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June 12, 2015

Should the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp be rebuilt for tourists?

Filed under: Germany, Holocaust — Tags: , — furtherglory @ 10:48 am
The ruins of Auschwitz-Birkenau

The ruins of Auschwitz-Birkenau in the winter of 1988

My blog post today was inspired by a comment made by one of the regular readers of my blog:

Your picture of the Birkenau ruins made me think about the possible reconstruction of the wooden barracks and Krema. […]  Although costly I am sure there is plenty of money available and then they can go the whole hog and employ people in costume to give it more authenticity.

When I began my travels, many years ago, the first place that I went, was to Boston. I took several tours to historic places that had been restored. There were people playing the part of colonial residents, who were available to answer questions. They remained in character at all times, using the language of historic times and pretending not to know anything about modern devices and language.

This could be done at Auschwitz, and today’s young students could learn a lot from this.

The train tracks, that go through the “Gate of Death” at Birkenau are still there. I am sure that trains could still go from the main station in the town of Auschwitz and enter the camp through the “Gate of Death.” This could give young students today a real thrill, as the train comes down from a steep ramp and enters the camp. Heinrich Himmler was standing on this ramp when he got the idea of building a camp at Birkenau.

SS men at Auschwitz wore their uniforms at all times

SS men at Auschwitz wore their uniforms at all times

There could be actors, wearing pristine uniforms, playing the part of the SS men, as shown in the photo above, which is from the Auschwitz Album. This would give students an understanding of the German ideal of cleanliness and order.  Hint: the Nazis believed that the Jews were dirty.

Hungarian Jews at Auschwitz-Birkenau

Hungarian Jews at Auschwitz-Birkenau

The Nazis took photos of the Jews at Auschwitz, in order to show that they looked completely different from the German people, and for this reason, they didn’t belong in Germany.  But where were they supposed to go. No country would take them in, not even the good ole USA.

I previously blogged about why the Germans hated the Jews on this blog post: https://furtherglory.wordpress.com/2014/06/30/der-dolchstoss-and-the-road-to-the-holocaust/

This is allegedly a replica of a guard tower at Auschwitzl

This is allegedly a replica of a guard tower at Auschwitz

The Auschitz-Birkenau camp should be restored to the way that it actually looked when it was a death camp for Jews.  Guard towers, like the one shown in the photo, were not there when the Jews were Holocausted.  In fact, in the 1940ies, the word Holocaust did not mean the killing of 6 million Jews.  How many students today know that?

However, I believe that the ruins of the gas chambers should be left alone.  I blogged about the ruins on this blog post: https://furtherglory.wordpress.com/2014/05/15/at-auschwitz-birkenau-the-execution-chambers-are-now-roped-off-and-in-ruins/

A brick stove that heated a barracks building that is gone now

A brick stove heated a barracks building that is gone now

The 425 acre Birkenau camp is now filled with the brick stoves that once heated the wooden barrack buildings.

This photo shows the uniforms that the prisoners wore and the uniforms of the Soviet liberators of the camp

This photo shows the uniforms of the prisoners and the uniforms of the Soviet liberators

Actors wearing the uniforms of the prisoners or the uniforms of the liberators could re-enact the liberation of the camp in January 1945. Little children could re-enact the Jewish children walking out of the Birkenau death camp.  Eva Moses Kor, a child survivor of Birkenau, who is still alive, could be a consultant for this re-enactment.

This photo of the children marching out of Birkenau is on the Wikipedia page about the liberation

This photo of the children marching out of Birkenau is on the Wikipedia page about the liberation

The best view of the Auschwitz-Birkeanu ruins is from the gate tower; I took the photo below in 1998 when my tour guide and myself were the only people there, and it was raining. The barracks in the foreground are reconstructions.

My 1998 photo of Auschwitz-Birkenau taken from the top of the gate tower

My 1998 photo of Auschwitz-Birkenau taken from the top of the gate tower

Today’s young students who are taken on trips to Auschwitz should be made to understand that the world was quite different back then.  I know — I was alive then.

There were many people in American back then who were living in tar paper shacks without central heat and without running water inside the house; there were many Americans who were worse off than the prisoners at Birkenau, including me.

The photo below shows how the Birkenau camp looked in 2005. The wooden barracks buildings are all gone and there is nothing left but the stoves that once heated the barracks.

My 2005 photo of the ruins of Birkeanau

My 2005 photo of the ruins of Birkeanau

Fence around the Birkenau camp is original

Fence around the Birkenau camp is original

In the photo above, note the one building (on the far left side) that is still standing. Imagine if each of the brick chimneys in the photo had a restored wooden barrack building for tourists to visit.

Currently, the 425 acre camp is mostly empty with very few buildings still standing.

My photos below show what it looked like in 2005 when I last visited the memorial site.

Chimneys for the stoves in the barracks which have been torn down

Chimneys for the stoves in the barracks which have been torn down

Original fence around the Birkenau camp

Original fence around the Birkenau camp

Ruins at the former men's camp at Birkenau

Ruins at the former men’s camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau

I took this view from the Birkenau tower in 1998

I took this view from the Birkenau tower in 2005

In the photo above, you can see tourists entering the restored section of Birkenau where they can see what the original barracks buildings looked like. I took this photo early in the morning before the crowds of tourists arrived.