Aug 6 - Auschwitz Complex

We went to Auschwitz 3 days ago, but it took a while to put my thought together. If I hadn’t been to the Holocaust Museum in DC prior to coming here ... I don’t know how I would have reacted. The absolute magnitude of the factory extermination of Jews and others is quite overwhelming. The whole concept of what the Nazis did is beyond comprehension.

As Carol said, it pleases me that 100's of people were lined up to get into this memorial site. Because when people stop coming they might forget. Never forget the magnitude of the slaughter .. and the sadistic nature of the killings ... shooting, hanging, starvation, asphyxiation, torture, experimentation, crushing, and of course gas. The guide spoke of the laborers being lucky, I think not!

Rudolf Hoess the commandant of Auschwitz was hanged in 1947 ... that should have made him endure just 10% of what the laborers experienced in these camps. The laborers lived a life worse than death for a few weeks and months.

We started our visit at Auschwitz I, with 22 converted army barracks which was a labor camp with only 1 crematorium. The camp exhibits that hold collections of artifacts over 40,000 in each exhibit was only a small representation or the 1.3 million people exterminated at the Auschwitz complex of camps. I thought I'd seen and heard the worst.

To put it in perspective ... following was an exhibit that showed about 4,000 pairs of shoes in a window, each representing a life lost at Auschwitz:

The exhibit was in a hall with 10 of these windows, showing 40,000 pairs of shoes:

If we add these 32 hallways, we'd have the full compliment of people who'd lost their lives at the Auschwitz Complex:

Then we proceeded to Auschwitz II / Birkenau death camp and you see the 300+ barracks vs 22 at Auschwitz I, built by laborers from the materials extracted from the nearby village and other resources as temporary holding pens as people wait for their turn in the 5 crematoriums. The barracks go on and on covering vast property mostly as a facade to put victims at ease until their unsuspecting factory slaughter. 

I couldn't get a full picture of Birkenau, but here is an aerial view they showed in an exhibit:

To get some perspective, I took this picture of the main gate:

Here is the main gate as we walked 1/2 way to the crematorium at the far end of the camp:

And again at the Memorial near the crematoriums:

Birkenau goes off to the right and left an equal distance:

I get chills just reading of the horror I've written as I think back on how to describe the experience.  Again, I doubt that my pictures do justice to the experience I've witnessed these many years later.  

Gate at the entrance to Auschwitz I:

Ashes of Victims collected from the woods in a memorial at Auschwitz I: