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March 7, 2013

At Auschwitz, seeing is believing — as long as you turn off your mind completely

Filed under: Holocaust — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 9:39 am

Another day, another Holocaust Educational Trust student trip to Auschwitz in the news.  You can read about the latest trip, headlined “Inside Auschwitz; the heart of darkness” in the Shropshire Star here.

This quote is from the news article:

There is only so much that youngsters from Shropshire can learn about the Nazi plan to wipe out Jews, gypsies, homosexuals and political opponents during the Holocaust from textbooks, teachers and documentaries.

But seeing is truly believing.

[...]

The scheme was set up initially just for Jewish pupils by Rabbi Marcus from the Central Synagogue in London. He first took students 14 years ago and has been on every trip since, about 150.

“I felt there was a need to educate people,” he said. “You learn about it in school but here you see it, feeling, breathing, walking.”
You can be told that Jews were gassed, but when you see empty cylinders of poisonous Zyklon B crystals, it makes it real.

Seeing the empty Zyklon-B cans “makes it real” but what does this prove?  The empty cans are proof that Zyklon-B was used for something, but was it used to kill lice or people?  Do these students ever hear the word typhus spoken on their trips to Auschwitz?

The quote from the news article continues with this:

You can be told Jews had their heads shaved, but when you see two tonnes of human hair, that makes it real.

What are the students told about the reason for shaving the heads of the prisoners?  Are they told that this was done to humiliate the Jews, or were their heads shaved to get rid of any lice that might have brought into the camp?  Are the students told that typhus is spread by lice? Is the word typhus ever mentioned?

Continuing the quote from the news article:

Textbooks tell you they were stripped naked and their possessions taken from them, but when you see 80,000 shoes and 40kg of glasses, that makes it real.

And this was just a fraction of the items recovered after Nazis tried to hide their appalling crimes by burning the storage units at the three Auschwitz camps.

Are the students told that the wooden “storage units” at Auschwitz-Birkenau were still burning on January 27, 1945 when Soviet soldiers arrived to liberate the camp, after the Germans had left with some of the prisoners on January 18, 1945?  Who set the fire in the “storage units,” the Nazis or the Soviets?  Do any of the students ever ask WHY the storage units were burned?

Do the students ask any questions at all on their trips to Auschwitz?

A photo of the suitcases on display at Auschwitz is shown, along with the news article. What do the suitcases tell you?  The suitcases are not deteriorating like the hair that is also on display.  Do any of the students notice this and ask what this means?

Taking students on a trip to Auschwitz and withholding important information should be against the law.  Enough already!

May 21, 2012

The shower heads in the gas chamber in the Auschwitz main camp

Filed under: Holocaust — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 10:16 am

I love to read the news articles about the young people who travel from the UK to Auschwitz for a one-day guided tour.  This morning I read a newspaper account about a group of Sheffield sixth form students brought to Auschwitz by the Holocaust Educational Trust.  The article was written by Rachel Clegg, a reporter who traveled with the students to Auschwitz and apparently accompanied them on their tour.

This quote is from the article, headlined “Stark lessons of Auschwitz,” which you can read in full here:

By January 1942, the Nazis had started killing hundreds of people at a time in the gas chambers. Today the gas chamber block at Auschwitz 1 stands empty, although the holes where the ‘shower heads’ emitted the deadly gas are still visible.

It is not clear to me whether the group was told by a tour guide that the “deadly gas” came through “shower heads,” or whether this detail was added by the reporter.  There are reconstructed holes in the ceiling of the Auschwitz main camp gas chamber, but these are not holes for shower heads.  The deadly Zyklon-B gas pellets were poured through large holes on the ceiling, according to the official Holocaust story. These holes were reconstructed by the Soviets after they liberated Auschwitz and found that the holes had been closed up when the gas chamber was converted into a bomb shelter by the Germans.

For over 50 years, the staff at Auschwitz told visitors that the Auschwitz main camp gas chamber was original.  Now it is admitted that the gas chamber is a reconstruction, but I am not sure if the students are told this.

The problem is that there are so many visitors to Auschwitz today that no one is allowed to walk around in the gas chamber and get a good look at the holes, as I was able to do in 2005.  The photo below shows what visitors now see when they go inside the gas chamber.

The view of the Auschwitz main camp gas chamber that tourists see today

The photo above shows what tourists see today when they go inside the Auschwitz gas chamber.  In my 2005 photo below, you can see one of the holes in the ceiling on the left side.

Hole in the ceiling of the Auschwitz gas chamber can be seen on the left side

My photo of Auschwitz gas chamber in 2005 shows no holes for shower heads on the ceiling

On the left side of the photo above, you can see part of a vent hole on the ceiling.  A close-up of the vent hole is shown in the photo below.

Vent hole in the ceiling of the Auschwitz gas chamber

View of Auschwitz gas chamber, looking toward the entrance that was added when the gas chamber was converted into a bomb shelter

The photo above clearly shows that there were no shower heads in the Auschwitz main camp gas chamber.  There are no holes where the shower heads would have been located.

There are four reconstructed holes in the ceiling of the Auschwitz gas chamber, two on each side.

Photo of Auschwitz gas chamber shows a hole in the ceiling on the right side

Reconstructed hole in the ceiling of Auschwitz gas chamber

Hole in ceiling of gas chamber

The two photos above show the holes in the ceiling on the left side.  The photo below is a close-up of one of the reconstructed holes in the ceiling on the right side. On the roof of the building, the holes are covered with a wooden lid, which you can see in the photo below.

Hole in ceiling of gas chamber on right side

According to Franciszek Piper, the former director of the Auschwitz Museum, the Zyklon-B gas pellets were poured through the holes on the roof by one SS man who opened the lids of the holes on the roof of the building, one at a time. The pellets were just poured onto the heads of the victims, not into a wire basket from which they could have been retrieved, as the manufacturer recommended.  This resulted in a big waste of money because the pellets were designed by the manufacturer to be re-used.  The pellets could not be retrieved from the floor of the Auschwitz main camp gas chamber because they would have been mixed with the bodily fluids expelled by the victims as they died.

The photo below shows the openings for the holes on the roof.  I took this photo in 1998.  Today, tourists are forbidden to climb up on the roof.

Openings for the holes on the roof of the Auschwitz gas chamber

The photograph above shows the roof of the Auschwitz gas chamber and crematorium building in the Auschwitz main camp as it looked in October 1998. On the right, you can see a red brick chimney of the type used for a stove. Behind it is another larger chimney over the area where the crematory ovens were located; there were two of these chimneys, but one is out of camera range in this photo. At the far end of the roof, there is another chimney which is not located over the gas chamber area.

One of the reconstructed holes is shown in the foreground on the left in the photo above; the other three holes are behind it. The reconstructed holes are covered by wooden lids, just like the original holes; the lids can be lifted up today, just as they were by the SS men who poured the gas pellets into the gas chamber.

Jean Claude Pressac wrote in his book Auschwitz: Technique and Operation of the Gas Chambers that there were originally three holes in a straight line on the roof of the gas chamber. According to the book entitled Auschwitz 1270 to the Present, by Robert Jan van Pelt and Deborah Dwork, the Nazis had “punched three square portholes through the morgue roof and covered them with tightly fitting wooden lids.”

The original holes for the gas pellets were closed up when the room was converted into a bomb shelter by the Nazis in 1944, although this was not mentioned in the construction plans.  The holes on the roof today are reconstructions; there are four holes, not three, as in the original construction.

February 26, 2012

British students do not learn even the most basic facts on their trips to Auschwitz

I was surprised at the great interest in my post yesterday about the student trips to Auschwitz which are funded by the Holocaust Educational Trust.  I am very much against the practice of sending 16-year-old students on a whirlwind tour of a historical place, where they do not learn even the most basic facts.  As I pointed out in my post yesterday, the students are told that Auschwitz was re-named by the Nazis when they took over the town during World War II.

Old castle in Auschwitz, a town founded by the Germans in 1270

The most basic fact about Auschwitz is that the town was founded by Germans in the year 1270.  The British students are not taught this on their one-day trips.

This morning I read an account, written by a student who had just returned from a trip to Auschwitz.  This quote is from the student’s article:

We had briefly touched on the subject in our earlier years of education, but the overriding feeling was that we were not entirely sure what to expect; how can censored lessons serve to prepare you for the stark reality of a camp which was purpose-built to murder millions?

Note the mention of “censored lessons.”  To what is this student referring?  The students have CENSORED LESSONS to prepare them “for the stark reality of a camp which was purpose-built to murder millions”?  What camp was “purpose-built to murder millions”? Was this student referring to Auschwitz-Birkenau as a camp that was “purpose-built to murder millions”?

The main Auschwitz camp was built in 1916 and the Birkenau camp was built in October 1941 to house Russian prisoners of war.  This quote is from a Jewish website:

Himmler visited Auschwitz in March 1941 and commanded its enlargement to hold 30,000 prisoners. Himmler also ordered the construction of a second camp for 100,000 inmates on the site of the village of Brzezinka (Birkenau), roughly 4 km from the main camp. This massive camp was intended to be filled with captured Russian POWs who would provide the slave labor to build the SS ‘utopia’ in Upper Silesia. The chemical giant I G Farben expressed an interest in utilizing this labor force, too. Extensive construction work began in October 1941, under terrible conditions and with massive loss of life. About 10,000 Russian POWs died in the process.

The British students are not told the most basic fact about Birkenau, which is that it was built to house Soviet Prisoners of War.  Instead, they are taught that Birkenau was purpose-built to murder millions.    (more…)

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