You can read a news article headlined “The Persistence of Memory at Auschwitz” at http://www.thehoya.com/the-persistence-of-memory-at-auschwitz/
The title of my blog post is a quote from the news article.
The news article begins with this quote:
I spent my spring break with 32 other students from Georgetown and Seton Hill University on a Holocaust Forensics trip to Poland and Belarus. My experiences on this trip have changed me and will have a permanent place in my consciousness. What I saw gave me hope for our future, but also deeply worried me.
We spent two days in Poland and five in Belarus. Although the trip as a whole was memorable, my day in Auschwitz will forever be in my mind. Auschwitz was far more than a concentration camp; it was a complex with over 39 factories. One-and-a-half million people were sent to the complex of Auschwitz during World War II, including 1.1 million Jews, thousands of Roma, homosexuals and Soviet prisoners of war. There were almost no survivors.
This student claims that there were almost no survivors of Auschwitz, yet you can read the story of a survivor almost every day in American newspapers. Are these people all fake survivors?
The following quote is from the news article:
However, what I saw at Auschwitz gave me much hope for “never again.” Not all of Auschwitz II–Birkenau — the site of slave barracks and the gas chambers — remains. Some of the land has since been sold, and regular people now have homes on the former grounds of a death camp. If you look outside the camp, you see an ordinary Polish town. There are houses, dogs barking, a church, a playground and people going about their everyday lives.
On our visit, we walked the same path that the Jews who went straight to the gas chambers took. The first crematorium, the site of the “Red House,” is now a plot of green grass surrounded by a locked chain-link fence. On this plot of land, the Nazis built the crematorium and killed 100,000 people, before destroying it to hide the evidence at the end of World War II. After they retreated, a Polish landowner used blueprints of the gas chamber to petition for a subsidy from the Polish government to rebuild his house. It took over 100,000 euros to buy back this murder site and commemorate it.
The little red house was located north of where the fourth gas chamber, called Krema V, was later built. It was completely destroyed by the Nazis and nothing remains of it.
The little red house was allegedly the site of the first gassing of the Jews at Birkenau, beginning in March 1942. The little white house was put into operation as a gas chamber in June 1942.
The little white house was located just west of the Central Sauna, which was built in 1943 to house a shower room and numerous disinfection chambers used to kill lice in the clothing of the prisoners. I believe that the “little white house” was used as a shower room before the Central Sauna was built. The “little white house” was not built by the Nazis — it was the home of a Polish peasant before it was taken by the Nazis to be used for showers.
The little red house was located north of where the fourth gas chamber, called Krema V, was built. It was completely destroyed by the Nazis and nothing remains of it.
The little red house was the site of the first gassing of the Jews at Auschwitz-Birkenau, beginning in March 1942. The little white house was put into operation as a gas chamber in June 1942. The two largest gas chambers at Birkenau were not finished until the spring of 1943.
Pressburger, a survivor of Birkenau, said that the gassings always took place at night, never during the day time, because the victims would scream or try to escape from the gas chamber. As quoted by Laurence Rees, Pressburger said, “We only saw the bodies the next morning piled beside the pits.”
Pressburger worked in a special unit of prisoners whose job it was to bury the bodies of the victims who had been gassed in the little white house and the little red house. He said that the SS men brought the bodies to the burial pits during the night and the next morning, his special unit had to bury them.
Oscar Groening, an SS man who worked at Birkenau, also said that the gassing of the Jews in the two farmhouses was done at night. As told by Laurence Rees, Groening said that he had witnessed a gassing one night after he had been awakened by an alarm because a number of Jews had escaped as they were being marched to the gas chamber. He saw the lights on in one of the farm houses, and seven or eight bodies out in front of the building. He assumed that these were the escapees who had been caught and shot.
Groening was “overcome by curiosity,” according to Rees, and he and his comrades stayed around to watch what was going on at the farm house. They saw an SS man, wearing a gas mask, pour Zyklon-B pellets through a hatch in the side of the cottage wall. They heard screaming for a minute, followed by silence. Then an SS man went up to the door, and looked through a peephole to see if all the prisoners were dead.