"Work Sets You Free"... that is what the sign says (in German) that greeted hundreds of thousands of people who passed through the gate at Auschwitz from 1940 to 1945.
I had an opportunity to personally visit this sobering site earlier this year [photos]. In my opinion, everyone should visit these two sites, Auschwitz-Birkenau, to see first hand the evil that man is capable of committing. It is irrelevant who suffered there. What's relevant is that we humans hold ourselves so high with respect to other species with our religions and supposedly superior intellects, yet we are capable of doing the appalling things that happened here. Our tour guide was a young Polish guy whose content for the place and what had happened there was all too obvious. I will never forget this place and the feeling it gave me while I was visiting it.
Auschwitz-Birkenau are two separate sites about 2 miles apart in the town of Oswiecim, its Polish name (Auschwitz is its German name). Birkenau, although less known, is over 25 times larger than Auschwitz and is the site of the two large “ovens” that had a capacity to incinerate 20,000 corpses in a 24-hour period when they were in use. The ovens and the gas chambers were reportedly blown up by the Germans prior to the liberation of the sites and prisoners and closure of the camps by Russians. Having visited the “ruins” close-up, I believe that they were demolished on purpose afterward to lessen the emotional impact a standing death chamber may have on folks (Visitors & others). Auschwitz's two (much smaller) crematoriums are still standing (the photo with two “ovens” and sliders). Also standing is the death/gas chamber next to the crematoriums in Auschwitz. Being inside it, walking through it, gives one the creepiest feeling there is. The sites are best-known cemetery and place of genocide in the world. The photo that shows a small pond is actually an ash pit, a human ash pit... next to the large, now-demolished crematoriums in Birkenau. There are actually 3 pits of the same size there.
Auschwitz started in 1940 as a concentration camp for Polish political prisoners, in 1942 the camp became a center for the extermination of European Jews. During the years 1940 to 1945, approximately 1.5 million people died there. The majority of the camp's victims were Jews, along with Poles, Gypsies, Russian POWs and members of other nationalities. These sites were declared a World Heritage Site in 1979. Put it on your bucket list to go see this place. It just might change you!
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