December 6th, 2013
You can book the Auschwitz Tour for individual visitors as well as group visits. For more details please contact us.
December 6th, 2013
You can book the Auschwitz Tour for individual visitors as well as group visits. For more details please contact us.
December 13th, 2011
Hardly has the history seen a man more cruel, ruthless and cold-blooded than Josef Mengele. The story of this Nazi felon and his gruesome activity in the Auschwitz Camp remains to this day one of the most blood-curdling tales from the Holocaust and the whole WW2 period.
Mengele joined the Auschwitz staff in 1943, after his predecessor had fallen ill. Earlier, the doctor had lead a successful life as an SS officer, so upon arriving at the camp he had already had a strong position and immediately gained power over his co-workers. From the very beginning of his stay, he took a particular liking to sorting the inmates arriving at the camp – so much so that he supervised even the arrivals that he wasn’t designated to. Standing on the platform in a white coat and directing the prisoners either to the right or to the left (gas chambers) by subtle motions of hand or a riding crop, he quickly started to be referred to as the „White Angel”. The nickname was later transformed into the „Angel of Death”, due to the doctor’s extreme cruelty, hiding beneath the smooth, handsome looks. Mengele was known for his radical methods – when an epidemy of typhus struck the Romani part of the camp, Mengele ordered the death in gas chambers on all 1042 inhabitants of the barracks. He was convinced that typhus was something that should be eliminated rather than treated.
The high regard for Mengele among his co-workers allowed him to use the camp and its prisoners for developing his studies on physical abnormalities, heredity and eugenics. For this purpose he opened a medical experimentation block, where he performed pseudo-medical tests on Romanian and Jewish inmates. He had a particular interest in the matter of relations between twins. The experiments he performed involved changing eye colour by injecting chemicals into children’s eyes, limb amputations, vivisections, deliberate wound infecting and blood transfusions between siblings, not to mention his effort to create conjoined twins by sewing two Romanian children together. Most of the prisoners that Mengele had chosen for his operations died a painful death during or after the procedures.
We don’t have the full knowledge of the scale of experiments conducted by the ‘Angel of Death’. Shortly before the closure of the camp in 1945 Mengele fled, taking all his medical documentation with him and destroying it afterwards. Still, the researchers were able to unveil most of the truth thanks to confessions of the camp’s survivors. One of such people, Alex Dekel, describes the doctor as follows: “I have never accepted the fact that Mengele himself believed he was doing serious work – not from the slipshod way he went about it. He was only exercising his power. Mengele ran a butcher shop – major surgeries were performed without anaesthesia. Once, I witnessed a stomach operation – Mengele was removing pieces from the stomach, but without any anaesthetic. Another time, it was a heart that was removed, again without anaesthesia. It was horrifying. Mengele was a doctor who became mad because of the power he was given. Nobody ever questioned him – why did this one die? Why did that one perish? The patients did not count. He professed to do what he did in the name of science, but it was a madness on his part.”
August 10th, 2011
Records show that there were approximately 232 thousand children under the age of 18 deported to Auschwitz. At first, all children were sent to the gas chambers, though some were spared once laborers became limited. If a child managed to avoid the gas chambers, they were put to work doing heaving labor. Boys were chosen to work most often, and first assigned to be masons in the crematories. However in 1943, once the work was completed, the boys were all put to death through phenol injections. The boys that escaped that fate either died from malnutrition or were forced to endure sexual abuse by the German overseers.
Disease was also a common cause of death. Between the contaminated water and rats and desolate living conditions, children succumbing to illness became natural. They lived in barracks similar to the adults, though some were lucky enough to live in the camp hospital where they had access to blankets and medicine some of the time.
The children born in Auschwitz barely got a chance to live. Pregnant women were gassed until 1943, when the women registered in Auschwitz were allowed to bear children. These babies, unless of Aryan origin, were taken to be drowned. The babies who appeared to be of proper German descent were registered in the camp-card index by getting tattooed on their thighs. After two months, if the infants survived, they were taken away to be raised as Germans without any Jewish influence. If mothers refused to give them up, then they were gassed with their children.
Many children underwent experimentation during their time in Auschwitz. Josef Mengele was one of the many who tortured Jewish children by placing them in pressure chambers, drugging them or castrating them. Mengele also conducted violent studies on twins before killing them. Herta Oberhauser was another individual who killed children by injecting them with oils and removing their limbs and organs.
The 700 some odd children that survived until liberation suffered from exhaustion, vitamin deficiency, malnutrition, tuberculosis, and other diseases. Most had only spent a few months in the confines of Auschwitz, but it left its mark.
July 6th, 2011
On December of 1942, Ignacy Schwarzbart sent a telegram to the World Jewish Congress in New York. The following are excerpts from the telegram:
“Have read today all reports from Poland…. They exceed by horror sufferings of our nation everything fantasy can picture. Jews in Poland almost completely annihilated…. Believe the unbelievable….”
Schwarzbart and Szmul Zygielbojm were two Jewish representatives of the Polish National Council of the Government of the Republic of Poland in Exile. Since the fall of France, the exiled government had made London their base, and it was there they received the report that prompted Schwarzbart’s telegram. The two had been hearing reports about atrocities – some from concentration camp survivors – for some time. Zygielbojm had long believed the worst. Schwarzbart had been more skeptical.
The report that convinced Schwarzbart came from one Jan Karski. A member of the Polish underground resistance movement, Karski, a Roman Catholic, had sought to ascertain the truth of the state of Jewish persecution in occupied Poland. After touring the Warsaw ghetto, he disguised himself as a prisoner in order to enter a Nazi concentration camp, an act which nearly cost him his life.
After a harrowing escape from the camp, Karski traveled to London and met with Schwarzbart and Zygielbojm. On July 28, 1943, Karski reported to President Franklin D. Roosevelt his findings. The same year, in protest over the Allied governments’ continued inaction to acknowledge the atrocities, Zygielbojm took his own life.
Karski had infiltrated the Bełżec death camp. Reports from Auschwitz soon followed. On April 7th, 1944, two Slovakians named Fred Wetzler and Rudolph Vrba began an escape from the concentration camp. Knowing from other escape attempts that the guards would hunt for them for three days, their brazen plan was to hide in a wood pile just outside the perimeter of the camp until the search was over.
The bold plan worked. Fifteen days and more than 85 miles later, Vrba and Wetzler testified before the Jewish Council in Zilina, Slovakia. In June, their testimony was validated by Ceslav Mordowicz and Arnost Rozin, two Jews who had escaped Auschwitz in May. The Council compiled an extensive report of the Auschwitz atrocities.
On June 15, 1944, the BBC broadcast details of the Auschwitz report. Days later, the New York Times published extracts of the report. The truth was out. The world finally learned of the horrors of Auschwitz.
May 31st, 2010
Just a week before Christmas in 2009, a group of bold thieves helped themselves to a rather unusual item: an iron sign hanging over the entrance to the infamous Auschwitz concentration camp. Police reported the incident and claimed the theft occurred in the early morning hours of December 18th. The sign, which could weigh as much as ninety pounds, was apparently unscrewed at one end and simply pulled down on the other.
The sign was first erected in 1940 after construction on the prison camp was completed. The simple iron “banner” is comprised of an upper and lower border with the words “arbeit macht frei” or, “work sets you free”, running the length. Thieves cut the sign into three individual pieces which were recovered from a forest nearly 200 miles away following a police investigation.
Arrested and charged in the incident three days later were five Polish men described by authorities as “common thieves”. According to an Associated Press article published Dec. 21, 2009, one investigator was quoted as saying, “Robbery and material gain are considered one of the main possible motives, but whether that was done on someone’s order will be determined in the process of the investigation.”
Officials at Auschwitz, which now serves as a museum and memorial to the untold numbers of prisoners killed there, have pledged to increase security measures to protect not only the sign, but also the many other artifacts and buildings the site contains. The sign itself was welded back together and returned to its original place at the camp’s entrance. The museum will receive about $87 million from Germany to help upgrade and maintain Auschwitz and Birkenau, its sister site nearby, but that sum is only about half of what the museum says it needs.
May 17th, 2010
Born in Poland January 7, 1894, the Conventual Franciscan friar Maximilian Kolbe had already distinguished himself by his unrelenting battle against the world’s evils and his intense devotion to Mary Immaculate when he became an inmate at Auschwitz concentration camp in May 1941.
Fr Maximilian was still a seminary student when he helped found the Militia Immaculatae (Army of Mary), whose mission was to convert sinners and enemies of the Catholic Church through the influence of the Blessed Virgin. In his subsequent career as a friar he founded monastaries in Poland, Japan and India despite worsening health.
Back in Poland at the outbreak of World War II, Maximilian sheltered refugees (including many Jews) at the Niepokalanow friary he had founded in 1927. He was still publishing the widely circulated monthly Knight of the Immaculate when he was arrested in February 1941 after speaking out against the Nazis in his magazine. He was incarcerated at Pawiak prison (Warsaw), then transferred to Auschwitz in May.
Surviving Auschwitz inmates have testified in detail about Fr Maximilian’s selflessness and service to others during his weeks at the death camp before his August execution. With other priests, he was targeted for abuse by the most sadistic guards. His ministering to others—hearing confessions while hospitalized after a near-fatal beating, or celebrating Mass in secret—never wavered. Although survival was precarious and food was always scarce, he held back so others could get food, or shared his ration.
The final episode of Fr. Maximilian’s life exemplified self-sacrifice. When ten prisoners were selected for death by starvation as punishment for the escape of three inmates, the Franciscan persuaded the Nazi officer in charge to allow him to take the place of one doomed man so that the other prisoner might still have hope of seeing his family again. Fr. Maximilian was the last in the punishment cell to die; after supporting his fellow prisoners in prayer and song for two weeks, he was killed by lethal injection on August 14.
He was canonized October 10, 1982 by Pope John Paul II.
May 17th, 2010
Of all the death camps, Auschwitz concentration camp is considered the worst and is the most well-known. Already malnourished and ill, Jews were gassed almost daily. Children under fifteen were killed upon arrival. Everyone knew there was only one way out: through the chimney. To escape, one must die.
Auschwitz Daily Life: Morning Hours
Morning was signaled by a series of whistles, and upon wakening, the prisoners had to make their beds, wash up and then get breakfast. The mattresses were straw, and had to be made up perfectly. Anyone who wasn’t able to stand up was taken away. Breakfast consisted of an unsweetened coffee product or tea.
After breakfast, the prisoners had to line up in rows for the morning roll call. After roll call, the prisoners were marched to their work stations.
The Work Day at Auschwitz
Different prisoners had different assignments during the eleven-hour work day. Some prisoners remained in the camp, working as doctors, writing letters or creating items for everyday life as commanded by the overseers. Some prisoners were assigned to private factories, where they did whatever labor was required of them. Factories paid for this privilege and could dispose of the workers as they saw fit. Most prisoners worked outside the camp, constructing buildings, working on the roads, building train tracks or mining coal.
The workers had a half-hour break for lunch. They were given soup or water. The soup had to be eaten there. If it was stored and found later, the prisoners were beaten and the food removed.
After work, the prisoners were kept in order as they were taken back to the concentration camp.
Evening Hours at Auschwitz
Upon return, the prisoners were greeted with the evening roll call. This took substantially longer than the morning roll call, since it was considered a punishment for people who tried to escape or didn’t work as hard as the guards felt they should have.
Dinner was served after roll call. It usually consisted of bread, which was often spoiled. On some days, usually Saturdays, bread and jam went with the bread.
Not ever prisoner was able to partake of every meal. Only those who arrived on time, while food was still available, were able to eat. Even those who had every meal weren’t eating enough food to sustain themselves for the heavy work day.
After dinner, the prisoners returned to their tight quarters.
August 22nd, 2009
The gas chambers of the Auschwitz concentration camps represent the ultimate physical manifestation and implementation of Nazi Germany’s “Final Solution”. These death traps fatally gassed close to a million Jews, hundreds of thousands of Poles (Polish individuals), Gypsies and others that were deemed undesirable. Their sole purpose – to commit mass murder – was accomplished with brutal efficiency; their utilitarian design stemming from a pressing “need” to systematically dispose of large quantities of Jews.
The gas chambers do not so much shock the conscience with menacing artifacts, as would a torture chamber’s chains, straps and crude metal tools, but rather disturb the mind with their coldly indifferent operation. The buildings that housed the gas chambers were built by a military bureaucracy and teams of civil engineers, not maniacal mobs or depraved dungeon keepers. There was no passion, no virulent hate evident in their construction, there was only a focused desire to accomplish the task at hand. It is this very lack of emotion that alienates our humanity, that defies our understanding. How could so many people, so many lives be so methodically, yet casually extinguished?
The birth of the gas chambers began in the 1920′s with the fabrication of a new and more effective cyanide-based insecticide, Zyklon B. This product, packaged in innocuous looking metal canisters, was never meant to be used as an accessory to murder. The Nazis first experimented with the insecticide as a means to induce death when they gassed 250 Gypsy children in 1940. The following year, similar experiments were conducted at Auschwitz; 600 Soviet POWs and 250 sick Polish prisoners became the first gassing victims at the camp. The successful trials – and necessity – spurred the building of two dedicated gas chambers and the conversion of an additional building for the same purpose.
The gas chambers would continue to operate at Auschwitz until the advance of the Red Army in 1944 forced the the SS to demolish the buildings. The structures that housed these gas chambers are were rebuilt and the entire camp in Auschwitz, Poland now serves as a Holocaust memorial and museum.
August 7th, 2009
Trying to describe an average day in the life of a prisoner at the Auschwitz concentration camp would be like trying to describe an average day in hell. Each day brought about new horrors for the unfortunate victims of the Holocaust interred in this Nazi operated extermination camp. Just under one million Jews were killed over the five year history of Auschwitz.
The “lucky” few who weren’t immediately sent to the gas chambers after being shipped to the concentration camp could expect a life of degradation and random punishment. Barracks were overcrowded with not enough beds to house the prisoners. Only the luckiest would receive blankets to keep warm during the cold Polish nights. Days were spent working the prisoners to exhaustion in factories providing materials for the war effort or doing pointless labors such as digging ditches. The unluckiest would have to deal with the remains of their fallen friends, family, and prison mates. Even amongst the prisoners, these prisoners were often reviled although they had little choice in the matter.
Every day, the victims of Nazi cruelty would see their peers taken in front of firing squads, taken away for medical experimentation, starved, beaten, and otherwise tortured. The understanding that it was only a matter of time loomed large in the thoughts of every prisoner. Until Soviet forces freed the prisoners in 1945, it seemed there was no hope of rescue as Allied forces ignored the reality of the situation.
Although the camp conditions were specifically designed to break the spirits of its inhabitants, the fighting spirit of the Jews, Poles, Gypsies, and Russians housed within the walls of Auschwitz did not falter. Over five years, nearly 300 individual prisoners escaped. Unfortunately, Nazis would terrorize inmates by publicly starving ten prisoners for each escaped prisoner. Every prisoner at Auschwitz had to face the hard reality that every moment could be their last and no amount of good behavior or cooperation could prevent an arbitrary punishment.
July 30th, 2009
The Auschwitz Concentration Camp Museum – a Somber Reflection of History
Not all aspects of our world’s history are pleasant, and the happenings at Auschwitz are one of the many tragic events of times past. However, unlike other atrocities — the events of World War II, specifically in Nazi-controlled Germany, have affected many of us — our family members, our friends, and even ourselves. While there are many who would like nothing more than to completely forget about the 1930’s and 1940’s and all the history that this era created, there are some of us who want to remember, those of us who want to study, understand, and pay respects to those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime. For those who want to remember, the Auschwitz Concentration Camp Museum offers an up-close and unforgettable glimpse into that part of history.
The Auschwitz Concentration Camp Museum is not like any other, arguably on the face of the planet. Most experts agree that between 1.1 million and 1.5 million people lost their lives in Auschwitz’s three camps in a few short years — many of them in horrific ways. While some of Auschwitz’s structures were destroyed in early 1945, just before the Russians took command and freed the captives, Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II-Birkenau have been turned into a memorial, museum, and learning center for those who want to better- understand the era and all that transpired during it.
If you want to visit the Auschwitz Concentration Camp Museum by yourself, or maybe with a family member or two — admission is free. However, if you want a guided tour of the facilities, there are nominal fees for the tours, and those rates depend on the type of guided tour that you choose, and how many people are joining you. To get a better understanding of the concentration camp, the people who controlled it, and those who worked, lived, and died there, though — you should at least consider one of the many tours that the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum offers — it will be well worth the small price.
Whether you are just on holiday in the area, or whether you are making a special trip to Poland to visit the memorial — the Auschwitz Concentration Camp Museum offers an unforgettable glimpse into our world’s history.