6 Unexpected Things I Learned While In Auschwitz

This past weekend my friend and I went to Poland for the sole purpose of experiencing Auschwitz. We arrived on a beautiful Saturday morning, and I felt like somebody should have told the birds to be quiet, that this wasn’t the place for their singing.
For the most part, I thought I knew everything about the concentration camp. I didn’t think there was much else to know. I was mistaken.

1. Auschwitz is not just one place.

It’s a group of three camps. Auschwitz I, Auschwitz II-Birkenau, and Auschwitz III-Monowitz. Auschwitz I was the base camp which you would recognize by the famous entrance gate. Birkenau was the extermination camp, where at one time held over 90,000 prisoners and had the biggest crematorium and gas chambers. Monowitz was a labor camp where they sent the prisoners to work, and the part of Auschwitz that the public doesn’t have access to.

2. Hitler never once went to a concentration camp.

I don’t know if this makes him more cowardly, more heartless, or if possible, both. He didn’t care how it was being done; all he cared about was that it got done. At any cost.

3. I only encountered one room where I wasn’t allowed to take any photos — this room will forever haunt my memories.

Many times when the prisoners arrived, or after they went into the gas chambers, they had their heads shaved. The most sickening part about it was that they kept all of the hair, and in that particular room there was over 7 tons of human hair. A lot was shipped back to Germany to be used to make socks for soldiers and for textiles — but not all.

4. We don’t know how many people actually died. 

When the Germans heard that the Soviets were coming, they burned most of Auschwitz, including documents, buildings, crematoriums, and gas chambers. They were trying to hide the evidence, and because they burned the documents, they will never have the exact number of the people in Auschwitz.

5. It was the only concentration camp that tattooed numbers onto prisoners.

Even though the Germans tried to burn all evidence of Auschwitz, they failed to get rid of the construction plans for the expansion of Birkenau, so that it would be able to house thousands more. They had no intention of ever stopping, and they didn’t believe they would ever have to until the world, in their eyes, was “pure”.

6. One of the biggest problems that Birkenau faced was that they didn’t have enough room in the crematorium to keep up with the rate of their murdering.

The ashes on the other hand, were not a problem. Tons, actual tons, of ashes were spread through Birkenau through the years it was running. Walking through there, their pain and suffering engulfs you and surrounds you because they are still there. A piece of them will always be there, in the grass, and in the trees; they are the part of life that is left at the death camp. 

image – Auschwitz.org

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