Friday, July 25, 2014

A Visit to KL Auschwitz II-Birkenau

Auschwitz II, or Birkenau as it was called, is the most notorious concentration camp from the Holocaust. Although a large portion of people died in the Holocaust through random round ups and executions or at killing centres like Treblinka and Chelmno and Majdanek, Auschwitz has become the symbol of the Holocaust...or more specifically Birkenau. Auschwitz-Birkenau was unique in that it was the only place where prisoners were tattooed (something that has long now been associated with all Holocaust victims) and the only camp where prisoners were both put to work and executed. Other camps had working gas chambers (such as Dachau), but these were used when prisoners were too exhausted to continue working. In Birkenau, they were used both for that purpose, and for simply killing people on arrival.

If you read my book, Unravelled, much of the beginning takes place in the hell that is Birkenau. Although the hospital where the twins were experimented on no longer stands, the barn-like barrack where the twins were kept still stands as testament to all of the real children Aliz and Hajna's fictional story represent.

Birkenau has always been a part of me, ever since I was a little girl. I knew so much about it that although this was my first visit, it seemed as though I had been there many, many times. I could point out places without consulting the guide, and most of the time I found I was correct.

I have so many thoughts and emotions about Birkenau swirling through my head, but many of them are incredibly emotional and I would like to keep them private. Instead of delving into that, I will instead show you some of the photographs I took inside of the camp (and the ruins).
Jews originally arrived further away from the camp, marked by this space.

"Sauna" where new inmates to Birkenau were processed.

"Sauna," the very first stop on the way to inmates being processed in Birkenau. They were made to strip off their clothes before running to the other side of the room.
This is where the new inmates' heads were shaved. This is particularly interesting to me as this is the first loss of your identity within the confines of Auschwitz.

One of the only displays at Birkenau...photographs from the town of Bedzin (pronounced Benjin) that were brought to Auschwitz with the victims.

Photos from Bedzin brought to Auschwitz

Stairs to one of the gas chambers.
Barracks in Birkenau...these are in the brick buildings where four people slept to one bed.

Ruins of a gas chamber and crematorium

Ramp where Jews were selected (for work or the gas) before entrance to Birkenau

Famous entrance to Birkenau

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