Today, I am writing about the Russian exhibits at the Auschwitz main camp which are no longer open to tourists. You can read all about it at https://www.rt.com/news/controversy-remains-over-auschwitz-museum-exhibition/
The following quote is from the news article:
Block 14 of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum in Oswiecim, Poland was opened in 1961 as a Soviet tribute to the victims of the Nazi concentration camp. The exhibition has been closed for over three years now, and its doors remain closed as disagreement over the nationalities of the victims becomes an increasingly political issue.
It was in 1945 that Soviet troops liberated Auschwitz and were the first to expose the truth of the Nazi death camp to the world. But today the museum operates without recognizing Russian efforts in the Second World War, and the role of the Soviet Army in the liberation of the camp is almost never spoken of. Tourists don’t know why the exhibition is closed.
The museum’s administration says the complex does not agree with the Russian interpretation of history that is portrayed in the display. Curators claim that the occupation of Poland, which occurred following the 1939 Nazi-Soviet Pact, is not reflected in the Russian exhibit.
When I visited Auschwitz in 2005, and again in 2007, the visitors’ tour of the main Auschwitz camp began in Block 15, shown in my photo above. This building houses an exhibit entitled “Historical Introduction”.
The building is located at the corner of the first intersection of the camp streets after you pass the camp kitchen near the “Arbeit Macht Frei” gate, which is behind the camera on the left in the photo above.
Organized groups begin their tour of the museum buildings at Block 15, and then move on to Blocks 4, 5, 6, and 7 which are in the last row of barracks buildings.
Blocks 4, 5, 6, and 7, at the former Auschwitz I concentration camp, have been converted from barracks into museum rooms with glass display cases. All of these exhibit buildings are located on the second cross street, to your right after you enter through the “Arbeit Macht Frei” gate. At the end of this street is Block 11, the prison block which is also open to visitors.
In Block 5, there are displays devoted to the “Material Evidence of Crime.” One of the saddest sights at Auschwitz is the display of shoes in a huge glass case that takes up half a barracks room in Block 5.
The shoes seem to be deteriorating and are mostly the same dark gray color, except for a few women’s or children’s shoes that are made of red leather. The red shoes stand out like the red coat worn by the little girl in Schindler’s List, a black and white picture.
There is a large display case in Block 5, taking up half of a barracks room, which contains the suitcases brought by Jewish victims to the camp. The Jews were instructed to mark their suitcases for later identification; you can still see the names written on the leather cases in large letters in the photo below.
On some of the suitcases is the word Waisenkind, which means orphan; this is proof that there were children among the victims at Auschwitz.
Block 4 has exhibits entitled “Extermination.” Holocaust historians define the German noun Ausrottung to mean extermination. The word can also mean “get rid of.”
Among the exhibits in Block 4 is a model of one of the gas chambers at Birkenau, which was used to “exterminate” the Jews.
Photo Credit: Lukasz Trzcinskihttp://www.lukasztrzcinski.comIn Room 5, of Block 4, there is a huge glass display case, about the size of a walk-in closet, filled with hair cut from the heads of an estimated 140,000 victims. The hair, which is shown in the photo above, appears to be deteriorating badly, and most of it has turned the same shade of dark gray. This is a truly disgusting sight and one that a visitor won’t soon forget.
The exhibits in Block 6 are about the “Everyday Life of the Prisoner.” Included in the exhibits are some of the enamelware dishes brought to the camps by the victims, as well as display cases of eyeglasses, brushes and even a display of the lids from cold cream jars and flat cans of shoe shine wax.
There is a glass case with moth-eaten baby sweaters and another with Jewish prayer shawls which are old and worn, and have been extensively darned and patched.
One of the exhibits in Block 6 shows the blue and gray striped uniforms worn by the prisoners.
Another display in Block 6 shows a typical day’s ration of food: a chunk of coarse whole grain bread the size of four thick slices and a large, red enamel bowl of gray looking soup. This is real food which was put into a glass case where it is deteriorating like the other displays. The sickening effect of all this was overwhelming, when I saw it in 2005.
In Block 7 there are exhibits about the “Living and Sanitary Conditions” in the former concentration camp. In this building, there are three-tiered bunk beds like the ones that can be seen in the barracks at Birkenau.
Block 27 has special displays about the Jewish prisoners; these displays were put up after the fall of Communism when the plight of the Jews in the camps was given more importance at the Auschwitz museum.
The whole Auschwitz museum puts heavy emphasis on the resistance movement, and in keeping with this theme, there is a special section on the second floor which is devoted to the Jewish resistance to the Nazis, both inside the camp and on the outside. Jewish partisans fought with the Polish Home Army, known as the Armia Krajowa or Polish AK, and also organized resistance on their own.
In front of Block 27, shown in the photo above, is a small memorial stone to the Jews who were gassed; it is the only memorial specifically dedicated to the Jews in all of Auschwitz.
Most of the Jews were sent to Auschwitz II, otherwise known as Birkenau, which had enough barrack’s space to house between 90,000 to 200,000 prisoners at one time.
Auschwitz I was strictly a camp for prisoners who were able to work in the factories; the old, the young and the sick were sent to Birkenau.
Block 27 is located on the first street that intersects the main camp street, as you enter through the “Arbeit Macht Frei” gate. Turn to your right on this street and go past the camp kitchen to Block 27.
Blocks 13, 15, 16, 17, 18, 20, and 21 have exhibits devoted to the various nations that were victimized by the Nazis.
Block 13 has a Museum devoted to the Extermination of the European Roma, known to Americans as Gypsies. The photo above is a display in this Museum. When I visited this museum in September 2005, I was the only person there.
The exhibits in Block 16 are entitled “The Tragedy of Slovak Jews. Prisoners from the Czech Lands at Auschwitz.”
Block 17 has exhibits about the prisoners sent to Auschwitz from Yugoslavia and Austria. Elie Wiesel and his father allegedly stayed in the barracks in Block 17 for three weeks before being sent to work in the factories at Auschwitz III. All of the prisoners were kept in quarantine for a few weeks to make sure they were not suffering from any communicable diseases.
The title of the exhibit in Block 18 is “The Citizen Betrayed, to the Memory of the Hungarian Holocaust.” The Hungarian Jews were not deported until the Spring of 1944 after the country had been taken over by the German Army.
Block 20 is in honor of the “People Deported from France to Auschwitz from March 1942 to January 27, 1945.”
Block 21 is devoted to the “Persecution and deportation of Jews in the Netherlands, 1940 – 1945.” People from Italy, who were deported to Auschwitz, are also included in the exhibits in Block 21.