Birkenau

7

27 January, 1945 | The liberation of Auschwitz

Never shall I forget that smoke. … Never shall I forget those flames that consumed my faith forever. Never shall I forget the nocturnal silence that deprived me for all eternity of the desire to live. Never shall I forget those moments that murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to ashes. Never shall I forget these things, even if I were condemned to live as long as God himself.

Never.

Elie Wiesel, Night

All the Dachaus must remain standing. The Dachaus, the Belsens, the Buchenwalds, the Auschwitzes—all of them.  They must remain standing because they are a monument to a moment in time when some men decided to turn the earth into a graveyard. Into it they shoveled all of their reason, their logic, their knowledge, but worst of all, their conscience, and the moment we forget this, the moment we cease to be haunted by its remembrance, then we become the gravediggers. Something to dwell on and remember…

Rod Serling, The Twilight Zone, “Deaths-Head Revisited”

When Soviet troops arrived at the Auschwitz concentration camp on the 27th of January, 1945, they found roughly 7,500 living prisoners–most of whom were weak, ill, and starving–and hundreds of corpses. Though the camp remained largely in tact, the retreating S.S. had demolished several buildings, including the gas chambers, in an attempt to hide their crimes. Overall, an estimated 1.1 million people were murdered in Auschwitz between 1940 and 1945, making it the most deadly of all the Nazi concentration and extermination camps. The majority of the victims were Jews.

Auschwitz-Birkenau became a museum in 1947, and the UN appointed January 27th as International Holocaust Remembrance Day.  Seventy years after its liberation, Auschwitz remains the dominant symbol of the Holocaust

Oświęcim, Auschwitz II (Birkenau), Poland.

The only picture I took at Birkenau on my trip to Poland.

It shows the view from the monument (which has been a gas chamber during World War II) back towards the main gate. I refused to take more pictures that day (not because of arrogance but because it felt like stealing memories and dignity) and it is difficult for me to really describe what I felt while I walked through the ruins of the camp - even now as I´m looking at this photograph again, I´m struggling with words and feelings and I can barely think about what I would like to say, what I would like to tell you about this cruel and inhuman place.

The weather was too perfect then, sunny, warm, with a dreadfully beautiful sunset. Visitors from all over the world were taking lots of pictures, talking, thinking, feeling, smiling and chatting even.

And then the magnitude of the area just hit me, unprepared and unpredictable - because all the words and numbers in my history book are nothing more than these, words, numbers, ink on white paper.

But the ruins, the rail tracks, the gate - they are real. And so is my helplessness and my despair and my rage.

Please don´t forget. 

«Puoi chiedergli che tipo di campo è? Perché sono qui?»
«Dice che si tratta di un campo di lavoro per… Indesiderati, sgraditi penso…»
«Criminali?»
«No… Dottori, musicisti, impiegati, contadini, scrittori, sarti ed intellettuali. Gente normale.
Ebrei.
Polacchi e zingari.»


“Grido di disperazione ed ammonimento all’umanità sia per sempre questo luogo dove i nazisti uccisero circa un milione e mezzo di uomini, donne e bambini, principalmente ebrei, da vari paesi d’Europa.”
Auschwitz - Birkenau
1940-1945

(Foto mia)

The picture of IDF planes over the Birkenau gates says it all. This image summarizes the great change that has occurred in our nation’s history, from a helpless people at the mercy of our enemies to a people capable of defending itself

 - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

An elderly Hungarian Jewish woman, previously interned at either the Tét or Berehovo Ghetto, arrives by cattle car at Auschwitz II, also known as Birkenau extermination camp. Too old and infirmed to work, she would have undoubtedly been sent to the gas chambers following selections. Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, Auschwitz (Polish: Oświęcim), Lesser Poland Voivodeship, Poland. May 1944.