Industrialized mass murder

An emotionally stunning and disturbing place that one has to see once in a lifetime. When Nazi Germany occupied Poland they started to use an old army site close to the town of Oświęcim, Poland as a concentration camp and work camp – at first for Polish opposition members. Forced labour especially for the German company I.G. Farben was one of the main goals, even when the first Jews arrived.

This first location is nowadays known as Auschwitz I (Stammlager). If you arrive you’ll first see the gate with the well-known text “Arbeit macht frei” (work gives freedom). The houses are in good condition, some contain exhibitions about what happened there between 1940 and 1945. At the end you’re led to a prison building, an execution court and a first small gas chamber where the initial experiments with the pesticide Zyklon B have been conducted. Even facing watchtowers and barb wire this place looks much too beautiful for the things that happened here.

After the Wannsee conference where the “Endlösung” was decided the fascist regime created a second camp; a work and death camp close to the first, named Auschwitz II (Birkenau). When standing in front of the railway gate you are impressed of the vast size of this killing machine and those images of debilitated inmates standing behind the barb wire flash back to your mind. You’ll see the selection ramp where Nazi doctors decided in seconds who was immediatly send to death after being transported for days in cattle carriages from all over Europe.

When the Red Army came closer the Nazis destroyed the gas chambers and took most remaining victims on death marches to hide what happened here. The remains of these unimaginable mass murder facilities can still be seen next to a memorial. Approximitely 1.2 million people were killed and fully extinguished here: mostly jews, but also gypsies, disabled, homosexuals and political opponents. Auschwitz was freed on the 27th of January, 1945. When facing the horribly deeds that have been done here it becomes clear why Adorno sets the claim that Auschwitz should never ever be again as the first priority in eduction. And this is a task and a commitment for everyone of us.

Państwowe Muzeum Auschwitz-Birkenau
Więźniów Oświęcimia 204
32-603 Oświęcim

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