In February I visited Sachsenhausen, another Nazi concentration camp, while I was in Berlin. I think because I had already been through the horror of a concentration camp once I was somewhat numb to what I saw at Auschwitz. You hear terrible stories and see the very place these things happened, but somewhere there is a disconnect between the two, at least for me. However, at Birkenau when I saw a room full of two tons of human hair from murdered Jews I thought I was going to throw up. The Nazis valued the hair of their prisoners more than their lives. Seeing the hair that used to be attached to living, breathing Jews, Roma, ethnic Poles, and other prisoners finally cemented the reality of what happened in these camps because I did not have to imagine them, I had the hair shaved from their bodies, sometimes still in BRAIDS, sitting right in front of me. The Nazis were so sick they even made fabric and rugs out of the hair. No pictures were allowed, and I wouldn't want to subject any of you to looking at that on my blog, but there are pictures online if you are curious.
Also, I'd just like to note that the largest group of Jews deported to Auschwitz were Hungarian Jews - 430,000 of them. The Dohány Street Synagogue in Budapest (just down the street from where I lived!) is the largest synagogue in Europe and second largest in the world. In 1920, 23% of Budapest's population was Jewish. As of 2001 the Jewish population was down to 0.5%.
Going to Auschwitz was a necessary experience, but I wouldn't ever go back.
|"Arbeit Macht Frei" - infamous and ironic gates to Auschwitz I|
|Crutches and prosthetics from disabled Jews|
|Luggage with the owner's names & addresses|
|Room full of shoes (the room with hair was this big too)|
|Thousands and thousands of shoes|
|Death block - prisoners were lined up and shot against the wall.|
Note the blacked out windows so no one could see (Jews or Nazis)
|Cell where St. Maximilian Kolbe was murdered|
|Crematoriums in the gas chambers|
|Remains of barracks, hastily destroyed by the Nazis|
|Where trains carrying Jews entered Birkenau and|
went to the selection platform: "life" or death.
|The Memorial plaques were in every language that was |
spoken by prisoners. This one is in Hungarian.