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Aim, Focus, Shoot - The HyPyC blog
Photo Essay -

Auschwitz was an infamous place. During WW2 this network of concentration camps was built originally as a place of mass forced labor, but eventually, as a place of mass extermination. Hundreds of thousands of Jews and other minority groups deemed sub-human by the Nazis was brought here and either worked to the death, or executed in a cold blooded and calculated manner. It is estimated that over 1 million human beings lost their lives in this horrific complex of camps, with the Jewish population of Poland suffering the worst.

Today, it is possible to visit Auschwitz and Birkenau. Most tours depart from Krakow which is just over an hour by bus to the east of the town of Oswiecim where the camps are located. I visited Poland with my friend in May 2017 and booked the tour with Krakow Shuttle. We opted for a joint tour of both Auschwitz and the Wieliczka Salt mine, which in hindsight was the right decision – the salt mine was a much needed respite after the emotionally draining experience of Auschwitz.

The photos below were taken during my tour of Auschwitz and Birkenau. I appreciate that some people may find these photos disrespectful but I wholeheartedly believe that the atrocities that happened here need to be understood! People should be aware of the levels that humanity sunk to, and the horrific way that thousands of innocent people had to suffer. If you are easily upset, I am giving a gentle warning now – these photos depict actual locations and scenes from Auschwitz.

The grim barracks and utility rooms of Auschwitz

The original Auschwitz site was originally an army barracks. Within its perimeter was a series of brick barracks that soldiers lived and trained in. Once the Nazis instigated the "Final Solution" however, Auschwitz was transformed into a place of mass extermination. The barracks were used as housing for the prisoners.

Just one of the many blocks in Auschwitz – these buildings were originally used as army barracks, but were converted to prison cells

Block 15 is a grim structure. Within the walls of this grizzly building are some of the thousands of objects preserved from prisoners who were brought to Auschwitz. As the prisoners arrived on the train platforms, they had their belongings stripped away - all their worldly possessions were piled up, sorted, and sold for a profit by the Nazis.

Records that detail each individual prisoner consigned to Auschwitz

To keep a record of the number of prisoners held at the various concentration camps across Europe, the Nazis kept fastidious logs of each person that entered a camp. This record shows details of various people who were transported to Auschwitz. Many of these documents were destroyed once the Germans had surrendered but a collection still remains on display at the museum today.

Suitcases of the victims transported to Auschwitz and Birkenau via train

Prisoners wrote their names and personal details on their suitcases in the hope that they would be able to identify them easily at a later date. The harsh reality was that few who did so ever saw their personal belongings again. Those who were fit enough were made to perform forced labour, those who were not, were executed in the gas chambers.

Shaving brushes, combs and other accessories from the victims at Auschwitz Birkenau

This is a collection of some of the personal belongings of the prisoners held and executed at Auschwitz and Birkenau. The small collection you can see represents only a tiny fraction of the vast amount of combs, shaving brushes, toothbrushes and polish brushes that were there. It was truly sickening to see such a sight - these items belonged to actual people. They were forcibly taken away and used as a means of profiteering.

Rail carriage that was used to transport thousands of prisoners to Auschwitz

Rail carriages such as these were used to bring prisoners directly to Auschwitz Birkenau. People were crammed inside to maximize the load potential of each wagon. As the trains pulled up to the station, a selection process was carried out by the Nazi "doctors". These doctors would choose who was fit to work, and who should be executed. The most notorious and evil of these doctor was Josef Mengele who performed sickening experiments on children for scientific research.

Toilet blocks at Birkenau – the prisoners could use these for just 10 minutes at a time

The toilet blocks at Auschwitz Birkenau were truly vile places. Prisoners were allowed to use the toilets and shower facilities for only a short period of time each day. Workers who cleaned the toilets had to permanently live inside the huts - they slept in disgusting conditions and often caught disease.

Crematorium  ovens in the gas chambers used to burn the thousands of dead

Ovens used to cremate the remains of thousands of prisoners who were gassed in the adjacent room. Walking inside the actual gas chamber was something I never wish to do again. It felt horrible. Thinking of what happened there and seeing the holes in the roof where the gas pellets were dropped was just mind-numbing. These ovens were built in a cold and calculating manner to maximise the amount of people that could be executed and disposed of in the shortest amount of time.

Remains of a gas chamber that the Nazis destroyed during the last months of WW2

Once the Germans had capitulated and Hitler retreated, the Nazis attempted to cover their tracks and hide what had transpired at camps like Auschwitz. This photo displays the remains of one of the gas chambers at Birkenau - the Nazis attempted to demolish it with explosives. The foundations are still in perfect condition, and you can see the layout of this horrific structure. Thousands of innocent people were killed here every day for no other reason than they were different to what the Nazis deemed to be the master race.

Memorial plaque at Birkenau to serve as a warning of what happened here

To serve as a lasting reminder and a warning to future generations, a memorial has been erected at Birkenau. The above inscription has been translated into some 20+ languages and sits within the ruins of some of the structures.

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