Auschwitz-Birkenau is one of the most frequently visited Polish museums. Its main feature is reliability – here everything remained exactly as it was at the time of the functioning of the camp. Here are personal belongings of prisoners, gas chambers and crematoria, and even entire rooms full of human hair, which the Germans used in light industry.
Today’s visitors enter the territory in the same way as those who, of their own free will, entered here several decades ago, through the gate with the inscription “Labor liberates” (Arbeit macht Frei). But only from this hell labor, alas, did not free anyone. Two-story brick buildings neatly lined up along wide streets; at first you even forget what they were intended for. They did not suspect what was waiting for them, and the prisoners, they hoped that they were in a forced labor camp. But as soon as you enter the first building through the creaky doors, all the horrors of the war years appear before your eyes. In some blocks, the situation of that time was preserved: here is the “medical” room, where prisoners were killed by injecting phenol into their hearts, a restroom that also served as a dead room. Along a long corridor, large rooms, covered with straw mattresses, prisoners slept on them for a while.
A bit of history
The mention of the city of Auschwitz appeared in the 12th century, when it was still part of Czech lands, and in the 15th century. Auschwitz became part of Poland. The city was successfully located at the intersection of strategically important trade routes, so that the development proceeded at a rapid pace.
Auschwitz grew rapidly, construction was actively carried out here, churches and churches, the city hall, educational institutions were erected and even a shelter for the disadvantaged was built. The rich and prosperous city was a particularly attractive prey for the Austrian and Swedish princes, who repeatedly tried to subjugate it to their power. In addition, local residents constantly suffered from various epidemics and numerous fires. All this gradually but irreversibly led the city to decline. And the ten thousandth population, most of which were Jews, began to live a very quiet provincial life that flowed peacefully until 1940.
In August 1940, the Germans erected in Auschwitz the largest Nazi concentration camp, the real “death factory.”
It was then that the Third Reich restored here its short-lived, but centuries-old domination. The Germans erected here the largest Nazi concentration camp, a real “death factory”, the monstrous of which the world still did not know. Here the lives of millions of people tragically ended, among which there were many children, and for 5 years cruel experiments on living people were carried out.
On March 16, 1942, there were not enough places for prisoners, and Auschwitz 2 or Brzezinka (the so-called nearby village) opened, the German name Birkenau, built by the hands of Soviet prisoners of war. Speaking about Auschwitz they mean precisely it – a camp created for the mass extermination of Jews and covering an area much larger than Auschwitz. Trains with prisoners arrived here along a special branch that led directly to the gate. The conditions of detention differed from Auschwitz 1 for the worse. Prisoners were kept in wooden barracks designed for horses. The room, designed for 52 horses, was packed with more than four hundred prisoners. There were 4 gas chambers and 4 crematoriums blown up by the Nazis before the arrival of the Red Army.
But this was not enough, and soon Auschwitz 3 was built – a group of 40 small labor camps created around a common complex at factories and mines. This is the only camp area where there are still no excursions,
When the Nazis left the territory they occupied, they did not have time to destroy the concentration camp, and in 1947 it was turned into a memorial museum, which is designed to remind of the scale that human cruelty can reach in order to never allow this in the future.
In addition to the concentration camps preserved in their original form, in Auschwitz there is a memorial house-museum of Shimon Kluger – one of the last residents of the city of Jewish origin who managed to survive the Holocaust, his parents died in Auschwitz. It was in this house that he lived with his large family, now various expositions are presented here, telling on the example of this rather prosperous family about the then life in the city.
Museum blocks with photographs, lists of the dead, historical records, drawings and farewell letters from prisoners are organized in other blocks. In one of these, in the depths of the corridor, you hear the sound of a arriving train and the rumble of a crowd unloading from it, and on the walls faceless shadows replace each other so that you involuntarily look around for those people who were here once.
More information on how to get to Auschwitz can be found on the Auschwitz page.