Wednesday, 2 November 2011


Today's blog is a guest post from Jake my 15 year old son........

On October 14th, I went on a school history trip to the city of Krakow (Crack-oov) in Poland. During the course of the 4 day trip, my schoolmates and I visited Krakow old town, The Galicia Jewish Museum, Schindler's Factory, Auschwitz 1 and Auschwitz Birkenau. My dad asked me to do a guest post here on his blog about my trip, so here it is!

They say a picture speaks a thousand words, and I took over 300 photos, so rather than writing a 300,000 word essay about the trip, I'll post some of the main pictures here, and write a line or two saying what each is a picture of. Due to limitations on the amount of pictures that can be added to one post, I have only included pictures from Auschwitz, both the first camp and Birkenau. And of course I'll be happy to answer any questions in the comments for this post.

The famous sign over the entrance to Auschwitz 1, which reads 'ALBEIT MACHT FREI', which means 'Work will make you free'. This of course was not true at Auschwitz, and, as the commandant of the camp would tell new arrivals, the only way out was through the chimney of the crematorium. Compared to other camps of its type, Auschwitz had an incredibly low escape record.

The redbrick barrack buildings in the main camp. The weather on the day of our visit was very good, which added to the eeriness of the camp, as normally one would imagine such a place to be rainy and grim.

This shows the difference in size between Auschwitz 1 and Birkenau. Auschwitz - Birkenau was created when the complex was incorporated into the Nazi 'Final Solution', the systematic extermination of Jews, Gypsies, and other groups the Nazis deemed 'undermenchen' or 'sub-human'.

Zyklon B crystals. These would be thrown into the gas chambers through holes in the ceiling, and would react with air to form poisonous hydrogen cyanide.

In one of the barracks there was an exhibition about the exploitation of the people sent to Auschwitz. There were piles of shoes, eyeglasses, prosthetic limbs, and even human hair. This was one of the most harrowing parts of the whole trip.

The wall where executions were carried out. People would be tried by the Gestapo, normally for conspiracy, and then taken outside and shot against this wall. One officer personally executed 25,000 people. That's not a typo. 25 thousand people. The youngest person to be executed was a nine year old Polish girl.

The inside of the gas chamber at Auschwitz 1.

This is the train line into Auschwitz Birkenau.The scene at Auschwitz in the film Schindler's List was shot here on the outside of the camp, in a mirror image set of the inside.

One of the carriages used to bring people into Auschwitz Birkenau. One of these carriages would sometimes hold up to 400 people. On this platform people would be separated into two categories: those who could work, and those who couldn't. Those who could would be taken away and registered into the camp, and those who couldn't would be straight away taken to the gas chambers. This group automatically included  children under 14, young mothers, the sick, and people over 50.

The remains of wooden barracks at Auschwitz Birkenau. One of these barracks would sometimes house 1200 people. All that remains are the brick chimneys, which were never used to heat the barracks.

The inside of a barrack. The bunks that can be seen on the left would hold 8 people, so the 'beds' that can be seen would hold in total 48 people, 3 rows each with two sections.

The ruins of one of the gas chambers at Auschwitz - Birkenau. The Nazis destroyed the gas chambers in January 1945 when it was obvious that the war was lost, in an attempt to cover up their crimes.

The memorial at Auschwitz - Birkenau. There were several plaques each in a different language. The inscription reads:

"For ever let this place be a cry of despair and a warning to humanity, where the Nazis murdered about one and a half million men, women, and children, mainly Jews from various countries of Europe. Auschwitz - Birkenau 1940 - 1945"

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Anonymous said...

It's hard to believe the sun can shine on such a man made hell on earth...but shine it does. You must have found it extremely disturbing to walk through this place. I have only ever seen it in pictures and on television and even that had such an impact on me that I can't begin to describe it. It's hard to believe that some people would have you believe this never happened. Thank you for sharing your pictures and your thoughts.

Kelley said...

That was so heavy. I have never seen pictures like that from there. I'm so glad you shared them. I just finished reading Sarah's Key not too long ago and seeing the movie. It was in French and about the French that sent their own Jews to Auschwitz. The Nazis weren't even the ones putting them on the trains. It was (is) horrible. We don't need to forget about that awful mark on history. I'm glad you are helping us remember!

Crystal Pistol said...

Thank you for sharing this. I went to Dachau just a few years ago. The feeling there was one of sorrow and darkness. so much needless suffering took place.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi John and Jake - Jake .. what a great post - so well set out with all the horrors concentration camps as a whole portrayed.

Interesting Kelley's comment - I'm going to see the film Sarah's Key next week .. it's here for one day at our Film Society cinema .. and I've just written about Emily Hobhouse and the Boer war .. where the concentration camps weren't as such - they were 'burgher' camps - and there were no executions etc

Film makers are bringing books and stories to life of these times and research is still being carried out - as I found out when I went to Oxford recently with Emily's great niece, who holds her papers.

Jake - you obviously learnt a great deal ..

Thanks John for asking your son to post - well worth the read .. appreciate his insight - Hilary

Jamie Brook Thompson said...

New follower here! Thanks posting a family friendly blog! The world needs more of these!

Middle-aged Mormon Man said...

Thank you for sharing this - and thanks for reminding us that life isn't just rainbows and unicorns - people can really go off the rails if we aren't vigilant.

Lynn said...

Very profound!

Diane said...

Thank you for sharing your pictures and your experiences. Very, very moving. And so disturbing. But if we ignore the past, we are doomed to repeat it. So you are right. We must never, never forget!

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