Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Ok now something more famous....Oświęcim

So with Krakow pretty, shiny, fancy and all old under our belts, we thought it would be rather apt to see something else down in the southern regions of Poland. Not having time to make a good fist of visiting the real highlands to the South of Krakow, we decided that with Simon, our Aussie/English/Sri Lankan accomplice, it was about time we put his History degree to application and we decided to visit Oświęcim. Most people know it by its German name, Auschwitz. Yes, the home of what has been considered the most evil act in recent history, of course according to some.

Arbeit macht frei - Work brings freedom (Image borrowed from Wikipedia)

Basically, I don't really think I can convey in words what you see and feel when there. It is a rather awesome feeling (not in the new usage of the word either) that encompasses you when you arrive around. Walking in through the sign mentioned above, the place looks somewhat idyllic, as there is now green grass, and in summer the trees have all their leaves. It seems almost like a retirement village, as it is well kept and all quiet. The location was originally a Polish military barracks, and hence the reason the buildings on the main Auschwitz site were more permanent than those we were to see later in the more removed part of the camp, Birkenau. Seeing rooms full of shoes, glasses, artificial legs/feet/arms and a mound of human hair. Unfortunately for reference, and my blog's sake, you can't take photos inside, even if the odd tourist was unable to obey this rule that is given in about 6 languages.

The signs that tell you not to wear your bathers around a concentration camp and to "keep silence".
Looks so idyllic with the trees, sunshine and grass.

The first sentry at the gate.
So the thing you get used to seeing here was lots of barbed wire.And more barbed wireWith guard boxes and, of course, some barbed wire.

Oh and don't forget the barbed wire, and, of course, just for good measure, it is electrified too.

The Block 19, which was not the home of the Medical testing that was applied to numerous groups, mostly twins, dwarfs and gypsies, this was in Block 10 across the path.The guard box from where role call was made, the solidier in charge of role call would call and wait for the said person to respond, if that person did not respond, they would wait until they did. Hence, when prisoners escaped, the entire camp population would remain outside. Sometimes in sub zero temperatures for up to 18 hours.The gate to the execution yard.
Time to reflect now.

With our tour, we incorporated the Auschwitz I site with a trip out to Birkenau. The Birkenau location just amazes you in its immenseness. A place which now looks something like a holiday camp you could picture in a 1950-60's family movie in some ways, while it extends as far as the eye can see with green grass and little huts or chimneys remaining. It is quite indescribable. It was to me almost flabbergasting, and when the sun shines and the grass glows a vibrant green, you remove yourself from the past somewhat. Roughly 700,000 visitors visit these sites each year. Which is nearly the total of people that died at the facility.

The train line in.
The remaining chimneys from burnt out barracks.
The main entrance to Birkenau.
A remaining barrack.
and inside...
even in a place like Birkenau you can find simple beauty. I think there is something in that......

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