...read (Part 1)
It is now getting late in the afternoon and I was hesitant to go to the next camp thinking that I would be too late, but I decided to proceed anyway, I got to the second camp “Auschwitz II”, just before sunset, which really did add some extra feeling & mood to my visit as the low setting sun provided a silhouette of the main building with the railroad tracks shining through the tunnel into the camp, emphasising the significance of their role in this horrific place.
I must say it is over bearing when you arrive, at the front of the camp there is a stand alone main brick building with a central observation tower over a tunnel through which the train tracks passes, a single electric fence still stands surrounding the camp, which is probably a square kilometre, elevated guard towers along it perimeter every hundred or so meters, and a haunting row upon row of huts, each were about 8m wide by 40m long, with cement floors, thin wooden clad walls and roof, each had two fireplaces & chimneys for warmth, and accomodated several hundred people with wooden bunk beds, four bunks high, no lights that I could see, just a row of glass sky lights in the roof, so no comforts at all.
A lot of the old huts at the rear half of the camp were either destroyed, burnt or pulled down only leaving the chimneys which provided me with some understanding of how big this camp really was in its day, the seemingly endless grid of stark red brown burnt brick chimneys in an almost bare paddock in the low light was a fitting final curtain to my visit here that will be etched in my memory, I could see in the fading light just across those railway tracks that led back to the admin building there was a group of about 30 visitors slowly walking back towards the exit, they were all dressed in black, and singing what sounded like a hymn or perhaps prayer, ta bus load of Jewish people old & young paying their respects to their fallen, which just added that bit more solemn mood to an already emotional visit to one of the worlds most terrible tragedies.
In contrast to Auschwitz I, this camp was purposely constructed to be a concentration labor death camp, it imprisoned 125,000 people, it was the largest of all of the camps and had a horrendous record of non-survival, about 90% of those brought here died. So as heart wrenching as it may sound I encourage you to visit one day to witness yourself this human tragedy as my words cannot tell the whole story of what happened here.
I think that the Allied powers of the day had great foresight in keeping this horrid episode of mankind a reality despite I am sure the many, and for good reason wanting to reduce it to non-existence or rubble. A sign on the wall in one of the buildings sums it up perfectly, it reads “Those who do not remember the past, are condemned to repeat it”, (by George Santayana), sad but true words of wisdom I feel.