Historic Locations Aren't Always Fun, But Necessary!

11:49:00 AM Unknown 13 Comments

Where's Oswiecim you might be asking!  You've heard of it, you just don't know it.  Oswiecim is the Polish name of the city the Germans called Auschwitz.  When Germany invaded Poland they renamed many cities, it was just one of the many moves intended to show intimidation and domination.  

Oswiecim is not a nice looking town and while thousands of tourists visit it each year, it retains a post war industrial look and feel.  Bob and I took an early morning jog and I can't give it the high marks I've heaped upon other cities, but given its history should we be surprised?  There is no way to "white wash" the image of a city whose history is so horrific, so perhaps it's apropos that it retains a grayness about it.  

Our guided tour was fantastic!  It is sobering to walk through such a place, but our guide did a very good job giving us not only historical facts, but making the place personal.  Her very own grandmother was deported to Germany to work as a nanny for a farmer--for free of course.  The Nazi's didn't like the Poles much more than the Jews...the difference being one was good for free labor and the other was good for nothing.  
While a visit to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp is not a happy affair, it is certainly worthwhile. Much of the site has been left "as is" in order to convey the conditions people lived in. 
Eliza is writing her grade 12 extended essay on the Mengele medical experiments and she was allowed in the archives to research a bit--what a great opportunity to take it all in.   
I had prepped Eden by reminding her this was a mournful place where she needed to be respectfully quiet and she did great!  When explaining why the place existed and what happened here her response was, "well, that wasn't very nice!"
Auschwitz was originally a Polish Army camp, so when the German's came in all they had to do was remodel a bit, so to say.
Community toilets--had to be emptied by the bucket full.  According to our guide, one of the workers was quoted as saying she praised God the day she was put on scheiße duty--it was indoors and provided a bit of shelter.
Next is a series of pictures I've taken of photographs on exhibit. As people poured into the concentration camps men and women were immediately separated, but the Nazi's quickly learned that to avoid panic and rioting, they did not separate the children from mothers.  (Click on the photograph to make it bigger).

Ironically enough, it was a German Jew's work that led to the invention of zyklon B used to kill Jews in the gas chambers.  It was an insecticide in pellet form.  Once crammed inside a large room, a soldier would pour the pellets in from a hole on the outside.  The body heat of people was enough to activate the gas-- It only took 15 minutes to do its work.

The Nazi's took anything of value from the Jews including shoes, gold teeth, wedding bands, brushes, pots, prosthetic limbs and luggage.  Most impactful for me (and not allowed to be photographed) was a room full of human hair---and the bolt of fabric that was made from it.  PUNCH IN THE GUT!
On its busiest day ever, the camp received 17,000 prisoners.
An up close shot of luggage that fills an entire room. This belonged to Klara Sara Fochtmann from Vienna. 
Early on, Auschwitz housed political prisoners--Poles who were guilty of being educated, involved in politics, or teachers.
We were not allowed in this building, but this is where Mengele preformed his medical experiments.

This is in a court yard between "blocks" or housing units.  It was an execution wall.

Auschwitz had 28, two story blocks.  It was very quickly filled to capacity and so Birkenau (only two miles away) was opened; it is 20 times bigger than Auschwitz.  The photo below is the gate the trains filled with Jews would enter through. 
Sleeping barracks.  No longer brick, but wooden horse stables intended for up to 750 people.  Each had one fire furnace. People died of disease, lack of nutrition and the elements.  Inmates were only afforded a few inches of space, forced to sleep on their sides. 

Those lone chimney's are all that remain of the housing barracks.
This is an actual train car used to bring in Jews.  The life span of a Jew at Auschwitz/Birkenau was only 3 months.
This is the end of the line--literally.  The gas chambers are to my right.
As the Soviets pressed from the East the German's fled, but not before blowing up the crematoriums. There were 6 in total; one at Auschwitz and 5 at Birkenau.  The one at Auschwitz is the only one that survived intact because they had discontented its use since the bulk of the prisoners were at Birkenau.
I climbed to the top of the watch tower for this view.  There are 19 wooden barracks preserved--but judging by the chimney's you can see just how many many more there were and this is just on the right side of the tracks--there is an equal amount on the left side.  It is truly hard to imagine the scale of misery.

The Details
Address: ul. Wiezniow Oswiecimia 20  32-603 Oswiecim 
Hours: 8am-7pm in summer. First English tour at 9:30am
Cost: Technically it's free, but if you want to join a guided tour (which is mandatory during the summer months) you will pay 40pln per person.  Our guide was fantastic!
Parking: Museum parking is on the left, private parking is on the right--you have to pay for both.
Tip: Arrive early or later in the afternoon.  When we arrived at 8:30am the parking lot was empty.  By 11 it was teeming with tour busses.  It makes a difference to visit when it's a little quieter.


  1. What a somber place. Thank you for sharing your experience of visiting Auschwitz.

  2. It's been a long time since I've been there, hard to see this again.

  3. I found this post difficult to go through but it is important we remember. Your pictures and text tell a lot of the story. I don't know how well I would handle a visit to Auschwitz.

  4. Mournful and sad images of a terrible time in history.

  5. History is not always pleasant.

  6. Wow a powerful post. Its not something that is talked about much anymore. You did a great job with this.

  7. I once visited a camp in Germany, and it was also a powerful experience. Great post! May the world never forget.

  8. I have also visited this place some 10 years ago,
    we almost didn't make it,
    because we were the last batch.
    still remember what it looks and feels like.
    I couldn't bring myself to see those bunks and gas chambers,
    as soon as I saw the memorial/execution wall, there was just goosebumps all over.
    It was really an emotional and disturbing experience for me. :(

  9. My we never forget! Thank you for posting about your visit.

  10. Ngày lễ quốc khánh sắp tới, mọi người có một kì nghĩ dài, vậy nên đi biển nào vào kì nghĩ lễ 2-9.Sài gòn một thành phố lớn với nhiều địa điểm vui chơi, chúng tôi sẽ mách bảo cho bạn một số địa điểm Ngày 2-9 ở sài gòn nên đi chơi ở đâu. Có rất nhiều bạn đọc quan tâm và thắc mắc rằng Nghĩ lễ ngày 2-9 nên đi du lịch ở đâu để có một chuyến đi du lịch trong kì lễ ngày thú vị nhất.
    Cúng 100 ngày cho người mất cần chuẩn bị những gì để có thể chuẩn bị một cách tốt nhất, thể hiện lòng tôn kính và tưởng nhớ đến những người đã qua đời. Khi vô tình
    mặc áo trái là điềm gì có ddiefu gì xui rủi không. Những hiện tượng tự nhiên này thông thường rất linh thiêng được nhiều người quan tâm. bọ cạp một loại côn trùng có chất độc nguy hiểm, khi căn người có thể gây ra những hiện tượng ko tốt cho sức khỏe. Vậy Bị bò cạp cắn có sao không. Nhiều người cho rằng, không nên soi gương vào ban đêm vì có thể dẫn đến xui rủi cho người. tìm hiểu chi tiết. Tại sao không nên soi gương vào ban đêmĐóm đóm vào nhà điềm gì
    Thời trang là một trong những yếu tố không thể thiếu trong cuộc sống của con người, những mặt hàng thời trang cao cấp luôn được nhiều người chú ý nhất.Nhận đặt mua tiffany & co tại việt nam và tim hiểu mỹ phẩm cathy doll có tốt không để có thể an tâm sử dụng mỹ phẩm này trong việc bảo vệ và làm trắng da.

    1. after visiting the camp of Dachau, after that of Auschwitz - Birkenau and after listening carefully to the guide. . . . not a day goes by that those memories resurface in my mind. Terrible !!