Auschwitz: a photo essay

While I was in Poland I was lucky enough to grab the opportunity to visit Auschwitz. I had been to Yad Vashem, the holocaust museum in Jerusalem, back in September 2016 and really felt that Auschwitz was somewhere I needed to go to complete the picture of what I had learnt in Israel.

It’s a surreal experience, walking around and hearing what happened on the very spot where you are standing. For me, it is something I am processing gradually over time. I’m not prone to sentimentality, but the feeling is hard to shake and is best expressed by sharing the photos I took on the day.

For more information on Auschwitz and the Holocaust in general, see the Auschwitz-Birkenau and Yad Vashem World Holocaust Museum websites.


 

visit auschwitz
The famous “Work makes you free” gates to Auschwitz I. Millions passed under these gates. Unlike today’s visitors, most were never free again.
visit auschwitz
The converted army barracks that make up Auschwitz I. Unlike Auschwitz II and many other concentration camps, the main buildings of Auschwitz I had a previous life before they were converted to prison cells and torture chambers.
visit auschwitz
Some of the thousands of pairs of spectacles taken from prisoners sent to the gas chambers.
visit auschwitz
Shoes of every shape and size. Their owners would never need them again.
visit auschwitz
Block 10 – where sterilisation experiments were carried out on female prisoners.
visit auschwitz
One of the guard towers overlooking Auschwitz I.
visit auschwitz
The Wall of Death. In this courtyard, against this wall, many thousands of people were executed by firing squad.
visit auschwitz
The slanting posts were used to suspend prisoners by their arms, tied together behind their backs. This resulted in dislocations and fractures, which rendered them unfit for work, and resulted in them going to the gas chambers.
visit auschwitz
Building used for medical experiments, Auschwitz I. There was an official “hospital”, but nobody came out alive.
visit auschwitz
The bleak landscape of the prison blocks, Auschwitz I.
visit auschwitz
Fence, Auschwitz I. This was electrified with such a strong current it would kill on impact.
visit auschwitz
A fence – and an all-too-familiar cry. Auschwitz I.
visit auschwitz
Between the fences separating the prisoners from the SS guards.
visit auschwitz
Inside a gas chamber at Auschwitz I – the only one still standing. Of all the places we visited at Auschwitz, this gave me the biggest chills. I was lucky: I got to walk back out through the door.
visit auschwitz
The crematorium. Immediately though the door from the gas chamber.
visit auschwitz
The outside of the last remaining gas chamber, Auschwitz I. There was snow on the January day we visited, and the cell blocks were cold and draughty. I can only imagine what it was like in winter for the prisoners.
visit auschwitz
Railway platform at Auschwitz II Birkenau – the end of the line for the transported prisoners. Of the millions of prisoners, who arrived here by wooden rail wagon, 90% were Jews.
visit auschwitz
The railway tracks converge on Auschwitz II Birkenau. It’s the end of the line in every sense.
visit auschwitz
A guard post looks out over Auschwitz II Birkenau.
visit auschwitz
One of the trucks used to transport the prisoners. This was donated by a survivor’s family; it may or may not have actually been used in the transport of Jews but is certainly of the same model. On the back of the wagon are stones laid in memorial, in the Jewish tradition.
visit auschwitz
The barracks of Auschwitz II Birkenau.
visit auschwitz
Entrance to the camp, Auschwitz II Birkenau. On arrival, the new inmates were assessed. Those deemed unproductive, such as the elderly, children and the infirm, were sent directly to the gas chambers. The lucky ones were admitted to the camp, where all that awaited them was hard labour and horrific living conditions – until they, too, became too ill and frail to work.
visit auschwitz
The memorial at Auschwitz II Birkenau. Each of the plaques commemorates the dead in one of the different languages used by the prisoners at the camp. The Hebrew plaque is somehow the most moving.
visit auschwitz
One of the mass graves where the ashes of the dead were deposited.
visit auschwitz
Auschwitz II Birkenau. There’s not much left of most of the barracks, but it conveys even more starkly the barrenness of the landscape.
visit auschwitz
The barracks at Auschwitz II Birkenau. In these buildings, prisoners were housed in terrible conditions; they were cold and draughty with mud floors, and prisoners often slept 6 to a bunk.
visit auschwitz
A guard post is visible between the barracks, Auschwitz II Birkenau. Really no chance of escape.
visit auschwitz
Inside one of the buildings where the prisoners were held before execution.
visit auschwitz
Each section of shelf could hold 6 prisoners, so disease spread like wildfire. The building wasn’t heated.
visit auschwitz
Auschwitz II Birkenau. The memory of this place will be with me forever, but I am so glad I went. If you get the chance to visit Auschwitz, do go – but be prepared to be respectful and considerate. The experience is eye-opening, and a vivid reminder of what humans are capable of if we let them. Let’s not let them.

 

 


visit auschwitz

3 Comments

  1. Have loved reading your Blog. . Get you .. 😆 I am hopefully going to Auschwitz in September. Hopefully is not the right word really. . I think everyone should go there once to know why we must never let this happen again. I want to go to Beth Shalom near Grantham Lincs this year .. A educational centre dedicated to the Holocaust .. perhaps a Choir trip ?? Keep it up 😊😊😊

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