance movement members, then also for Soviet Prisoners of War. Common German criminals, "anti-social elements" and 48 German homosexuals were also imprisoned there. Jews were sent to the camp as well, beginning with the very first shipment (from Tarnów). At any time, the camp held between 13,000 and 16,000 inmates; in 1942 the number reached 20,000.[citation needed] The entrance to Auschwitz I was—and still is—marked with the sign “Arbeit Macht Frei”, or “work makes (one) free”. The camp's prisoners who left the camp during the day for construction or farm labor were made to march through the gate to the sounds of an orchestra. Contrary to what is depicted in several films, the majority of the Jews were imprisoned in the Auschwitz II camp, and did not pass under this sign.

The SS selected some prisoners, often German criminals, as specially privileged supervisors of the other inmates (so-called: kapo). Although involved in numerous atrocities, only two were ever prosecuted for their individual behavior; many had "little choice about their actions". The various classes of prisoners were distinguishable by special marks on their clothes; Jews and Soviet Prisoners of War were generally treated the worst. All inmates had to work in the associated arms factories, except on Sundays, which were reserved for cleaning and showering and upon which there were no work assignments.
Interior of the gas chamber of Auschwitz I

The harsh work requirements, combined with poor nutrition and hygiene, led to high death rates among the prisoners. Block 11 of Auschwitz (the original standing cells and such were block 13) was the "prison within the prison", where violators of the numerous rules were punished. Some prisoners were made to spend the nights in "standing-cells". These cells were about 1.5 square metres (16 sq ft), and four men would be placed in them; they could do nothing but stand, and were forced during the day to work with the other prisoners. In the basement were located the "starvation cells"; prisoners incarcerated here were given neither food nor water until they were dead.
Interior of the crematorium of Auschwitz I. This facility was much smaller than those of Auschwitz II.

In the basement were the "dark cells"; these cells had only a very tiny window, and a solid door. Prisoners placed in these cells would gradually suffocate as they used up all of the oxygen in the cell; sometimes the SS would light a candle in the cell to use up the oxygen more quickly. Many were subjected to hanging with their hands behind their backs, thus dislocating their shoulder joints for hours, even days.

The execution yard is between blocks 10 and 11. In this area, prisoners who were thought to merit individual execution received it. Some were shot against a reinforced wall which was reconstructed after the war; others suffered a more lingering death by being suspended from hooks set in two wooden posts, which also still exist.[citation needed] On September 3, 1941, deputy camp commandant SS-Hauptsturmführer Fritzsch experimented on 600 Russian POWs and 250 ill Polish inmates by cramming them into the basement of Block 11 and gassing them with Zyklon B, a highly lethal cyanide based pesticide. This paved the way for the use of Zyklon B as an instrument for extermination at Auschwitz, and a gas chamber and crematorium were constructed by converting a bunker. This gas chamber operated from 1941 to 1942, during which time some 60,000 people were killed therein; it was then converted into an air-raid shelter for the use of the SS. This gas chamber still exists, together with the associated crematorium, which was reconstructed after the war using the original components, which remained on-site.

couple of old pics......


and as it stands today....



















the wall of death.....

08-06-2009, 03:07 PM
very sad but some stunning pics

08-06-2009, 03:13 PM

08-06-2009, 07:31 PM
Chilling but some very atmospheric photos. It was a shock to get to the one with all the people in modern dress walking around, I was in another time and place.

08-06-2009, 09:16 PM
Thanks for sharing this, another one of those places you'll never forget.

09-06-2009, 12:07 AM
Very sad, but never forgotten.:(

09-06-2009, 10:48 PM
Auschwitz is certainly a very moving place to visit. I spent the morning there a few weeks back when staying in Krakow. Never got to see Auschwitz-Birkenau, a really heavy thunderstorm drove me back to the bus stop.

10-06-2009, 11:58 AM
Stunning pictures there :thumb
I like the one you have taken from the train line :)