I shall limit myself to two small details about Auschwitz that I learned in Poland adding to my subdued mood. You certainly know that cemeteries are special places for Jews. The land of a Jewish cemetery is called House of Eternity and should remain undisturbed until the coming of the Messiah. According to the Old Testament God led his people through the desert for forty years since no Jew born as a slave in Egypt should set foot into the promised land. Those of the Jewish people who died during their odyssey were buried in the desert. Their corpses were covered with heaps of stones protecting the dead against roaming animals. As sign of remembrance Jews visiting their cemeteries place pebbles on the tombstones. It was new to me that Jews become impure and have to wash their hands to purify themselves following such a visit.
The first Auschwitz concentration camp was established on the site of former Polish army artillery barracks in 1940. The prisoners, among them many Polish Jews, were kept under such inhuman conditions that many died while others were executed for minor offenses such as stealing bread when beset by hunger.
|In the morning before work there was this infamous roll-call of the prisoners|
|Thousands of prisoners were marched out of the camp each day to long hours of slave labor. |
Note the singing Kapo marching at the left hand side in front of the marching men.
|In the evening they returned exhausted, bringing with them the corpses of those who had died. |
All drawings are from the "Day of a Prisoner" cycle done in 1950
by a Polish Auschwitz surviver, Mieczyslaw Koscielniak
|Place of execution by firing squad located between two barracks|
The corpses of those murdered in Auschwitz were transported a few kilometers away and buried in mass graves. In 1941 Himmler ordered a second much bigger concentration camp to be built. The camp called Auschwitz-Birkenau was located near the place of the mass graves. When he visited the construction site he commanded that the previously buried corpses must disappear. So the concentration camp guards started the Holocaust (total conflagration). Beyond all that I wrote before imagine Jewish prisoners digging up their dead brothers and sisters and pushing their bodies into incinerators. This may only be a detail compared with all the atrocities committed on the living but Himmler's order is completely cynical.
|Entrance of no return to Auschwitz-Birkenau|
|The ramp of selection|
|Disguised language: Authorization for the transport of Cyclon B by truck |
calling the gassing Sonderbehandlung (special treatment)
The German army had no longer use of some hundred transportable stables for horses. With the planned Endlösung (final solution, i.e., the liquidation of all European Jews) this surplus was transported eastward, was set-up, and served as lodging for the prisoners in Auschwitz-Birkenau and other concentration camps on Polish territory. One horse stable was initially transformed into housing for 100 people; later - with more and more prisoners arriving - more than 400 were jammed into these poorly heated horse stables!
|The horse stables with two rows of three story beds. Two prisoners had to share one bed.|
|Young Israelis visiting Auschwitz-Birkenau|