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The Original Concentration Camp Named "Auschwitz"
The name "Auschwitz" actually refers to a complex series of camps and sub-camps in southwest Poland. The photos below are of the camp known as "Auschwitz-I." The camp was ordered constructed in 1940 by Heinrich Himmler, the chief architect of the extermination of the Jews and second in command of Nazi Germany. Thousands of people were murdered in Auschwitz-I, but this particular camp was not known as a "death camp." To be classified as a "death camp," murdering prisoners can be the ONLY function of the guards and workers. Auschwitz-I does not fit this criterion. This camp was also used for forced labor, medical experiments and other activities. The primary killing of Jews at the Auschwitz complex occurred at Auschwitz-II (also known as Auschwitz-Birkenau). The photos from that camp are contained later on the webpage.

Inside the Camp
The first reaction I had to Auschwitz was thinking how nice it looked. Before becoming a concentration camp, Auschwitz was a military base, bringing about a certain degree of order and symmetry to the buildings. All of the buildings are roughly the same size, color and distance apart. Seen better in photos below, giant poplar trees stand along the sides of the roads that run between the buildings. In the WWII photos of the camp, these same trees can be seen standing only fifteen to twenty feet high. Without knowing where I was, I would have guessed I was in a summer camp for children or viewing dorms for an old college. Despite the knowledge of what occurred in this area, the surroundings are actually quite pleasant.Enlarge Picture
The beauty of Auschwitz is quickly lost when seeing miles of rusty barbwire fences that were used to prevent the escape by prisoners. Like the buildings, the fences also show signs of structure and order. The German people are known for their quality work, and the precision and craftsmanship of something as simple as a fence or guard tower (in the distance) is seen throughout the remains of places like Auschwitz.Enlarge Picture

Guard Booth
Our guide pointed out a cruel irony in the safety measures taken for the guards of Auschwitz. In this camp where so many people faced random and unexplainable killings, the guards were given the security of sheltered booths for the times when unpleasant weather made standing outside in the elements less than desirable. Enlarge Picture
Bomb Shelter
The Germans took precations to insure the safety from attack of their guards working at Auschwitz. In case the Allies decided to bomb the camp, the soldiers working in Auschwitz were provided with shelter from the blasts. The shelters were never needed, as an attack from the Allies never came.Enlarge Picture

Block 4
The outside of a building for prisoners.Enlarge Picture
Workplace of Dr Josef Mengele
Known as Auschwitz's "Angel of Death," Josef Mengele performed his work in this building. Mengele was one of the primary Nazis in charge of selecting which Jews survived more than one day at Auschwitz and which were sent immediately to the gas chambers. Many would argue that those killed immediately were luckier than those who found their way onto Mengele's list of prisoners to be used in experiments. Among other things, the Nazi doctor orchestrated and conducted experiments on people to determine how much blood a person could lose before death or how long a baby could survive without food.Enlarge Picture

On the Steps of Mengele's Building
Visitors are not allowed to enter the building once occupied by "The Angel of Death." Some say the reason people are prevented from entering is because normal people could not forget the horror on the inside. Of all the sights of The Holocaust, the workplace of Josef Mengele may be the one sight too harsh to be visited for historical reasons. On a trip where we saw a lot of things we will have a hard time forgetting, this is one we were spared from seeing.

FYI, Mengele escaped justice after the war and found freedom (with many other Nazis) in Argentina, where he lived to be an old man.Enlarge Picture
Execution Wall
This wall connects the last two buildings on the first row at Auschwitz-I. The two buildings and connecting wall create a small courtyard. Inside this courtyard is where most of the prisoners of Auschwitz-I were executed.Enlarge Picture

Inside the Courtyard
This is a recreation of the actual spot where the prisoners were murdered. The prisoners were forced to remove their clothes, shower and stand in front of a firing squad who executed them with their family and building-residents watching. There were times when piles of bodies were stacked in this area, because the Nazis were killing people faster than they could remove them.Enlarge Picture

These gallows were actually built after the war. Auschwitz camp commander Rudolph Hoss was tried for his actions in the war, found guilty and brought back to Aushwitz to be hanged. Executing on the spot of the crime was commonplace in the post-war punishments, as Schindler's List depicts with the execution of Amon Goeth.

FYI, Rudolph Hoss is a different person than the more famous Nazi Rudolph Hess, who was fourth in command of the Nazis behind Hitler, Himmler, and Goering.Enlarge Picture

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