The first time that I visited the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp, in September 1998, I was the only person there and my Jewish tour guide would not let me get off the main road in the camp because she said that there were snakes in the grass. She meant real snakes, not Nazis who might be lurking there, ready to throw me into a gas chamber.
Now there are 8,000 to 10,000 people per day walking through Auschwitz-Birkenau, and there might be a real danger of being trampled to death.
Today, I read a news article here which told about how tourists take selfies with a “selfie stick” at Auschwitz. Is taking a selfie with a “selfie stick” worse than taking one with just a hand held device?
I have no objection to using a “selfie stick” if one is so inclined; my concern is with the description of the “crematorium” near which these photos were being taken.
This quote is from the news article:
A couple of weeks ago, I stood before a crematorium at Auschwitz-Birkenau and listened to the tour guide talk about the sonderkommandos. The sonderkommandos, he explained quietly, were the prisoners tasked with removing dead corpses from the gas chambers – after the victims had been showered with cyanide and choked to death – and then with hurling them into ovens or onto piles of other lifeless bodies and burning them to ash. The sonderkommandos, who sometimes found their own family members in the heaps, would be killed off and then replaced to prevent their gruesome stories from circulating to others in the camp. I stood there and listened, catatonic and sick to my stomach, perturbed by the lush green fields and flowers growing along the perimeter of the gas chamber.
The description of the “lush green fields and flowers growing along the perimeter of the gas chambers” identifies this location as being in the Auschwitz II camp — Auschwitz-Birkenau. But the quote starts out by referring to a “crematorium”, not a gas chamber.
There were TWO underground rooms in each of the alleged gas chamber buildings at Birkeanau: an undressing room and a gas chamber. There was no crematorium. As far as I know, the bodies had to be stored outside in the snow, while they were being burned in the ovens a few at a time.
The quote from the news article then continues with this:
But what disturbed me just as much was the tourist I saw tiptoeing his way into the ruins of the gas chamber – which at this point looks like little more than volcanic rubble because the Nazis bombed it to erase evidence before they retreated. Selfie stick in hand, this guy was taking photos of himself in the remains of the crematorium where hundreds of thousands of people were murdered.
The “crematoria” in all the gas chamber buildings at Birkenau were underground. Several people have climbed down into one of the so-called gas chambers, which was in a separate room, but it is completely dark and there is no room for a “selfie stick.”
I think that the author of this article is confused. She obviously meant that tourists are walking down into the former undressing rooms at Birkenau and taking selfies, not into one of the gas chambers.
My photo at the top of this page shows the ruins of the gas chamber in Krema III, which was underground, but the ruins can be accessed now.
I suspect that tourists are actually climbing down into the ruins of one of the undressing rooms, not into the ruins of a gas chamber.