Krakow trip: A glimpse into history

After 9 hours of train journey, half of it being quite uncomfortable, a friend and I arrived in that city full of history – Krakow. It was a very nice trip. Apart from the chance to meet some friends, beautiful city, the cozy hostel, a very interesting visit to the famous underground saltmine, Wieliczka Salt Mine, this trip really appealed to me because of the Auschwitz concentration camp and Oscar Schindler’s Factory. 

Auschwitz concentration camp

We arrived at the gate of Auschwitz I, the original smaller sized camp when the concentration camp first started.

One of the barracks in Auschwitz I, block 24. Some blocks have been converted into exhibition halls.

Much information was conveyed in the form of black-and-white photos and our tour guide (not the one in this photo) did a good job in explaining the history. The photo at the very left shows the first prisoners being taken away to the camps. The first victims were the intellectuals and elites of the society.

This was a very striking photo for me. It shows the selection of an elderly (please look at the person being selected in this photo), along with the children, pregnant women, women with small children, the sick and disabled (a.k.a. those who can’t work 10 hours per day) from those who were able to work. They were told that they would be taken to a “bath”, and that they would be re-united with their families in the camp later, but only to be lead to the notorious gas chambers. This wasn’t the first time I’ve heard or read history about the Nazi and concentration camp, but it never failed to arise questions in my head: how could a human come up with ideas like this against another human being, especially to the helpless elderly and the innocent small children?

There we were, standing in the courtyard of Barrack 11 (called the “barrack of death” by the prisoners), a place of execution by shooting in the back of the head and hanging.

Zyklon B, infamous for its use for holocaust in the gas chambers.

Once the gas chambers were full, their doors were closed tightly, and solid pellets of Zyklon B were dropped into the chambers through pipes in the side walls…  victims inside the gas chambers usually died within 20 minutes…..[2][3] Johann Kremer, an SS doctor who oversaw the gassings, testified: the “Shouting and screaming of the victims could be heard through the opening and it was clear that they fought for their lives.”[1] If the gas chamber had been crowded, which they typically were, the corpses were found half-squatting, their skin discolored pink with red and green spots, with some found foaming at their mouths, or bleeding from their ears [3]

[1] Piper, Franciszek. “Gas chambers and Crematoria”, p. 163; [2] http://www.spectacle.org/695/zyklonb.html; [3] Piper, Franciszek. “Gas chambers and Crematoria”, p. 170.

The ruins of a gas chamber/crematory in Auschwitz Birkenau concentration camp, 5 minutes by car away from Auschwitz I. 

We must all remember the price of freedom.

Priceless.

Oskar Schindler Factory

Pen and Camera are weapons against oblivion,they can raise awareness for that which may soon be lost forever

– Dr. George Schaller – Wildlife Conservationist

This is originally a quotation about wildlife photography, concerning the endangered species, but I think it is, especially the first half of the sentence, suitable in the situation of human oppresion, wars and sufferings too. Because of the documents and photos remaining from that time, people of this and the coming generations can get a glimpse to the past and be warned.

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