A few days ago, one of the regular readers of my blog asked a question regarding the following sarcastic statement that I had written:
“The truth is that, with their “utterly twisted and deformed mind[s],” the Auschwitz main camp was originally built by the Germans as a camp for migrant workers. From Auschwitz, the workers could get on a train and travel to any place in Europe. Auschwitz was literally a major “cross road” of Europe.”
The reader’s question was this: “I’m not sure, are you joking with the above statement? Auschwitz I was a concentration camp for Poles deemed by the Germans to be a threat.”
I have a section on the town of Auschwitz on my website at http://www.scrapbookpages.com/AuschwitzScrapbook/Tour/Oswiecim/index.html
Here is the real story regarding the origin of the town of Auschwitz and the beginning of the Auschwitz main camp:
The area of Europe that was inhabited by the German tribes in the Middle Ages became the Holy Roman Empire in the year 800 and by 1270, the Empire had expanded to include the area known as Upper Silesia, where Auschwitz is located. In 1457, Auschwitz became part of the Kingdom of Poland and it was then known by the Polish name Oswiecim.
Most of Silesia was annexed to the German state of Prussia in 1742, except for four duchies. The duchy of Auschwitz was annexed to Galicia, a province which was given to Austria when Poland lost its independence in 1772 and the country was divided between Russia, Prussia and Austria.
Western Galicia soon became known as The Corner of Three Empires: Russia, Prussia and Austria. The town known as Auschwitz, or Oswiecim or Oshpitzin, became a prime location for Jewish traders or merchants during the time that Galicia was part of the Austro-Hungarian empire.
When railroad lines were built in the 19th century, the little town of Auschwitz, at the junction of three empires, became the crossroads of Europe. There were 44 train lines coming into Auschwitz, making it at one time a larger railroad hub than Penn Station in New York City.
It was because Auschwitz was such an important railroad junction that a camp for migrant workers was built in a suburb of the town in 1916; seasonal farm workers from all over Europe were sent from Auschwitz to the large German estates. The migrant worker camp, with its beautiful brick barracks buildings, was the place that eventually became the Auschwitz I concentration camp.
In 1919, Poland became an independent country again and Auschwitz became a Polish town called Oswiecim. The former migrant worker camp was used as a garrison by the Polish Army.
The Auschwitz main camp originally had 20 brick barracks buildings; 14 of them were single story buildings and 6 were two stories high. When this camp was converted into the Auschwitz concentration camp, a second story was added to the 14 single story buildings and 8 new two-story buildings were added, making a total of 28 barracks buildings. Between 13,000 and 16,000 concentration camp prisoners were crowded into these 28 buildings where they slept in three-tiered bunks. At one point, in 1942, there were 20,000 prisoners at the Auschwitz main camp.
Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939 and the town of Oswiecim was captured on September 6th. Following the conquest of Poland, the name of the town reverted back to Auschwitz.
The city of Krakow, located 37 miles from Auschwitz, became the capital of German-occupied Poland, known as the General Government. It is important to note that, during the time that Auschwitz was allegedly a killing center, it was in the Greater German Reich, not in occupied Poland. The Polish people are incensed when Auschwitz is described as a concentration camp in Poland.
Auschwitz was located literally at the junction of the Greater German Reich and occupied Poland; it was also in the heart of “The Black Triangle,” an industrial area with large coal deposits, which is why it was such an important location for the Nazis.
The photo above shows a display of objects in the Auschwitz Jewish Center, which is next door to the Synagogue in the town of Auschwitz. Prominently mentioned in this Center are the Haberfeld and Hennenberg families who were engaged in distilling and selling liquor. During prohabition in America, the Jews were engaged in bringing liquor into American through Canada.
According to a brochure which I obtained from the Jewish Center, Jews first settled in Oswiecim 500 years ago. By 1939, over half of the population of Oswiecim was Jewish.
This quote is from the brochure: “For several centuries, Jews prospered as traders, merchants, professionals and manufacturers, and were entrusted with tax collection and the administration of the lands of the Polish nobility.”
Today, there were no more Jews left in Oswiecim. The last surviving Jew, Shimshon Klueger, died in 2000. Klueger is buried in the Jewish cemetery in Osweicim.
When I visited the Jewish Center in 2005, a movie was being shown on a TV screen in a small back room. In the movie, several survivors, who were children in 1939, told about what it was like in Oswiecim before the German invasion of Poland.
There was a “large Jewish presence in Auschwitz,” according to one survivor. All of the survivors said that they now live in Israel or the United States, but none of them mentioned anything about how they managed to survive the Holocaust.
In the movie, one woman survivor said that the Jewish children in Oswiecim were all “organized.” There were many organizations for Jewish children, and she had joined the Zionist movement as a child. Another survivor said that she had a home tutor so that she could learn German. Her father had told her that she would be able to go any place in Europe if she could speak German.
One survivor said that the Jewish houses in Oswiecim had no running water, no electricity, no central heating nor air conditioning, and no inside toilets, but the Jews had “culture.”
Another survivor said that the Jews were not rich, but they had a “rich Jewish life.” One survivor described the life in Oswiecim before the war as “a life of dignity.”
The important point, made in this movie, is that the rich life of the Jews in Poland is now gone: the Nazis not only killed the Jews, they destroyed their rich, dignified way of life in Europe. But it’s all good: The Jews have their rich, dignified way of life in America, and they have made millions off their books and movies about the Holocaust.