Auschwitz (Oświęcim) ~ a sad story to tell

Firstly… I am posting this in total respect for all the suffering that happened at the hands of the Nazi’s at the Auschwitz camps (and all other concentration camps for that matter) We are allowed to take photos at both concentration camps

Osweicim Flag

Oświęcim - Map

During this towns history, it has been known and spelt in many different languages in different ways, German speaking merchants called it Auswintz and by the 15th c. the name was changed to Auschwitz, it was only after the WWII in January 1945 when it became know as Oświęcim again

Oświęcim is one of the oldest Gords in Poland (a Slavic wooden fortified settlement from the Iron Ages


Poland

IMG_5802
Polish motorway rest stops – similar to Germany but the parking signs dont mention Campervan or caravans here
IMG_5806
Driving along Polish roads

TOLLS… ugh! You pay for the amount of motorway you use in Poland. Once we nearly lined up for 30mins to get through one of the toll booths, just killed the time we made by using the motorway! But looks like there is the use of electronic device for some vehicles (not most) as it was in sydney before everyone then had to get the device

So, one of the toll booths we went through was just a ticket machine which spat out a ticket with a time stamp and once we took our required exit there was another toll booth and we paid the amount according to where we got the original ticket from, guess this was is cheaper

IMG_5793
Getting used to paying tolls here after flying free on autobahns in Germany
DJI_0902
Our accomdation for the night at Auschwitz, we were just around the corner and out of the crowds
IMG_5822
Our dinner in the van 🙂 Fish and vegies

Auschwitz I & Auschwitz II -Birkenau Concentration Camps

IMG_5846
The infamous “Work makes you free” sign at the entry
IMG_5895
The 2 camps are not too far from each other

TIPS & HINTS

Tickets – Ok, tickets… SO… tickets are FREE (how good is that!?) BUT you MUST do a tour as you get an educated guide who shows you around and you can ask as many questions as you like.  The guided tour is 50 Polish złoty each and they ask for some sort of identification to enter your details for the tickets so dont forget to bring drivers license of credit card

English tours start at 9:30am every day and are every 15 mins and go for 3.5hours but are ALWAYS booked out on the day, either you :

  1. Book your spot online in advance – https://visit.auschwitz.org/?lang=en
  2. Get to the ticket office at Auschwitz I from 7:30am on the day to get a spot during that same day – you cant purchase the ticket the day before (we tried, didnt work)

6 hour tour and 3 camp sites – I found this out when I got there, If you want a more detailed tour there is one tour in the day that gets filled out quickly so try to book this online or go to the ticket office at 7:30am 

Bags – They have airport scanners at the gates and you cant bring any bags that are larger than an A4 sized sheet of paper – there is a cloak room that charges 4 zloty per item but the place gets so busy that the line is longer than the entry line! Also collecting your bag you might get stuck in that line as well so beware and dont bring any bags –

Weather – you are outside for 3.5 – 4 hours so bring and wear appropriate gear or you will get uncomfortable! Umbrella in case of rain and sunscreen if its hot

Getting between the sites – there is a free shuttle bus which the tour guide organises for you. If you are without a guide, the bus is just outside the museum office at the carpark (you cant miss it, its a yellow twisty bus)

Parking – plenty of it in a few scattered parking lots – you must pay around 10 Zloty for the day which is so cheap ($4AU) overnight parking for campervans with electricity cost us 50 zloty at the car park slightly away from the museum but the next night we found a hotel across the road which had parking for 10 zloty (minus electric)


Auschwitz I ~ Concentration Camp

After WWII and the liberation by the Red Army, The Soviet Union handed over the camps to Poland in 1947 and it was declared a Museum in rememberance of all those who were imprisoned…

DJI_0914
The Auschwitz I Camp are the red buildings in the background

All the prisoners had to have their photos taken and identities noted down, but after a while when there were so many prisoners coming into camp, those who stepped off the trains and immediately gassed never had their identities noted and left the world with no ones knowledge…

IMG_5956

IMG_5948

IMG_5977

IMG_5981

Im telling you now, it was NOT easy or pleasant walking through the once muddy paths of both Auschwitz I and the larger Auschwitz-Birkenau camps and learning & hearing about the inhumane ways they treated the 1,300,000 people that walked through these gates and suffered.

A woman on our tour was crying out loud at one stage and I had tears in my eyes when I saw the picture on the wall of the children who were experimented on by that Dr Josef Mengele who used human beings as guinea pigs in a bid to try to make their Aryan race better than any other… what must they have been going through?… how did (or even could) they fight for survival seeing their people die around them every day? Sleeping in converted stables with up to 1000 people 20 in each 3 bunked bed? and what did they feel like when they were stripped of their dignity and treated like animals? So many questions… it’s just too sad and disgusting to even think about, all because of one man’s evil and deluded ideas, over 60m lives were lost by the end of WWII and who can forget that dreaded quote from Hitler himself in his Obersalzberg Speech “Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?” where he got his deluded idea from the Ottoman Empire in WWI – scary, history repeating itself

IMG_6036

Seeing Auschwitz in person really opened my eyes and taught me how evil and ruthless human beings can actually be when they crave and finally, decietfully, have ultimate power

Arbeit Macht Frei (“Work makes you free”)

The one we see now is a replica – The original sign was stolen in 2009! it was found 2 days later cut in 3 pieces in some random remote forest near Gdansk and they caught the theif who was a Swedish former neo-Nazi. He apparently wanted to sell the sign to a Nazi memoriabilia collector and with the money he would use it to finance terror attacks in the upcoming Swedish parliamentary elections

IMG_5840

Food Rations

Each prisoner recieved 1,500-1,700 calories per day and they had to survive on this working usally 11 hours per day. Those prisoners who couldnt find any additional sources of food usally died after a few months

IMG_5852

There are 28 2 storey brick buildings in this camp. These buildings are kept as they were found

First used as a POW camp transfering 10,000 POW but then in 1942, it was set up as a womens camp and held Jewish women from Slovakia, blocks 1-10 housed these women and they either were forced into slave labour or used in experiments

IMG_5863

IMG_5890

The electric fence surrounds the main group of buildings where the prisoners were held

IMG_5838

Here are some of the items found when the Red Army entered the camps – some of the items were too hard to hide but they did try to hide a lot of it away

These are exhibited in Block 4, locked of hair cut after the murdering took place in the gas chambers, they used the hair to make fabrics and to sell off to factories

There are so many shoes! shoes everywhere I couldnt believe the amount of shoes and we didnt see them all

 

There were also crutches and prosthetic limbs as the disabled were one of the first groups to be put to death

Zyklon B poison was used to gas the prisoners, this gas was cyanide based

IMG_5910

The first experimentation for mass gassing was done in this camp, they chose 600 POW and 250 sick prisoners to try out the first time

There is only 1 gas chamber in this camp, we walked in and it was just such a heavy feeling and looking around you can see the scratches of finger nails going up and down the walls when they realised what was happening to them

IMG_6057

Block 10  was one of the womens blocks and in this block serveral hundred women prisoners (mainly Jewish) were held here and had sterilisation experiments performed on them by Dr Carl Clauberg, who was the camps gynaecologist.  His goal was to find an easy and cheap way of mass sterilisation

IMG_5917

The most dreaded area of the camp is between Block 10 and 11 and is called the “Black Wall” where the prisoners were executed, usually shot

IMG_6012

Block 11 was where they tortured prisoners who tried to escape

Auschwitz-Birkenau

IMG_6167
Looking over at the mens quarter from the main entrance of the concentration camp

Chief of Construction Karl Bischoff, set up plans for the site and construction began in 1941. As we walked around you could see there was not much care or effort put into the building of this camp, they wanted something to be built quickly, it was mainly to ease the congestion from Auschwitz I camp that the building of this site began and not to house prisoners but more to get rid of them

By 1944, So many trains, daily would pull up with 1000’s of prisoners pushed into cattle carriages most would have to stand the entire journey with some up to 7 days until they got to their destination!

IMG_6121

IMG_6096

These buildings are in the mens block and were designed off German horse stables which hold 51 horses but in this case they held up to 700 prisoners

IMG_6098

…and in these stables were 3 tiered bunk beds made to hold up to 25 people per bunk! The bottom bunks were usually the least desirable as the rats would get to them and start eating them, dead or alive! The rats in this area at that time were huge due to eating so much human flesh

IMG_6105
These bunks are exact replicas

Our guide took us up to the top of the guard tower at the entrance to the camp and from there we could see what the SS would be able to see

I was watching a documentary about one of the survivers, her name was Kitty, and she was 15 at the time of her imprisonment. She was explaining the whole situation around these bunk beds and how they lived. She was saying that it was all about survival and that they werent people anymore. Each night there were many deaths so she would go looking for the dead in those bunks the next morning and then take their clothes right off them to wear and doing this she also had a chance to find a piece of mouldy bread in one of those stolen jacket pockets

IMG_6164

The electric fence for some prisoners was the easy way out 😦

IMG_6033
Barbed wire fence

The gas chambers – this is all that remains, the destroyed gas chamber and crematoriums, once understanding they were losing the war, the Germans tried to hide their dirt and destroy everything before fleeing

IMG_6136
The bombed buildings by the Germans

To make their own jobs easier, the Nazi soldiers LIED to the Jews as soon as they got to the camps. They were told to leave their belongings at the carriages where they would pick them up later and told them that they were going to bath and disinfect them after the long train journey.

They sent them into the first room called “the undressing room” which was right next to the gas chamber, made them all undress (man, woman and children in the same room) they then led them into the gas chamber and locked them in and they didnt know what was happening until they saw the zyklon B pellets dropping from the holes in the roof… after it was over they had the “Sonderkommando” (who were young and fit prisoners forced into this job) to come in and cut off all the womens hair and take out the gold fillings in the teeth and then cremate the bodies getting rid of the ash in nearby ponds and anywhere else they could get rid of it…. hearing our guide tell us this really was difficult


Oświęcim

Castle of the Dukes of Oświęcim

This castle sits on top of a hill just as you enter the town and was a place of worship back in the Pagan times and development into a dwelling and eventually a castle began in the Middle ages around 11th c where the Dukes of Oświęcim lived

Castle of the Dukes

The tower is the oldest part of the castle dating back to 13th/14th c and is one of first brick constructions in Lesser Poland

Church of the assumption of the holy virgin Mary

On this spot there used to be a 12th c wooden local parish church

The building we see now is built from 16th-19th c and was renovated once during that period due to another attack this time by Swedish troops in 1656

$2au for a beer at the market square… Won’t complain!

The view of River Sola coming into Oświęcim over the bridge

It took around 35mins to walk from Auschwitz Museum to the city centre

IMG_6188

The main square of Oświęcim

IMG_6219

Colourful streets

IMG_6226

Of course one of the most beautiful buildings in the city is now a government office… pffft

IMG_6234

I highly recommend visiting this city, there really is a lot of history and especially learning about the horrors at Auschwitz camps

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s