Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Tuesday's Travels!

Tuesday's Travels continues with our trip into Poland. We arrived to -18 degrees C. I prayed so hard for snow and boy, did I get it! We spent 3 weeks there and snowed just about every day.

The front of Caroline's garden in Zabiershov which was where we were based!
One of the highlights of our trip, although a very sad and mind opening one, was the day we spent in Auschwitz. It was established in 1940 for Polish political prisoners. It was intended as an instrument of terror aimed at the Poles, but as time went by, the Nazis began to deport people from all over Europe, especially Jews, to the camp.
"Work brings Freedom" - me standing outside the main gate at Auschwitz - the prisoners passed this each day on their way to work.
Auschwitz was the biggest Nazi concentration camp. It was condemned to isolation and slow extermination by hunger, exhausting work, criminal experiments and mass executions.
These prison blocks now house the museum. Some rooms reconstructed as they were during the existence of the camp, others are exactly as they were. Inside these blocks are various exhitions - some of human hair, some of suitcases, some of artificial limbs and dentures, shaving brushes and prayer shawls taken from the prisoners. This one pictured below hold thousands of pairs of shoes, all confiscated from Jewish prisoners.
Below is a photograph taken of the Execution Wall. The SS shot thousands of prisoners at this wall, mainly Poles. We felt an eery atmosphere as we stood and looked at this wall and tried to imagine the last moments of the poor prisoners - many of whom contined to shout allegiance to their country and fellow countrymen. The feeling of horror and pain were hard to describe as we listened to our tour guide explain the procedures.
Below we see the interior of the a wooden barrack. These once served at field stables for horses. They had no floor at all apart from compressed earth which often turned into a muddy, filthy mess. There were chimneys in each barrack and the smoke passing through was meant to heat the interior. Of course this never happened, if anything the smoke made it unpleasant and the air unhealthy to breathe in.
The crematorium was situated outside the main fence of the camp. This housed 3 furnaces which could burn approximately 350 bodies daily.
Probably the place that broke my heart, the place that I felt the most presence and the place that brought us to our knees in thankfulness for what we have, were the gas chamber ruins. At the end of the war, when the Nazi's knew that t the allies were coming, they destroyed the gas chambers by bombing them. The photograph below shows a part of the ruins, covered in snow, which somehow gave this place a mystical and yet desparately sad feel to it. This is where we lit candles in memory of those whose lives we taken and in the hope that mankind will never stoop to this level again.
Next week, I continue our trip to Poland, and we will visit the Salt Mines!


Marcelle said...

Looking at that photo of you in front of those gates *freezing cold* brings back so many winter memories for me, now dreading winter as I hate having to dress up like that to keep warm everytime I go outdoors...

I've never been to that concentration camp but have been to a few in Germany, its so sad walking around and seeing the things and knowing that so many people suffered where you are walking, the area has an erie feeling about it..
Told Heinz I want to visit this concentration camp while still living in Europe.
Saw it on Oprah and it really touched me so much.

Avril said...

Oh my! So sad .. so very sad. In tears just looking at your photos. Shocking part of our world history.

Firefly said...

On one of the Amazing Race programs they went to Auschwitz and just what they showed there touched me. I would love to visit it one day just to be able to experience it and the atmosphere for myself.

Anonymous said...

How interesting - it is the one place I want to visit - hopefully one day I will get there.

Take care, Judith

pam said...

What an emotional post. Very interesting, and sad as well.

I know the history well, but to see it through your eyes. Very different than a history book!