However, there are a TON more posts about this trip to go, so don't you worry your pretty little head.
In this post, I am going to discuss my trip to KL Auschwitz I. Auschwitz I is located in the town of Oświęcim, where we stayed for one week. Oświęcim (pronounced OS-ven-chim) is the name of the town in Polish, and it is referred to as Auschwitz in German. Residents, understandably, dislike having the town called Auschwitz. Oświęcim itself is a very nice little town surrounded by the Sola River and tons of birch trees. Oświęcim has a long and rich history, including a large population of Jews that were killed in the Holocaust. Contrary to population notions, you cannot see the concentration camp from the town, although it is just a short walk from the city centre. Birkenau, where most of the killing took place (and what I will write about in my next post regarding this trip) is further away from the town. During the war, those living near the camps were forcibly moved to make way for KL Auschwitz to be built. (FYI: KL stands for Konzentrationslager, which translates into English as "concentration camp").
|Kids cooling off in the Market Square Fountains
"Auschwitz I, the main camp in Oświęcim. In August 1944, it held about 16 thousand prisoners (roughly 10 thousand Jews, 4 thousand Poles, and 3 thousand prisoners from other ethnic groups). This was the location of the SS garrison administration (SS Standortverwaltung), the commander of the local garrison, and the commandant of Auschwitz I, who enjoyed the formal prerogative of “senior” service status in relation to the other two commandants (“Der Lagerkommandant des KL Auschwitz I ist dienstältester Lagerkommandant und SS-Standortältester des SS-Standortes Auschwitz”). Auschwitz I was also the seat of the main offices of the political department and the prisoner labor department. Here, too, were the main supply stores, workshops, and SS companies (DAW, DEST, and Deutsche Lebensmittel GmbH). Work in these administrative and economic units and companies was the main labor assignment for the prisoners in this camp.
In October 1944, a camp for several thousand women prisoners employed producing artillery-shell fuses in the Union-Werke factory opened in the new blocks in the so-called camp extension (Schutzhaftlagererweiterung)."
Citation: Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum Website
The visit was not as emotional as I actually expected, or rather perhaps even needed it to be. When you are an academic, sometimes it is expected that you put your feelings on hold--or never even have them in order to keep it together. We were given a tour by a man who works at the camp and knows so much about it, yet the emotion was totally missing (and I don't blame him as it would have to be for him to be able to go to work everyday). However, I think I needed to feel something, as this was my first visit to Auschwitz, despite having studied it for most of my life. I will likely go back there on Saturday (our day off) in order to see some more of the exhibits in depth.
Here is a sample of what we saw in KL Auschwitz I
|Artificial limbs and aids for disabled people taken to Auschwitz II-Birkenau
|Even the shoes were confiscated
|Quote at the beginning of a new exhibit co-designed by Yad Vashem
|Picture drawn by a child during the Holocaust (not necessarily at Auschwitz, but possibly)
|Drawing mockingly telling prisoners how not to wash
|Drawing telling prisoners how to wash
|Bunks in KL Auschwitz I. Each bunk was for two grown men or women (depending on the year they were used). These are different than the "classic" barracks you see in films because those mostly represent Birkenau.
|View of the sheer number of people packed in at once.
|Heels women wore to Auschwitz
I hope you found this interesting, although a bit horrific. :(
Until next time. x