In my last post, I have a picture of the entrance of Auschwitz I, the notorious Nazi concentration camp, as an entry to this week’s Weekly Photo Challenge. That is actually first half of the story as the tour we joined included a short visit to Auschwitz II-Birkenau as well. I’d want to complete the story and hence this post – and after this I don’t think I will write any post about Auschwitz anymore.
Auschwitz II-Birkenau was built after Auschwitz I to ease its congestion and also provided capacity for new prisoners. It also served as an extermination camp and therefore the death toll in it was the highest amongst all camps as killing was its primary function. Most victims arrived here via trains and would go through a “Selection” process. Women, children, weak or elderly would be “selected” and told to take a “shower” in group “shower rooms” – which were poisonous gas chambers in disguise.
Visiting Auschwitz I was like visiting a large museum as most of the publicly accessible blocks were converted to hold exhibits, with explanation notices in many places. Auschwitz II-Birkenau was a different story. It was mostly untouched and all we saw was a largely deserted area with some dull and quiet blocks. Because of the emptiness, it was actually easier to imagine how it was like when it was in operation. As we trailed along the rail, we felt like seeing people arrive after their last train ride in their lives. If the visit of Auschwitz I is to know, then the visit of Auschwitz II-Birkenau is to feel.
In my last post I recommended people join the afternoon tour instead of the morning one so that they won’t get a long depressing afternoon. Indeed doing afternoon has another advantage: It will be around sunset when the tour arrives Auschwitz II-Birkenau and visitors can have a much stronger impression there.