The second ‘Challenge Neil Greentree’ set by Swift Group Twitter customers sent me, my wife, and her twin sister Sallie to visit the most notorious world war 2 (WW2) locations in Europe. Belsen, Colditz, The Eider Dam, and Auschwitz were the chosen places to visit covering 2500 miles in the Swift Bessecarr 496 motorhome. This edition covers the first location we visited and future blogs will cover the motorhome in detail and the other locations we visited during this 6 day trip.
So after a 15 hour drive across France, The Netherlands, Germany and then into Poland we arrived at Auschwitz, the notorious concentration camp run by the Nazi’s during WW2. The camp built upon the order of Himler to house the Jews from across Europe in the Nazi’s effort to cleanse the population of Poland ready for his new ‘perfect race’ of German people he dreamed of. In 1942 the camp consisted of Auschwitz 1 (renamed as such to sound more German on Hilters order) and housed approximately 4000 inmates – well not so much inmates as poor soles doomed to not so much live a life but live through their own deaths.
The inmates arrived at Auschwitz train station after being rounded up by the German SS, or due to the astonishingly effective propaganda campaign waged by the Nazi’s. Not all were Jews but were Polish Gypsies, people who were ‘assumed’ to be anti Nazi or German non believers but most were jews from around Europe rounded up or even convinced to buy their own train tickets to come to the ‘safe haven’ the Nazis had set up for them. Upon arrival they found a concentration camp with depravity beyond anyone’s comprehension.
Two camps, a selection process where a SS Doctor deemed you either capable of hard labour or not. You were then ushered to one side of the railway sidings or the other. Over 1,200,000 people were processed this way with over 400,000 people being send directly to the gas chambers to meet their death.
In 1942 Himler visited Auschwitz 1 and declared that instead of shooting the Jewish inmates experiments should take place on how to mass distruct future inmates with gas. After basic tests killings were performed in Barrack 11 of Auschwitz 1 where approximately 500 inmates were starved, suffocated and forced into 36’ square cells with a 3” air hole in total darkness with 4 other people for days on end. This total barbarity concluded with Zyclone B being chosen to kill the inmates. This pellet based killer was dropped into the top of fake showers the inmates were told to use which, upon meeting the humid warm air, evaporated killing all 800 inmates within 10 minutes.
If you were lucky enough to survive the initial selection process you were herded into wooden sheds which were stables used by the German army. These sheds normally held 52 horses but housed over 500 inmates in the same space! This was Auschwitz Burkenau, the newly extended camp in which two massive gas chambers and crematoriums’ were built to ‘process’ up to 6000 people per day. In total nearly 1,5000,000 people met their death in these chambers under the guidance of Commander Hess, Himlar and other monsters.
Twins were singled out by the camp for experiments in human tolerants to chemicals. Forcably injected with chemicals which either sterilised them or killed them depending on which twin you were. The chemicals were supplied by the chemical company Faber, based just down the road, for them to test their products in return for them supplying Zyclone B to the camp.
To say this place is cursed is an understatement but the way the local Polish guides show you round and try to explain what actually happened at Auschwitz 1 and Auschwitz Burkenau is superb. You leave humbled by the humility of the inmates, disgusted by the barbarism of the Nazi’s, yet glad you visited this place birds dare not fly over…….. its true, I looked out and not one flew over!
If there is any justice to this story in 1946, 2 years after Auschwitz was liberated by the British, Commander Hess was hung here at Auschwitz by request of its inmates in front of them………fitting indeed that he died yards from the luxury house he and his family lived in while he presided over the jewel in the crown of Hitler’s Holocaust.
In summary of Auschwitz – it’s a place you must visit. You must visit to gain some idea of how utterly depraved Human kind can be against its own kind yet inspired by the fact over 1,000,000 people from across the globe visited Auschwitz in 2014……..