A Brief History of Auschwitz

During the 2nd World War, Hitler commission the construction of several prisons where he would keep political prisoners, war prisoners, gypsies but mostly innocent Jews (including thousands of women and children). Anyone that went against his vision of the master race was placed in the camps. Considering the number of Jews and the necessary logistics to keep millions of people incarcerated (the numbers of prisoners raised by the thousands daily) the Nazi needed a solution for all of these prisoners, and so the so-called, “Final Solution” was created, in which it was determined that all Jews were to be exterminated in the concentration camps.

The camp was constructed next to the city of Oświęcim (called Auschwitz by the Nazis) mainly due to its easy access points. The railroads allowed the easy transport of prisoners from all of the Nazi-occupied territory to Auschwitz. Before it became a concentration camp, Auschwitz was an artillery storage facility of the Polish army. After the Nazis took control it was transformed into a prison. The Nazis cleared out all the families living in a 30km radius from the camp and began the process of expanding the camp in order to house more prisoners. In 1941 the second camp was built: Birkenau. And in 1942 a third: Monowitz.

Prisoners arrived at the camp from all over Europe in carriages with over 100 people (carriages that where you could hardly fit more than 20 people comfortably). Upon arrival at Auschwitz, a selection was made. They were selected into those that were fit to work and those to be eliminated. No exam of any kind was performed. A look was all it took to be sentenced to die. Children were doomed from the start. The people deemed “non-able” for work were directed to a bath (as they were told). Men, women, and children were forced to undress together outside (with sub-freezing temperatures in the winter) and then lead into the showers. As soon as a group would enter the door was closed behind them and they were killed through Zyklon B inhalation. The Nazis installed shower heads in the gas chambers in order to make them look like a shower room, and as soon as a group was inside the gas was released into the chamber. It is estimated that almost 3 million people were eliminated in these camps. Their ashes were then used as fertilizer, by German companies or to cover holes in the grounds of the concentration camp. Today you can still find human ashes in the camp.

If you were “lucky” enough to survive you’d be faced with between 9 to 11 hours of forced labor, malnourishment, disease, and executions. Most prisoners didn’t survive the first month.

The Tour

Seeing where all this happened and how it happened is shocking. In Auschwitz I, you can see hundreds of personal objects that belonged to the prisoners as well as hundreds of pounds of hair. It is hard to imagine that something like this happened. That the human being is capable of such cruelty towards a fellow human. However, it did happen: thousands of people lost their lives or were forever scared (those that were lucky or unlucky enough to survive). And we cannot forget the past. We must remember the past so that a better world is possible. That’s why I believe everyone should visit Auschwitz at least once in their lives.

The Auschwitz concentration camps – not a place to cross off your bucket list

We’ve all heard of these camps but what do we really know about Auschwitz?

Considering the number of people we saw taking selfies and engaging in less respective behaviors in this place I suppose most people must not know much.

They’ve probably heard something about it and added it to their must-visit places because, for some reason, it’s “cool”.

When you visit Auschwitz you are entering one of the biggest cemeteries in the world where the greatest atrocity in history took place. Thousands of people lost their lives here. Within these walls are some of the greatest histories of despair and cruelty but also love and courage (lots of heroes lost their life here). Human ashes are spread throughout the floors of the camps.

Auschwitz stands as a witness of the best and the worst humanity has to offer and should be visited with respect.

If you’re considering visiting Auschwitz please remember this.


Breve História de Auschwitz

Durante a 2ª Guerra Mundial, Hitler mandou construir várias prisões onde concentrou prisioneiros políticos, prisioneiros de guerra, ciganos mas sobretudo Judeus inocentes (incluindo milhares de mulheres e crianças). Tudo o que ia contra a sua ideia de raça perfeita era colocado nos campos. Tendo em conta a quantidade de Judeus e a logística necessária para manter milhões de pessoas em prisão (os prisioneiros aumentavam aos milhares todos os dias) os Nazis precisavam de uma solução para todos estes prisioneiros e então surgiu a denominada “Solução Final” em que se decidiu que os Judeus seriam exterminados nos campos de concentração.

O campo foi construído junto à cidade de  Oświęcim (denominada de Auschwitz pelos nazis) principalmente devido aos seus acessos fácil. As linhas férreas permitiam transportar facilmente prisioneiros de todo o território ocupado pelos nazis para Auschwitz. Antes de ser um campo de concentração, Auschwitz era um alojamento de artilharia pertencente ao exército polaco. Após os nazis tomarem controlo foi transformado numa prisão. Os nazis expulsaram as famílias que habitavam num raio de 30 km do campo e começaram a expandir o campo de modo a poder suportar mais prisioneiros. Em 1941 foi construído um segundo campo: Birkenau. Em 1942 um terceiro campo: Monowitz.

De toda a Europa chegavam prisioneiros em carruagens com mais de 100 pessoas (carruagens em que dificilmente cabem mais de 20 pessoas confortavelmente). Chegados a Auschwitz era feito uma seleção. Eram selecionados os que estariam aptos para trabalhar e os que seriam eliminados. Não era feito qualquer tipo de exame. Bastava um olhar para ser condenado à morte. Crianças estavam condenadas à partida. As pessoas “não-aptas” a trabalhar eram encaminhadas para um banho (segundo o que lhes era dito). Homens, mulheres e crianças eram obrigados a despir-se em grupo no exterior (com temperaturas negativas no Inverno) e depois eram encaminhados para os duches. Assim que um grupo entrava a porta fechava-se e eram mortos por inalação de Zyklon B. Os nazis instalaram chuveiros nas salas de execução de modo a parecer que era apenas um chuveiro e assim que um grupo estava lá dentro era lançado o gás mortífero. Estima-se que quase 3 milhões de pessoas foram eliminadas nestes campos. As suas cinzas eram depois usadas como fertilizante por empresas alemãs ou utilizadas para tapar buracos nos campos de concentração. Hoje ainda podemos encontrar cinzas humanas no campo.

Se tivessem a “sorte de sobreviver” esperava-lhes entre 9 a 11 horas diárias de trabalho forçado, sob-nutrição, doenças e execuções. A maioria dos prisioneiros não sobrevivia o primeiro mês.

A visita

Ver onde tudo isto aconteceu e como aconteceu é chocante. Em Auschwitz I podemos observar centenas de objectos pessoais que eram dos prisioneiros assim como centenas de quilos de cabelo. É difícil imaginar que algo assim aconteceu. Que o ser humano é capaz de tamanha crueldade para com um semelhante. No entanto aconteceu: milhares de pessoas perderam a vida ou ficaram marcadas para a vida (os que tiveram a sorte/azar de sobreviver). E não podemos esquecer o passado. Há que lembrar o passado de modo a que um futuro melhor seja possível. É por isso que acho que todos devem visitar Auschwitz uma vez na vida.

Campos de concentração de Auschwitz: não é um lugar a riscar da lista-a-visitar

Já todos ouvimos falar nestes campos mas o que sabemos realmente de Auschwitz?

Tendo em conta a quantidade de pessoas que vi a tirar selfies e a ter comportamentos menos respeitosos neste local suponho que a maioria das pessoas não deve saber muito.

Provavelmente ouviram falar algo e puseram nos locais a visitar porque por alguma razão é “moda”.

Ao visitar Auschwitz estamos a entrar num dos maiores cemitérios do mundo onde a maior atrocidade da história humana aconteceu. Milhares de pessoas perderam a sua vida aqui. Dentro deste local estão as maiores histórias de desespero e crueldade mas também de amor e coragem (muitos heróis perderam a vida aqui). Cinzas humanas estão espalhadas pelo chão dos campos.

Auschwitz é uma testemunha do melhor e do pior que a humanidade tem e deve ser visitada com respeito.

Se está a pensar visitar Auschwitz, por favor, lembre-se disso.

Entrance of Auschwitz I

fences around the camp

crematorium where thousands of bodies were burnt

In Auschwitz museum you can still find thousands of personal objects left by the people that lost their lives here

People arrived with all they could carry. All the things they thought they would need to live wherever they went. As soon they arrived at Auschwitz the Nazis would take all the belongings they had.

Empty Zyklon B canisters found by the Allies at Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1945

personal objects

Place where people were shot in Auschwitz!

People that lost their lives in the camp. You can see the date they arrived and the date they died. Most of them survived less than 1 month.

Main entrance to Auschwitz II (Birkenau)

Wagon used to transport Jews from all Europe to Auschwitz. This small wagon would transport more than 100 people squeezed inside.

In Birkenau Nazis used Stables to put prisoners in

Here you can still find human ashes in the floor.

“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, woman, and children, mainly jews from various countries of Europe (1940-1945)”

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