AUSCHWITZ I

AUSCHWITZ II (Birkenau)

AUSCHWITZ III (Monowitz), (totally destroyed)

Camps were operating from May 20th, 1940 till January 27th, 1945

at first concentration camps then extermination camps

Friday, March 27th, 1942

The convoy #1 leaves Drancy station.

 

This train has been specifically chartered by the French National Railway (SNCF).

It has been billed to the SS as a ”holiday departure”.

 

They have been taken with their families and friends.

The trip lasts 3 days.

They are standing, huddled without any food or hygiene.

The heat and smell are intolerable.

At Brzezinka (Birkenau), they are forced

to walk towards the ”Judenrampe”.

 

The survivors are set apart and selected.

 

They walk to Auschwitz (3km) or Birkenau (1km).

They will never come back.

Sunday, March 20th, 2011

We stand at Roissy Airport.

 

A plane has been specially chartered for us.

 

We are tother with the families and friends

with whom we have decided to do this trip.

A large number are with their children.

Our flight lasts 2 hours.

We are comfortably seated and are offered breakfast.

In Cracow, a coach takes us to the camp area.

We are driven to Birkenau and Auschwitz.

We’ll be back home this evening.

Shoah - Kenji Kawai
00:00 / 00:00
 
Birkenau (Brzezinka)

Birkenau (Brzezinka)

Birkenau (Brzezinka) has been selected by the SS as a concentration camp because of its mining activity. It is easily accessible by rail. The Polish population is driven away or slaughtered to allow for the concentration camp to be erected.

the Judenrampe

the Judenrampe

The train reaches the Judenrampe. The doors open. Many died during the journey. Many fell stepping down, exhausted by this inhuman journey. Many were beaten to death with riffle butts.

the Judenrampe

the Judenrampe

The separation takes place amid the SS yelling and the dogs. On one side, men, on the other, women and children. Families separated for ever.

the Judenrampe

the Judenrampe

The SS physician, in his brand new uniform, does the selection which concerns only the Jews. One single movement with his stick whistling his favorite opera air is enough to decide of the fate of each of these victimized people. Pregnant women, old people and crippled are immediately shot. Women and men aged over 15 will go and die in the camp.

Brzezinka

Brzezinka

We walk 1km from the Judenrampe to the Birkenau camp. We have a glimpse of the camp. Little houses have been rebuilt, their gardens give onto the camp or the rampe. The owners have been offered a bargain price for them. What a surreal memory !

Birkenau, the Gate of Death

Birkenau, the Gate of Death

This was the ”Gate of Death”. An unending number walk through it. They have been hunted, betrayed, tortured… Unfathomable anguish !

Birkenau

Birkenau

The Judenrampe had been linked up to the camp in 1944. This connexion had been achieved to facilitate the delivery of numbers of Hungarian jews to the gas chambers. Far away on the picture one can see the platform and the box car.

Birkenau

Birkenau

I am struck by the immensity of this ”factory of death”. I am seized by instinctive repulsion. It’s a terrible feeling of frozen disbelief.

Birkenau

Birkenau

Watchtowers, electrified barbed wires, permanent lightning… The guards have a right of life and death over the prisoners. They are free to bill at will, they will be rewarded for it.

Birkenau, the disembarkation quay

Birkenau, the disembarkation quay

Here is the fate of the Jewish people who have been sent there. Is it better to be shot at once than to suffer the camp ordeal ?

Birkenau

Birkenau

At the beginning, the shacks were built with red bricks. Those were quickly replaced by wood, more economical and easier to work with.

Birkenau

Birkenau

Most barracks have been pulled down, leaving only the obscenity of their chimneys.

Birkenau, Central "Sauna"

Birkenau, Central "Sauna"

Every newcomer is taken there, naked, recorded, shaven and tattooed. Henceforth they are only numbers, the annihilation has begun… Being naked you could see pregnant women or crippled gone unnoticed on the Judenrampe. These are directly sent to their death ”Nacht und Nebel".

Birkenau, Central "Sauna"

Birkenau, Central "Sauna"

The clothes are disinfected and cleaned in autoclaves Les vêtements sont désinfectés et nettoyés dans des autoclaves. The prisoners are given a shower with frozen or boiling water according to the discretion of the warders.

Birkenau, Central "Sauna"

Birkenau, Central "Sauna"

Naked and drenched, the prisoners wait to be given their striped uniform and their bowl. Those will be their only belongings. Then comes the roll...

Birkenau, Central "Sauna"

Birkenau, Central "Sauna"

All the personal belongings are stored in ”Kanada” warehouses (Kanada stands for the Eldorado in the nazi imagination). Everything is used for the benefit of the Reich. Leather shoes are turned into driving belts for vehicles, hair is turned into material and so on.

Birkenau

Birkenau

The prisoners thought they were sent to a labour camps so along with their personnel belongings they took their professional tools. For instance, 8 000 sewing machines were found !

Birkenau, the men's barracks

Birkenau, the men's barracks

There are 3 levels in the barracks with a bunk on each one. Sometimes 6 prisoners sleep on the same vermin infected pallet. They shared one ”blanket”. No canteen or dining hall, they ”eat” standing or sitting on the pallets. Everything must be in order in the morning or there were physical punishments. No hygiene, stink, intolerable overcrowded conditions…

Birkenau, the men's barracks

Birkenau, the men's barracks

The heat in the barracks is provided by the heating pipe, a pipeline which works according to the warders’ will. Summer is scorching with no water. Winter is freezing going down to minus 30°C, they are almost naked.

Birkenau, latrines

Birkenau, latrines

2 barracks are used as latrines. This is a total abjection. Everything is done according to orders and people who can’t comply are immediately executed. People get there in groups and then leave for another group after cleaning with their clothes or their hands…

Birkenau, latrines

Birkenau, latrines

Then the ScheisseKommando cleans the place without any tools. The stink is so terrible that this commando is sometimes spared physical cruelty, the Nazis keeping away from them.

Birkenau

Birkenau

Theoretically prisoners work 6 days a week and the 7th is for cleaning but facts are that detainees work 7 days a week and washing is once every 2 months using a pipeline with frozen water.

Birkenau

Birkenau

In case of air bombing, the Nazis have underground shelters.

Birkenau

Birkenau

Besides the warders there are the ”kapos”, real criminals who are in charge of watching the prisoners. They are recruited among the most violent german criminals. They are even more cruel than the warders in order to get small advantages. Their favorite pleasure is the shattering of genitals !!!

Birkenau, kitchens

Birkenau, kitchens

They are located in the women’s barracks, totally separated from the men’s quarters. The staff is mainly Polish. With the warders’ agreement they divert part of the prisoners food. The daily diet is 1 000 calories. Starvation, cold, exhaustion, diseases, physical abuse kill the prisoners.

Birkenau, kitchens

Birkenau, kitchens

The daily diet consists of : For breakfast, han a liter of coffee and 300g of bread made with oat bran and sawdust. Noon and the evening, cabbage or turnip soup, this diet 5 days a week. The 2 other days a thicker rutabaga soup and sometimes a few rotten potatoes. 25g of margarine 5 days a week, 75g of sausage one day a week, 20g of marmalade or cottage cheese also once a week.

Birkenau, women's barracks

Birkenau, women's barracks

The male prisoners provided a real advantage for the SS but women mainly senseless jobs to perform in order to exhaust and kill them. Simone Weil for instance reported that she had to move stones from right to left and then from left to right the other day.

Birkenau, the gas chamber

Birkenau, the gas chamber

Before the gas chamber there is an undressing room where prisoners come down to fold their clothes so that they find them after the ”shower”. The gas chamber in the background has fallen down as well as the undressing room.

Birkenau, the gas chamber

Birkenau, the gas chamber

The agony lasts 20-25mn. To stifle the cries the truck engines are roaring full regime. 2 000 people at a time are gassed. Later the gas chamber will be built at ground level to save time.

Birkenau, the cremators

Birkenau, the cremators

The SonderKommando takes the bodies out of the gas chamber and takes them to the crematory. He pulls out the gold teeth which will be melted and then turned into gold bars to be sent to Berlin. Sometimes the SonderKommando recognizes friends or members of his family. The members of the SonderKommando are regularly killed so that they won’t be able to bear testimony.

Birkenau, the cremators

Birkenau, the cremators

On October 7th, 1944, 250 prisoners of the SonderKommando rioted and partly destroyed oven IV thanks to explosives stolen by women working in weapon factories. All of them will be executed. They had chosen to die with dignity.

Birkenau, the cremators

Birkenau, the cremators

The ashes are collected and used as fertilizers.

Birkenau, the stakes

Birkenau, the stakes

With the oncoming of Hungarian jews, the number of crematories becomes not sufficient. So stakes are built on this area. 4 000 bodies are burnt at each stake.

Birkenau, the stakes

Birkenau, the stakes

A monument in memory of all the stake victims.

Birkenau, stakes

Birkenau, stakes

If only they could talk, what horrendous stories these trees could tell…

Birkenau, the stakes

Birkenau, the stakes

Alex, member of one SonderKommando, managed to get a camera. He leaves us 3 pictures of these stakes, a unique testimony of this barbarity.

Birkenau, the stakes

Birkenau, the stakes

The ashes are scattered in this little lake.

Birkenau, water-treatment plant

Birkenau, water-treatment plant

The nazi imagination has no limit to build a filtering plant in order to recycle excrements and turn them into methane. This plan has never been implemented.

Birkenau, the Memorial

Birkenau, the Memorial

Erected on a terrace the memorial is made of statues and of 21 plaques, the same text written in 21 languages. These plaques are located at the far end of the railway, 500m away from the camp entrance. To get there you must walk along this death path which was used by the prisoners to walk to their death in the gas chamber.

The commemorative plaque in English. The 21 languages stand for the 21 nationalities of deported people.

Birkenau

Birkenau

All those people, I know them… All these pictures, I have seen them… They are all my family for ever vanished…

Birkenau

Birkenau

An emotional picture…

Birkenau

Birkenau

Here I painfully realize that the Shoah is not only a question of numbers and statistics. Here I have troden the path of the victims…

We leave Birkenau hell.

We leave Birkenau hell.

We have one hour for our lunch. In Paris, we were required not to leave a single zloty here. We quickly and silently eat our sandwich and the depart for Auschwitz #1.

 
Auschwitz I

Auschwitz I

The infamous camp entrance. ”Work makes you free”. The nazi cynicism…

The Wannsee conference

The Wannsee conference

On January 20th, 1942, 15 nazi dignitaries headed by Reinhard Heydrich meet in Wannsee, a Berlin suburb. The issue is the ”final solution” to the 11 million Jews living in Europe. The decision meets no opposition. The talks are only half-Jews and jewish spouses. Only half of this number will be reached…

The convoys

The convoys

The convoys start from March 27th, 1942 (1 112 people) to August 11th, 1944 (convoy #78). Other convoys went to other camps such as Buchenwald, Dachau, Bergen-Belsen, Ravensbrück, Sachsenhausen (around 87 convoys).

The convoys

The convoys

The French railways bill the transportation to the nazis as ”holiday trips”.

Auschwitz

Auschwitz

Coming from Birkenau, Auschwitz #1, a former barracks, looks almost pleasant but make no mistake : life there was not pleasant !

Warehouses

Warehouses

A stolen, massacred life is hidden behind all those stolen objects…

Warehouses

Warehouses

Warehouses

Warehouses

Warehouses

Warehouses

Warehouses

Warehouses

Warehouses

Warehouses

Warehouses

Warehouses

Warehouses

Warehouses

Warehouses

Warehouses

Warehouses

Warehouses

Warehouses

Warehouses

Warehouses

Warehouses

Warehouses

Warehouses

The Orchestra

The Orchestra

The convoys and the prisoners who go out in the mornings and return in the evenings to the camp are welcomed by a band who play there. The musicians work in the kitchens at the back of the picture.

Auschwitz

Auschwitz

Any prisoner crossing this path is immediately shot by the guards. A number of prisoners do that in order to stop insufferable pain

The Place of Roll

The Place of Roll

The roll takes place at anytime of the day especially in the evening when the prisoners are back, exhausted. They all get out of the barracks in groups of 10. The roll lasts long hours, 4 to 5. It is said that one roll lasted 19 hours ! The prisoners are not allowed to move or they are shot. A lot of them die of exposure or starvation.

The Place of Roll

The Place of Roll

During the roll the escaped prisoners who were caught back or hostages are hanged as collective responsibility. They are executed with the music playing on.

Block #11

Block #11

In this unfathomable hell, there is the Block #11, the jail, hell in hell, even more terrifying…

Block #11

Block #11

A mock court for the prisoners.

Block #11

Block #11

The prisoner awaits the verdict in this small cell. It is always the same : death. They are different ways of inflicting death but always as a supreme humiliation the detainee is executed naked. The clothes are collected, there mustn’t be holes and they mustn’t be soiled by blood.

Block #11

Block #11

Some prisoners are hanged by their arms turned to the back. They are set free after 2 or 3 days but they can’t work because of torn muscles, they are then gassed. Others are beaten. They must count the number of strokes in german. If they make a mistake, they have to start all over again.

Block #11

Block #11

In this cell, people are set to starve. They are observed and their reactions are noted down. Ìn other cells with no windows, they stifle to death.

Block #11

Block #11

These exhaustion cells - 1 square meter - are closed in. 4 naked prisoners sentenced to death stand there. There is only one small aeration which allows them to breathe and so extends their agony. They stand until they die.

Block #20

Block #20

Called ”the hospital”, so called experiments are carried out there under Josef Mengele’s responsibility : immersion in frozen water, sterilization, swallowing of salted water, inoculation of deadly germs, burns, electric shocks, mixing of different blood groups… Those who survive are killed by a phenol injection in the heart. Kids have paid a heavy tribute : dissection of twins, injections in eyes to change their color, unnecessary surgery… And at the end of the sufferings, the death, always …

The gas chamber

The gas chamber

Getting into the gas chamber is a particularly difficult moment. There are scratches on the walls, the holes in the ceiling are still threatening. We are in the heart of this crime scene, everything becomes palpable. Breathing gets difficult, a lump in our throats.

The gas chamber

The gas chamber

The first gas experimented on Russian soldiers, Zyklon B is the most efficient gas for mass killings. It becomes effective in contact with human heat. The chamber is sometimes heated to accelerate the process.

The gas chamber

The gas chamber

7 kg of this cristal are necessary to kill 2 000 persons in 20mn. 79 tons ordered in 1942, 119 in 1943, more needs... Ironically, IGFarben, the company which manufactures this gas, is operated by detainees…

The gas chamber

The gas chamber

Zyklon B is poured through this hatch…

The crematory ovens

The crematory ovens

As the gas chamber opens, the bodies are heaped against the door, the strongest trampled the weakest to try to survive a few minutes more. The Sonderkommando takes the corpses and removes any valuable, particularly gold teeth. Then he leads them to the crematory ovens where they are incinerated.

Auschwitz, the crematoria

Auschwitz, the crematoria

Everything looks so simple, a daily routine…

Auschwitz

Auschwitz

This funeral urn contains a few ashes, what is left of about 1 000 000 human beings, what is left of human beings in these inhuman premises…

Rudolf Höss

Rudolf Höss

The head of the camp, Rudolph Höss, is hanged on April 16th, 1947 on this stake used only on this occasion. It faces the crématorium.

Auschwitz

Auschwitz

One last glimpse at these flickering candles which can be so easily blown away… As were so many lives…

Auschwitz

Auschwitz

Forget ? How can one forget ? Forgive ? Is it possible to forgive ?

We leave Auschwitz.

Here, everything has been thought, programed, optimized

so that every moment of the lives of the detainees would be suffering.

 

This death machine has murdered innocent people

who were a danger neither to politics nor to the military.

 

Those barbarous acts have been committed by good husbands, good fathers.

This couldn’t have taken place without the indifference or the agreement

or even the help of other nations.

​​

We are overwhelmed, crushed, revolted.

 

Although we had read so many books, watched so many pictures…

But today we have fully understood…

The unspeakable has now a name

Auschwitz

One day, somebody will get out of the camp alive and will tell what took place there !

a prisoner said

Yes, we know that, but who will believe it ?

a SS said

 

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