When I saw the photo above, at the top of a news article, which you can read here, I thought it was an old photo, which showed Jews being arrested by the Nazis during World War II. Then I noticed that the man on the right has a cell phone in his hand. This is actually a photo of Rabbi Rafi Ostroff, who was arrested and forced to pay a fine for singing Jewish songs while walking to the gas chamber in the main Auschwitz camp, which is now a Memorial Site.
What is the world coming to, if a Jew can’t sing on a visit to the gas chamber at Auschwitz?
The main camp (Auschwitz I) was not a “death camp” for Jews. It was mainly a camp for political prisoners and illegal combatants in World War II. You can read the history of the main camp on my website here.
The photo above shows the gravel road that runs along the outside of the Auschwitz 1 camp. Organized tours start here, then turn right at the first intersection, which is shown in the photo. The road to the right goes through the Arbeit Macht Frei gate, which is out of camera range in this shot. The gravel road goes straight ahead to the gas chamber building, and the red brick political building, which is out of camera range. The SS hospital, which is directly across from the gas chamber, can be seen on the right; it is the light-colored, two-story building.
The photos of the Jews, who were arrested at Auschwitz, show them walking past the brick buildings in the main camp, not on the road to the gas chamber. They were not singing on the road to the gas chamber, but on the streets of the camp, where the barracks are located.
According to an old news article, which you can read here, the Nazis DID force the Jews to sing on their way to the gas chamber in the main Auschwitz camp. This was mentioned in a trial of some of the Nazi war criminals, who carried out the gassing of the Jews.
The following quote is from the news article:
A description of how Jewish victims at Auschwitz were forced by an SS officer called “a killer” to sing songs while on their way to the gas chambers was given to the court here today as the trial of 22 former Auschwitz-Birkenau administrators and medical corpsmen continued.
The day’s principal witness, Hermann H. Biermanski, who spent five years at Auschwitz, named Wilhelm Boger, one of the defendants, as the man who made the Jews sing on their way to their death. Boger, according to Biermanski, had “a reputation as a killer” even before he had been assigned to Auschwitz.
I wrote about Wilhelm Boger in another blog post, which you can read here.
The photo above shows the gallows, on which the Commandant of the Auschwitz camp was hanged after the war. The gas chamber, which is not shown, is on the left, under a mound of dirt covered with grass. The entrance to the gas chamber was to the left of what is shown in the photo above.
As the victims entered the gas chamber in the main camp, their first view was the ovens which were located straight ahead.
There was no undressing room for the gas chamber in the main camp; the victims entered with their clothes on, carrying their luggage. They were told that they were going to take a shower, but there were no shower heads on the ceiling, as you can see in the photo below.
Tourists today enter the gas chamber in the main camp by going through the room where the cremation ovens are located, as shown on the left in the photo above. On the left side of the photo above, you can see a bit of one of the cremation ovens.
The photo below shows the exit from the gas chamber building, but the victims did not go through this door. Their bodies were carried by the Kapos (Jewish helpers) to the ovens next door to the gas chamber room.
This quote is from another news article which you can read here:
On Friday, August 1st, local police arrested Rabbi Rafi Ostroff, the leader of a group of visiting Australian and South African students, for singing the same songs Jews sang as they marched to their deaths. Security officials at Auschwitz I twice requested that the group cease their singing. Auschwitz-Birkenau officials again requested they cease singing and subsequently summoned police.
Auschwitz-Birkenau marks the height of World War II anti-Semitism. The final resting place of over one million victims, Auschwitz today is a common pilgrimage site for Jews from around the world. Jews and non-Jews alike come to pay tribute to the dead and to assert that never again will the world stand idly by in the face of genocide. It seems that the new wave of Auschwitz security guards, little better than their 1940’s predecessors, have a different agenda. For the first time since January 1945, it seems that proud Jews are no longer safe at Auschwitz.
Another news article, which you can read here, has this quote:
Guards at the Auschwitz Birkenau concentration camp memorial site shouted at Jews who sang “Ani Maamin” – a song based on lines from Rambam (Maimonides) which was known as the Hymn of the Camps – during a visit to the camp and fined their guide 1,000 zloty, or about $350.
So says the guide, Rabbi Rafi Ostroff, who is also the head of the Etzion Bloc Religious Council.
Ani Ma’amin has several tunes, one of which was composed by a Hassidic rabbi in the cattle cars en route to the Nazi concentration camps. The song was then adopted by other Jewish prisoners and became known as the Hymn of the Camps
“Dear friends,” wrote Rabbi Ostroff on Facebook. “Friday-yesterday. I am leading a group of Bnei Akiva from Australia and South Africa. As usual the group sings holy songs of prayer during the visit. This time the guards of the camp hounded us all the time, shouting at us not to sing. Even in the gas chamber of Aushwitz 1, the guard came up to me and shouted at me: ‘tell them immediately to shut up’.
“We then went to Birkenau. In a secluded part of the camp the boys spontaneously started singing ‘Ani Maamin’. This was the song that prisoners sang on the way to be murdered there. A guard drove after us with his car and demanded that they be silent. I told him that I don’t have control over this as they are singing from their hearts. He then threatened to arrest me and called the police.
“In my group were a few boys [whose] grandparents were prisoners or were murdered in Auschwitz. We cried a lot on that day when they shared their stories with us. I was threatened with 24 hours imprisonment or paying a 1000 zloty fine (about $350). I opted to pay as it was 2 hours before Shabbat.