**Please note, some of these images may not be suitable for people of all ages.
Arbeit Macht Frei-Work Sets You Free
The infamous sign that you see in every history book when learning about the Holocaust and Auschwitz, the biggest and main concentration camp. This was one of the places that we went to because I wanted the fiance to see why when someone mentions Hitler, the Holocaust, and Camps I can’t handle it. I had family in Auschwitz, and no I’m not Jewish. Also, this is NOT a Polish camp, this is a German Nazi camp that was built in Poland, not by Poland’s choice. I know that some political figures have made that mistake before, so please remember this is NOT a Polish Concentration Camp.
Even though the majority of people sadistically murdered and tortured in these camps were Jewish, there were Non Jewish people as well. It was anyone who wasn’t fit to work and anyone who didn’t fit Hitler’s criteria. What the American School System teaches 5th and 6th graders about WW2 and the Holocaust is nowhere near what actually happened. They basically just teach you vocabulary on what a scapegoat is and to never say the word hate and to be nice to one another. I wish that everyone could visit these camps to really see for themselves that this is not something to joke about and that this really happened. It’s sad because when I posted about this on my personal Facebook some people didn’t even know about the hair being cut off which was one of the first things that happened to you. I’ll get more into those details later.
Now I know it seems kind of weird for me to be adding the linkup to today’s post, but I wanted as many people to see this post. I URGE all of you to read this post in it’s entirety. It is extremely important that the memories of those murdered are kept alive and that the stories are talked about so that something like this NEVER happens again. What I truly loved about this tour was the information we received and how the tour guide emphasized what Auschwitz was originally built for. Back in WW2, Germany wanted to invade and take over Poland. They thought the best way to do that was to just get rid of ALL of the Polish people. You know, clean house. Auschwitz was built for that purpose. They wanted to kill every single Polish person so that there was no one left standing to fight for our land. It didn’t matter if you were Jewish, non Jewish, Gay, Straight, young, old, etc. They wanted all of us Polish people gone. Auschwitz was designed for this purpose, however it was built by these Polish prisoners. All of Auschwitz was built by it’s prisoners. WW2 (the war and camps combined) killed 6 million Polish people, 3 million Polish Jews, and 3 million Non Jewish Polish people. What most people also don’t know is that there is more than one Auschwitz. Once the Nazi’s realized they needed more room they started expanding. Which is why you hear people say Auschwitz 1 or Auschwitz Birkenau, etc. We visited Auschwitz 1 and Auschwitz Birkenau which is right down the road. If you are ever planning on visiting Auschwitz, pay the extra couple of dollars to see Auschwitz Birkenau as well. You don’t really realize how big it actually is until you see it. If you keep going through this post I’m going to go through everything that I learned while taking this tour.
This is what it looks like from the main road. This is how we knew we were in the right place. It still stands the same way that it did all of those years ago. One thing that my fiance had said when we pulled up was “why didn’t they just go over the wall, it’s not that high.” I told him to wait until we got inside to see why. I’ll show those pictures later on in this post as well. I honestly don’t know how people live near this place, because I would find it so depressing to drive past this every day on my daily commute to work or school. I give those people major props for being ok with living so close.
The original railroad tracks. These were the tracks that brought you to Auschwitz. Depending on where you were coming from you were in these railcars with no stops, no bathrooms, and no food for days sometimes weeks. If you had to go to the bathroom you had to go standing up and lose your dignity, then stand in your own urine or feces, or others.
When you first go through security and get your tickets, headsets, and receivers this is what you see. This is the main square I guess you can call it before you walk into the main portion of the camp.
This is where you start your tour. The tour guide takes you right in front of this entrance. They obviously explain what Arbeit Macht Frei means. It means Work Sets You Free. This is where you would have entered the camp if you were a prisoner. Reading something like this after having to stay in a railcar for however many days and then being more times than not separated from your family members and your belongings taken, would have most likely alarmed you. It wasn’t just work that went on behind these walls. It was pure torture, rape, experiments (especially on twins) malnourished people, disease, and death. Our tour guide genuinely wanted to honor the memories of those lives lost on these grounds because the way she spoke about this place really helped you understand more about the daily life of a prisoner of a camp. To be completely honest I would not have been surprised if she too had family in Auschwitz.
These fences were all over the place by the walls, and even inside the camp itself. It separated the different parts of the camp so that the barracks were completely blocked off. The camp was also separated with these fences where they blocked off the prisoners from where the soldiers barracks and soldiers hospital was.
This white building was one of their shops where you would work.
What our tour guide is explaining in the bottom picture is what would also happen daily in front of this shop. In order to boost morale and motivate the prisoners to work harder, they would have a live band playing music every day. This was to also entertain the Nazi soldiers. The band was made out of prisoners of this horrific place.
Ok, call me crazy but I do believe in spirits and things of that nature, now I know that the sun probably just hit this photo in the exact right moment and this is a coincidence, but I can’t help but think that maybe this ray was being shined on our tour guide for a reason. This tour guide was amazing. I actually went up to her after the tour and told her (in Polish) thank you so much for telling everyone the correct history and for being genuinely emotionally involved in this. Even my fiance said that you could tell she was not just here every day to make a living, that she truly wanted to tell the stories of Auschwitz and make sure people remember their experience there and what they learned and spread this information.
Just so that everyone is also aware. Do you see all of those tall skinny trees? Those were each planted by prisoners from a seed when Auschwitz was first built.
This is when we started going into the barracks. This was the most informative portion of the entire tour. Some of these barracks have been open and turned into more of a museum than anything else so that you could see the size, but also learn more about Auschwitz.
I should’ve taken a better picture instead of one on an angle but there were so many people in our group that I was trying my hardest to get pictures with no one in them. So, if you can’t read this picture I took, here is what it says in Polish and English, please also keep in mind these aren’t accurate numbers because a lot of documents were also burned and at one point the Nazis didn’t even bother recording the number of people they had in their camps:
Auschwitz was the largest Nazi German Concentration Camp and Death Camp.
In the Years 1940-1945, The Nazis deported at least 1,300,000 people to Auschwitz:
23,000 Roma (Gypsies)
15,000 Soviet Prisoners of War
25,000 Prisoners from other Ethnic Groups
1,100,000 of these people died in Auschwitz. Approximately 90% of the victims were Jews. The SS murdered the majority of them in the gas chambers.
Ok, now if you’re still reading, I need you to take a look at this map. The red dot which is obviously in the center of it all and is the “main hub” is Auschwitz. All of those black dots surrounding it are German Nazi concentration camps throughout Europe. That blonde lady is actually another tour guide. There were many tours in all different languages. Eventually when the black dot camps had too many people or they weren’t able to kill people fast enough they would gather people and send them on the next train to Auschwitz.
This urn still holds some human remains that they were able to find and put in a proper urn. Unfortunately Auschwitz is one big giant grave because what has been said (although no actual documentation has been found so they cannot state this is a fact) that some human remains were used as fertilizer for the land.
This is where they started talking about how many estimated number of just Jews were deported to Auschwitz along with some pictures of them getting all of their belongings or getting off the train and thinking that they are being promised a better life and better jobs. How Hitler was able to manipulate so many people and how people didn’t know what was actually happening is beyond me. Can you tell that this entire experience was extremely surreal?
Above are the pictures of what stood in front of those outside walls. Remember how in the beginning of this post I was talking about how my fiance was saying “why didn’t they just climb the wall?” This is why. Not only did they have a wall, but they had a barb wired fence (multiple ones), electric fence, AND on top of that, multiple watch towers.
One thing that Joey noticed while we were there, were the stairs. From so many people who lived in these barracks during the Holocaust, and visiting tourists, these concrete stairs have actually sunken in where people have walked. These are concrete stairs. I can’t even imagine how many people have walked up and down these stairs.
The two pictures above are cans and the substance used to kill everyone in the chambers called Zyklon B. They would dump these into the chambers and the victims would be dead within 20 minutes. The Nazi soldiers would have to wait for the chambers to ventilate a little bit and then they would burn the bodies.
After the victims were dead the soldiers would then remove their glasses, artificial limbs, jewelry, and any gold teeth because these could be melted down. The sad part is these people thought they were going into these chambers to take a shower. Little did they know, they were going to be killed in a matter of minutes.
These are some of the glasses they were able to find in Auschwitz from the victims.
We were told that these were used for Jewish ceremonies, but I have never seen this so I’m not entirely sure what these are or how they would be worn.
Some of their suitcases.
Pictured above shoes. They have 40,000 pairs of shoes on display. If you look in the one picture you can kind of see how long this display spreads (I was standing about half way between the beginning of it and the end of it), however there was another display of the same size on the opposite side as well. Now, picture these two displays but filled with hair. When we went into the room where they had the hair we were not allowed to take pictures out of respect for the victims because that was part of their body. They used prisoners hair as thread for textiles.
In the beginning stages of Auschwitz the Nazi’s used to keep records of their prisoners. They would take pictures of them, their ID number, where they are from and “what” they are. Below are the badges that the prisoners would have to wear so the soldiers knew exactly what they were. Towards the end they stopped taking pictures of each person because once these people had been in Auschwitz for weeks-months (that was the life expectancy at Auschwitz) they were unrecognizable due to malnourishment.
It was extremely hard to get pictures of some of these things because of the reflections on the glass, but these were the prisoners uniforms. They wore these all year round, no matter what kind of weather they were having.
Dr. Josef Mengele aka The Angel of Death. That’s what this room was all about. If you don’t know who Mengele is I would suggest doing a quick little google search because I’m only going to give a brief introduction. He was fascinated with twins and did experiments on twins in the camps and human experiments in general. For example he wanted to change a human’s eye color so he would inject chemicals into the eye, and this caused death which is why he is referred to as The Angel of Death. He had a fascination with twins because no one could figure out how twins were formed. What was so different and unique about these twins that they formed and not just a single child? The reason behind this is because since they were killing so many humans in the camps, Mengele wanted to know how the Germans could multiply their population by having twins instead of just one child at a time. Prisoners of Auschwitz were used for these live experiments.
This was supposed to be a set up of what the prisoners would eat in a day. This is what was supposed to last them all day, day after day. A piece of bread, a little butter, and “soups.”
This room killed me. These were small children/teenagers who were in these camps. Usually they would gas the small children (and some older depending on certain things) because they weren’t fit to work. How could a human being look into the eyes of a small innocent child and knowingly allow them to BE MURDERED? Some of the girls looked like boys because they had their hair cut off by the time these pictures were taken.
Some prisoner’s were able to live in a little more “luxury.” They were still considered prisoners but they did some special work for the Nazi soldiers. A lot of them ratted out other prisoners and this meant they would get a reward which meant a bed and a little more leniency.
I’m not sure if you can actually read the plaque but it states that this is:
THE WASHROOM WHERE WOMEN STRIPPED BEFORE EXECUTION
THEN THEY WERE LED IN TWOS TO YARD AND SHOT AT THE “DEATH WALL”
Do you remember reading or learning about how Nazi soldiers would line up prisoners and just randomly shoot them dead against a wall in Auschwitz? This is that wall.
These two poles were also another way that they would torture you. they would hang you up on the hook that’s at the top and tie your arms behind you. These poles are on a tilt so you would basically be hanging off.
This area is where I started to cry. 12 Polish people were hung in front of all of the prisoners here. They were attempting to help people escape and they were caught. As a warning to the other prisoners all 12 of these amazingly courageous people were hung.
Take a good look at the above three pictures. In the first one you can kind of see a house amongst the trees on the left hand side right? That was the house of the person who ran Auschwitz. Once the camp was liberated as justice they brought that person back to the camp and hung him, which is what the second picture is.
If you see these two buildings on the corner the darker colored one was where the soldiers barricks were and the lighter colored one was the hospital for these soldiers.
Now, just so that you know this is where my pictures will take you into the gas chambers so if you don’t want to see this please keep scrolling over the next few pictures. Pictured above is the layout of the chambers so that you could see ahead of time.
When you first walk in this is what it looks like. Keep in mind these people thought they were going into the showers to clean themselves.
This is the chamber itself.
Once everyone was in the chamber and the doors were closed the Zyklon B that I mentioned earlier would be thrown into this hole. The Nazi’s would then cover the hole and wait until the gas killed these people.
Once the chambers were aired out and it was safe to go inside for the Nazi’s they would take the bodies and put them straight into the crematorium. At one point Auschwitz was killing a total of approximately 3,000 people a day in one chamber. I honestly cannot remember if this was in Auschwitz 1 or Auschwitz Birkenau that they were killing 3,000/day because I remember reading somewhere that Auschwitz Birkenau in total was killing up to 6,000 people per day.
The above two pictures show what the outside of the gas chamber looks like.
Remember how when I first started this post I said how a lot of people don’t even know that there’s more than one Auschwitz, let alone how big it actually is? Welcome to Auschwitz 2 or Auschwitz Birkenau. This is right down the road from Auschwitz 1. Once the Germans realized that Auschwitz 1 was too big they had to expand. This camp, Auschwitz Birkenau, was the largest extermination/death camp run by the Nazi’s during the Holocaust. When we visited this portion of Auschwitz is when it really sunk in at the amount of people that died here because of how big it was. Basically Auschwitz Birkenau was just a storage facility for human bodies.
If you see the railroad tracks to the right of the picture those are the tracks that they used to mass deport people into Auschwitz Birkenau. As soon as you got to Auschwitz Birkenau if you went in one direction you were promised a nice shower which meant you were being immediately gassed right off of the train, and if you went the other direction it meant you were fit to work and would have to live in Auschwitz until you either died, or until you escaped/were saved.
If you went in this direction you were going to the gas chambers.
If this or the barracks is what you saw in front of you then you were fit to work.
The next set of pictures, up until we get to the memorial is going to show you what you saw if you were marching to the chambers. This was the death march. These people never stood a chance. They were taken from their homes and loved ones and were told to walk down this road to where they would die.
If you look at the above picture you see a lot of things sticking straight up behind the fence right? Those are all chimneys that are left over. Keep scrolling to find out why I’m mentioning this.
Now, if you look at the above few pictures you notice that all of these buildings are still standing just as they were left. You see what happened in the beginning and how Auschwitz was built is another sad part to this story. When Germany invaded Poland they took over everyone’s houses and tore down their homes and used those bricks for the barracks in Auschwitz. Then, once they ran out of bricks they started building barracks out of wood. That is why on one side of Auschwitz Birkenau you only see the chimneys because when the Nazi’s realized that it’s too late, they started to burn everything.
This railcar is the size of the one car that these people had to stand in for days/weeks until they reached their final destination. They didn’t have food, water, a bathroom, and didn’t see light until they arrived at Auschwitz.
This is at the end of where we walked. This was the end of the road for many people who came to Auschwitz thinking they would have a better life and better job. They ended up building a memorial in between the many gas chambers. Each stone in the memorial is supposed to represent one life that was murdered in Auschwitz Birkenau. If you read the above plaque which is written in every language of the victims of this place it says:
FOR EVER LET THIS PLACE BE
A CRY OF DESPAIR
AND A WARNING TO HUMANITY
WHERE THE NAZIS MURDERED
ABOUT ONE AND A HALF
MEN, WOMEN, AND CHILDREN,
FROM VARIOUS COUNTRIES
When the Nazis realized that this operation was over they started burning everything to cover everything up. They have tried to preserve these buildings as much as possible so they left the gas chambers the way they were (demolished) to show people where they once stood and that they did in fact exist in this location.
If you look really closely in this picture you can see the beginning of Auschwitz Birkenau which was the building I showed when I first started talking about this particular location.
Here is the same plaque as before but in Polish. I had to take pictures of both the Polish and English one.
The next set of pictures are the rest of the gas chambers. People would march into the chambers under ground, you can’t really see it from the pictures and you can’t really picture the chambers and the crematorium but the area where it looks like it’s under ground, that’s the chambers, and the above ground rubble is where the crematoriums used to be.
The stairs pictured in the corner are part of the memorial that was built.
At one point they were gassing and burning so many human bodies that they created this pit and started dumping human ashes in that pit. It’s said that there are still human ashes in this pit and that’s why they put these head stones here.
This was their sewage control.
These were the toilets. Sometimes due to time constraints (I forgot how many times you were allowed in the bathroom a day but I do believe it was two times a day) and how many people were in this camp there would be more than one person to a hole. Back then it was said that the best job to have in the camp was cleaning the bathrooms. The reason why is because when it was cold outside or raining, you were inside and protected from the severe weather. When it was sunny out and hot you didn’t have to sit under the sun and burn. Another reason why is because the Nazi’s wouldn’t bother you. They wouldn’t go near you because of how you smelled.
The above two pictures were your wash rooms. This is where you washed yourself. There was always barely any water and if there was water it was brown. This is because the piping system was built when the barracks were built.
This was the final stop of the entire tour. The ultimate death barrack. This particular one was used for women. The pictures did not come out right so I only have the one above and below, and the one below is still blurry. These “beds” were 3 levels. The bottom level was basically just on the dirt ground. They had to fit 6 people to one of these “beds.” If you look at the below picture you can kind of see how deep these go in. Now try to imagine fitting 6 people on that one level. This barrack is where you came to wait to die (because you were no longer fit to work, or you were too sick) whether it be dying right there in that “bed” or marching down to the gas chambers. There were many times where the women who were put in this barrack died right here. Prisoners of Auschwitz Birkenau would say they heard the screams of these women all throughout the camp. If you had to go to the bathroom and you were on the top level you just had to go and it would seep through the other two levels. Seeing this was absolutely horrifying. What made me irrate was the fact that people vandalized this area and put their initials into the walls. So absolutely disrespectful.
If you’ve read all the way up until this point I want to thank you. I want you to remember what I wrote here today. If you choose to share this post is up to you, however I would be happy if you did. We need to make sure that as a human species this never happens again. When we are taught about the Holocaust in our American School System (thankfully my parents taught me the actual history at home) does no justice to what should actually be taught. Telling 5th and 6th graders to not use the word hate, to be nice to each other, and to learn vocabulary that pertains to this isn’t the proper way to teach. Show them pictures. Tell them about what actually happened inside of these camps. Tell them how many people actually died. Don’t make it into a lecture. This is an important portion of history that cannot be forgotten. Again, I want to say thank you if you read up until this point. This was a surreal experience and being able to share all of these pictures with you and explain what it is, is my way of honoring those who were murdered. May you all rest in peace, and to the survivors who are still living, I want to say thank you for being courageous and for telling your stories so that people know what happened and won’t forget. To any one of decent or anyone who had family that survived or did not survive in Auschwitz or any other camp, may these tragedies never be forgotten and may the pride of your background still be in your heart! I will forever be proud of my family for surviving, along with being proud of relatives who hid a family of Jewish people under their floor and somehow did not get caught. And to the young person who came up to me one day in school when we were younger and said “your family should’ve died in the gas chambers” I can only hope that you have found peace with your hatred, and that you may come across this post and really see how that comment is absolutely disgusting.
Below is the linkup.
Linking this post here.