Oswecim is a town about 45 minutes drive outside of Krakow, Poland. Prior to Germany coming into Poland during WW2, barracks were built to house the Polish military at Oswecim.
When Germany overran Poland in WW2, they turned the barracks into a camp where those deemed undesirable or unnecessary by the Nazi government were sent.
Oswecim was called Auschwitz by the Germans, and the name stayed as the name for the camps and memorial which survive today.
Going through the town of Oswecim, it seems a pretty unassuming place, a place like anywhere else.
It is a bit surprising to see the town so close to the former extermination camp. until you learn that within short order of the Nazis taking over the town and the barracks, much of the town was destroyed.
The bricks of the homes that were looted and destroyed were used to expand what would eventually become the place where millions of people would be needlessly murdered at the hands of other humans.
The remains of what was once here is a reminder of the depravity and destruction brought to the lives of tens of millions.
It was done at the hands of a few thousand top-level personnel, hundreds of thousands who were “just following orders”, and millions who stepped aside and allowed it to happen.
I was surprised by the sheer size of the place and the number of horse stables which were built here to house people.
Most of the women and children arriving at Auschwitz were destined to be murdered in gas chambers within hours of their arrival. But not before their belongings, clothing, and hair were removed.
After being murdered with the powdered poison, their bodies would be removed and burned at the hands of other captives of the death camp.
All that would remain of them were leftover belongings and their hair.
Many textiles and rugs were made from human hair in the years between 1939 and 1945.
When Auschwitz was liberated, the Russians found over 8 TONS (16,000 pounds) of human hair.
Some of the hair found is on display behind a glass wall, but there were signs requesting visitors not to take pictures out of respect for those to whom the hair once belonged.
The captives who got through the initial selection process were literally worked to death, or used by the scientists of the camp for medical experimentation.
One of the displays which hit me hardest was a picture of four boys who were documented by the “doctor” who had used them for experiments.
I thought they were girls because their male body parts had been removed.
I could feel acid pour into my stomach and tears well in my eyes as I realized the sheer evil that would do such a thing to another human, and believe that it was actually scientific work that merited photographic documentation.
Seeing such a demon at work me want to puke, cry, and scream in anger all in the same moment.
When you’re facing demons, it’s nice to know you’ve got someone to face the demons with you.
I was glad Carrie was there to hold my hand.
Often the worst torments in the camps were fellow inmates. It was official concentration camp policy to separate prisoners into classes, a method the Nazis used for keeping people divided.
Human history has shown that people are easier to conquer (and keep conquered) when you’ve got them busy fighting with one another over what group they belong to.
This post is continued here