I had to give this article a lot of thought before posting, because after our visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau outside of Krakow, Poland, I was filled with emotion, and now a few months later, I hesitated to show these photos, which still bring tears to my eyes and are a reminder of the tragic reality of suffering that went on in this famous death camp.
The piles of personal items and the gaze of prisoner photos bearing witness are particularly disturbing.
“Auschwitz” was actually a network of German Nazi concentration and extermination camps built and operated by the Third Reich in Poland areas annexed by Nazi Germany during World War II. It consisted of Auschwitz I, the original camp, Auschwitz II–Birkenau, a combination concentration-extermination camp, Auschwitz III-Monowitz, a labor camp to staff a Nazi factory, and 48 satellite camps.
Auschwitz I was first constructed to hold Polish political prisoners, who began to arrive in June 1940. The first extermination of prisoners took place in September 1941, and Auschwitz II–Birkenau went on to become a major site of the Nazi "Final Solution”.
From early 1942 until late 1944, transport trains delivered Jews to the camp's gas chambers from all over German-occupied Europe, where they were killed with the pesticide Zyklon B. At least 1.1 million prisoners died at Auschwitz, around 90 percent of them Jewish. Others deported to Auschwitz included Poles, Gypsies, Soviet prisoners of war and Jehovah’s Witnesses along with many considered by the Nazis to be “undesirable” by virtue of health, ethnicity, cultural or sexual preference, or religion.
Many of those not killed in the gas chambers died of starvation, forced labor, infectious diseases, individual executions, and medical experiments.
There are very few people who don’t know the horrific story of Auschwitz-Birkenau. For this reason, I won’t be writing more than this introduction.
The photos speak for themselves.