AUSCHWITZ-BIRKENAU (Oswiecim )

Oświęcim is the Polish name of the city. It is more well known by it's German name of Auschwitz, the town is in the South Eastern part of Poland. It is a railway junction and industrial center producing chemicals, leather, and agricultural implements. There are coal deposits in the vicinity. In World War II the Germans organized a concentration camp system there, consisting of 3 main and 30 forced-labor camps. At the Brzezinka (Ger. Birkenau) extermination camp as many as 4,000,000 prisoners, mostly Jews, were killed.

The view of the former army post turned prison. The posts remain, but the barbed wire has been removed, very strage walking through an area that people were shot for crossing.  The beautiful day and clean grounds were also strange in contrast to what you know happened here. This was a very disturbing exhibit, what you see on the left is a line of uniforms marching off to the death camps with a wall of pictures of the poople who died here.  The uniforms are authintic. Marlis Hazleton takes a moment to look out the window while walking around the grounds of Auschwitz (Oswiecim, Poland). This is a wall where many political prizinors were executed,  the building to the right was considere one of the worst for having cells that many people died in. The barb-wire is gone, but the concret posts remain Marlis poses next to the entrance that said "Arbeit Macht Frei" (Work Brings Freedom). The saying was placed there by Major Rudolf Hoss, commandant of the camp. Auschwitiz was easy to visit when compared to this place.  We did not go inside, but from the car, the impact was very strong. The gates of Birkenau, while we did not go into the camp, just by driving was  something I will never forget.

Established in the mid sixteenth century, this is one of the oldest Jewish cemeteries in Poland. It was closed finally in the middle of the 19th century. It is usually referred to as just the old Jewish cemetery, but sometimes as the dawne (old) Grodzisko, after the area in which it is located.

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After the the damage and neglect it received since the beginning of the second world war, not much is left of the original layout of the graves. Some 50, of the few remaining gravestones, dating from the 16th to the 18th century have been re-erected in new locations alongside a path through the cemetery. The cemetery itself is surrounded by a high and solid brick wall. The cemetery is looked after by an old jewish man currently, but I do not know what will happen after he dies. Fewer than 10 000 jews are left in Poland, and most of them are elderly.

For more information about Auschwitiz, here is the entry from the Holocaust Encyclopedia and The Auschwitz Album from Yad Vashem.

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