Holocaust Exhibit

It is estimated that 1.3 million prisoners entered Auschwitz through these gates between 1940 and 1945.  They were told by the German soldiers that they were being relocated to work on behalf of the war effort.  The gate bears the words “Arbeit Macht Frei” (“Work sets you free”). Most were being brought there to be murdered. Only 7,000 inmates remained to be liberated when the Soviets took the camp on January 27,1945.
As they were forced from their homes, Jews were told to bring all their essential belongings on the transport to "relocation." They were transported to death camps primarily by rail in cattle cars. Immediately upon unloading, their belongings were taken away and sorted in large warehouses in a section of Birkenau nicknamed "Canada," so called because Poles regarded that country as a place of great riches and abundance. The Nazis saw everything from shoes to pots, from glasses to canes, as an asset in the war effort.
Perhaps one of the most tangible and sacred artifacts at Auschwitz are the piles of the shaved hair of inmates.  You can feel their dignity being stripped from them as their heads were shaved and they were given a number tattoo.                                                           
Hair was used to make rope and fabric.
The wooden barracks at Birkenau were prefabricated horse stables. There were over 700 people per barracks. Leaky roofs, dampness, vermin, and lack of heat all made existence difficult. Each barracks contained a single stove for heat.
Dreadful living conditions led to widespread epidemics and spread of contagious diseases. Accommodation for prisoners at Birkenau consisted of rows of wooden planks with straw as mattresses. As many as twenty people crammed together on each platform. Most prisoners received rations of 500-700 calories per day, well below starvation level.
A constant shortage of water for washing and the lack of suitable sanitary facilities led to rapid spread of disease. Almost every kind of infection spread through Auschwitz: dysentery, malaria, typhus, and tuberculosis. Even cuts and fractures were often fatal. Inmates used these concrete latrines in Birkenau.
Prisoners were transported from all over Nazi-occupied Europe by rail in cattle or freight cars, arriving at Auschwitz-Birkenau in daily convoys. Most people who traveled on these tracks into Birkenau were taken directly to gas chambers.
This area of Birkenau is called “The Ramp.” It was an unloading area for prisoners built in March, 1944 to facilitate the anticipated transport of several hundred thousand Jews from Hungary. Both before and after its construction, all arriving prisoners were separated into three groups.                                                                                                                                                   •One group went directly to the gas chambers where more than 20,000 people could be gassed and cremated each day.               
•A second group was used as slave labor at industrial factories. At the Auschwitz complex, 405,000 prisoners were recorded as laborers between 1940 and 1945.                                                                                                                                                             •A third group was used for medical experimentation at the hands of doctors such as Josef Mengele. Experiments were conducted without consent and usually without any anesthesia.
Up to 20,000 people per day could be killed in the 5 gas chambers/crematorium at Auschwitz. Gas chambers were of different sizes, usually holding between 400-500 people at a time.
Zyklon B pellets were dropped into the gas chamber from a hatch at the top.
Initial mass murders utilized the exhaust from captured Soviet tanks. Eventually because of the need to kill more efficiently Zyklon B pellets were used by 1941.  Zyklon B was a cyanide based pesticide. It released hydrogen cyanide gas when exposed to moisture and air.  Death usually occurred within 20 minutes and was extremely painful and agonizing.  The pellets were held in these airtight canisters.
In Majdanek concentration camp, a German soldier stood by these tanks filled with oxygen. By looking through the window into the gas chamber, and controlling the moisture, oxygen and exhaust vents, the soldiers could regulate the amount of time to kill people in the most efficient manner.
Bodies were removed from the gas chambers onto these concrete dissecting tables, which were used to search corpses for things such as gold teeth or hidden money.
Sonderkommandos were work units of prisoners, composed almost entirely of Jews, who were forced, on threat of their own deaths, to dispose of the corpses of gas chamber victims, and move them into the Crematoria for burning. They had no way to refuse other than by committing suicide. Because of their intimate knowledge of the process of Nazi mass murder, the Sonderkommando were kept in isolation from other camp inmates. Since the Nazis did not want their knowledge to reach the outside world, they followed a policy of regularly gassing almost all the Sonderkommando, and replacing them with new arrivals at intervals of approximately every 4 months. The first task of the new Sonderkommandos would be to dispose of their predecessors' corpses.
In the Majdanek crematorium, heat given off by the burning bodies was carried in pipes and used to heat water for a tub in the next room, where the camp commandant (German general in charge of the camp) had his daily hot bath.
Between 1941-1943, the SS (Schutzstaffel, the Nazi military organization that ran the camps) shot several thousand people at the Auschwitz “Death Wall” in the courtyard between Blocks No. 10 and 11. The condemned prisoners had to strip naked in Block 11. They were led to the wall in pairs. An SS executioner walked up from behind and shot them in the back of the head with a small-caliber rifle. Those who died here were mostly political prisoners, leaders and members of underground resistance organizations, and people involved in planning or aiding escapes.                                                                                                                                                  It is estimated that approximately 6,000 prisoners were killed in this way.
Escape was nearly impossible. It is estimated of the 1.3 million prisoners in Auschwitz-Birkenau between 1940-1945, approximately 1,000 people attempted escape. There are only 196 reports of successful escape.                                                       
 This sign on the fences, which surround barracks at Auschwitz, reads “Caution; High voltage; Life threatening”.
Joseph Mengele and other SS physicians carried out medical experiments in the “hospital”, Barrack (Block) 10 at Auschwitz. They conducted pseudoscientific research on infants, twins, and dwarfs, and performed forced sterilizations, castrations, and hypothermia experiments on adults. Experiments were conducted without consent and usually without any anesthesia.
Before the widespread use of crematoria, bodies were buried in large pits. With time, decomposition, and erosion, many of these pits can be easily seen as large undulations in the ground. Some pits form ponds or small lakes. This memorial stands at one such pond in Birkenau.
On the annual March of the Living trip over 10,000 teenagers and adults walk, in silence, the 1.3 miles from Auschwitz to the gates of Birkenau. They honor the memory of the many people killed there. For some, they are visiting the site where their  grandparents and other family members were murdered.
Participants on the March of the Living frequently created plaques, which were put along the railroad tracks entering Birkenau
Throughout the March of the Living, feelings of Israeli nationalism run high. It may be the only way to deal with the emotions of what you see, and also voice your own existence and survival.
Unlike Auschwitz, Jews were taken to Madjanek only for immediate extermination, though the camp did house Russian collaborators, women, and Polish political prisoners. Most estimates of the number of people murdered there are somewhere around 250,000. Approximately 500 people were rumored to have escaped.
The Majdanek concentration camp, located approximately three miles from the center of the Polish city of Lublin, was the second largest Nazi concentration camp. During it’s 34 months of operation between 60-125,000 jews were killed there.  The camp, which operated from October 1, 1941 until July 22, 1944, was captured nearly intact, because the advance of the Soviet Red Army prevented the SS from destroying most of its infrastructure. Although 1,000 inmates were evacuated on a death march, the Red Army found thousands of inmates still in the camp and ample evidence of the mass murder that had occurred there.
The Mausoleum  of Majdanek, designed by architect and sculptor Wiktor Tolkin, stands at the end of the former "black path" to the crematorium. The dome of the Mausoleum is pockmarked, to create the effect of having suffered bomb damage. An inscription on the frieze of the dome translates "Let our fate be a warning to you." Under the dome is a huge circular urn, shaped like a saucer, which contains the ashes of some of the victims at Majdanek. The ashes were recovered from a compost pile in the camp, where they had been mixed with dirt and garden refuse and composted in preparation for spreading on the vegetable garden in the camp.
At Majdanek, inmates were also killed in mass shootings. The single largest massacre by Germans during the war occurred on November 3, 1943, when 43,000 Jews at the main and adjacent subcamps were machine-gunned to death into large linear pits, as part of the 'Erntefest Aktion' (Harvest Festival). Loud joyous music was used to cover up the screams of the people from the nearby town. Due to erosion with time, these have created large undulations in the ground easily visible.
It is estimated that a minimum of between 700,000 and 900,000 Jews lost their lives in Treblinka, which functioned solely as an extermination camp, from July 1942 until it was completely dismantled in October 1943. The current memorial consists of stones & small boulders with the names of the towns & cities where inmates camp from. The size of the stone is roughly in proportion to the number of people killed from that town.
It is impossible to understand what must pass through the mind of Holocaust Survivors who revisit these camps. Some share their stories sitting in front of the gate where their barracks at Birkenau once stood.
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