This morning, I read a news article here which included this quote:
Over 200 Educators Visit Auschwitz, Gaining Valuable Experience
Visitors on this trip visited the entire camp, which consists of three separate sections: Auschwitz I, Auschwitz II which is also known as Birkenau, and Auschwitz III the labor camp.
Did this tour group really visit the Monowitz camp? I thought that the Auschwitz III camp [Monowitz] was off limits because the factories there are still being used.
The Monowitz sub-camp of Auschwitz was known as Bunalager (Buna Camp) until November 1943 when it became the KL Auschwitz III camp with its own administrative headquarters.
Auschwitz III consisted of 28 sub-camps which were built between 1942 and 1944. This area of Upper Silesia was known as the “Black Triangle” because of its coal deposits.
The Buna plant attracted the attention of the Allies, and there were several bombing raids on the factories.
On my two trips to Auschwitz, in 1998 and 2005, I tried my best to take a tour of the Monowitz (Auschwitz III) camp. I was told that the Monowitz camp was off limits because the factories are still being used.
Finally, I bribed a nice Polish guide to take me close to the Monowitz camp, so that I could get some photographs. I took some photos NEAR the camp, but my guide would not let me get close enough to take a photo of the buildings inside the former Monowitz camp.
A reader of my website sent me a photo several years ago, which he said that he had taken just outside the Monowitz camp.
KL Auschwitz III, also known as Monowitz, was very important to the Nazis because of its factories, which were essential to the German war effort.
The Monowitz industrial complex was built by Auschwitz inmates, beginning in April 1941. Initially, the workers walked from the Auschwitz main camp to the building site, a distance of 4 to 6 kilometers each way. By 1942, barracks had been built for the prisoners at Monowitz.
The Jews, who were sent to Auschwitz and then assigned to work at Monowitz, had a much better chance of survival because the factory workers were considered too valuable to send to the gas chambers, at least while they were still able to work.
Two famous survivors who worked at Monowitz were Elie Wiesel and Primo Levi, both of whom wrote extensively about the Holocaust. [It is questionable whether Elie Wiesel was ever at any of the Auschwitz camps.]
The photo above shows the ruins of a bomb shelter which the Nazis built near the Monowitz factories. The barracks where the prisoners lived at Monowitz have all been torn down and replaced by houses. The people on the left in the photo above are Polish residents, not tourists. Note the street sign on the left; this building is on an ordinary city street in the town of Monowitz.
The factories at Monowitz were built by the IG Farben company, which was attempting to produce synthetic rubber, called Buna. The Polish village of Monowice, which was renamed Monowitz by the Germans, is 4 kilometers from the site of the factories, which were located on the east side of Oswiecim.
Some of the old factory buildings are still standing, although now abandoned, while others are still in use as factories. The concrete wall around the factories, with its distinctive curved posts, can still be seen along the road from Oswiecim to the Krakow airport.
In the photo at the top of my blog post, you can see part of the solid concrete fence that surrounds the ruins of the factories, which are still in existence today.
When you enter the town of Oswiecim, coming from the Krakow airport, the fence is the first thing that you see. This tells you that the area around this town, formerly known as Auschwitz, was once the home of Nazi forced labor camps, where the Jews worked as slave laborers.
The fence stretches for miles and behind it are factories, built by the Germans, that are still being used today. The factories and the ruins are off limits to visitors; the tour groups do not visit the ruins, and the private tour guides refuse to take visitors there.
The following quote is also from the article: “The Educational Trust was the foundation who invited the educators to Poland.”
Did the teachers on the trip really see the Monowitz camp or was this a mistake made by the person who wrote the news article?