WYD 2016 || Auschwitz: The Former German Nazi Concentration Camp.

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I am a history enthusiast, what people find remembering dates of events and places of what people did as boring, I find it interesting. When I was informed that in WYD we would be visiting the Auschwitz former concentration camp my heart dropped. As a lover of history and to all history students, actually visiting a place what you’ve learned in history books is literally a life goal.

The night before we were to go to the former concentration camp, it dawned on me. I’m actually going to Auschwitz, where millions of innocence lives were exterminated and I’ll be walking and seeing what they have been through.

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Auschwitz is the German name given by the Nazis of the actual name of the place is called  Oświęcim.

History has taught us so many things, the facts of what actually happens in such a place during which time and by who and why but it never taught us to feel about. As much as many books have prepared  me mentally in terms of knowledge, it didn’t prepare me emotionally as what I was going to experience.

Auschwitz I

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“ARBEIT MACHT FREI” is a German phrase meaning “work sets you free”. The slogan known for appearing on the entrance of Auschwitz and other labour camps.

“Arbeit Macht Frei” (work will give you freedom). These words were to promote the false hope that hard work by the prisoners would result in their freedom: however, the sad truth was that the prisoners were doomed to slave labor and death was the only real escape.

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We were glad to have Paweł Matyszkiewicz, one of the Knigths of Columbus to give us an improtur tour of the Auschwitz camp.
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Auschwitz was divided into two camps; Auschwitz I & Auschwitz II – Birkenau

Auschwitz I is double the size of  Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah Stadium when compared how small Auschwitz I is to Auschwitz II- Birkenau, it is no doubt an overwhelmingly huge place.

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Auschwitz I: the first and oldest camp the number of prisoners fluctuated around 15,000, sometimes rising above 20,000

I’ve read so many books, memoirs, the “real life story” movies and documentaries I’ve watched about WWII but the memorial has changed and amplifies my outlook on such a place that I’ve read and know.

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the first crematorium and gas chamber in Auschwitz I

Due to the mass number of WYD pilgrims visiting the memorial. we weren’t able to see the insides some of the buildings due to preservation protection causes however there were pictures depicting how the interior looks like.

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left: the gas chamber room where the prisoners were killed by dropping poisoned gas from the ceiling. Right: carts to carry the dead bodies and to be incinerated
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The numbers that we see in the signboards and in our history books we’ve read in history class are not only just numbers of people who have died but they are individuals just like you and i who have dreams, feelings and a story to tell.

If one of  our loved ones who’ve passed away could affect so many people to mourn what more the 1,100,00 innocent lives?

Auschwitz I was surrounded by double barbed wire electric fences and nine watch towers preventing prisoners from escaping.

“Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more,” Romans 5:12-21

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Even where evil flourish, good is still alive and present even in Auschwitz. Maximilian Kolbe, sacrifice and volunteered himself to die to save a prisoner’s life just like Christ sacrifice himself for us truly embodied John 15:13 “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

this lead me to question: “How far am i willing to lay my life for others?”

The “firing wall” located at the side of the block was the location for carrying out the sentences by lining the prisoners against the wall and shooting them. Their bodies were then placed in gravel pits in and around the main camp.

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Auschwitz II – Birkenau

Thinking that the Memorial tour was over, i was wrong. the tour then continues on to the  largest section of Auschwitz; Auschwitz II – Birkenau, which was 20 times bigger than Auschwitz I.

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Train Entrance to Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp which operated 4 gas chambers where 6,000 people were put to death each day by the Nazi regime.

Near the end of WWII, the Nazi officers tried to burn documents and dismantle buildings and eradicate traces of gas chambers and crematoria hoping to leave no trace of the concentration camp. However Auschwitz II – Birkenau was so huge it was impossible to hide it from the world.

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Hoping to leave no trace of the concentration camp. They tore down the wooden barracks, but didn’t have time to remove the chimneys.
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The Nazi officials plant trees hoping it would cover up the area hoping no one will know about the place.

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When looking at the gates & fences that has segregated families & loved ones and barbed wires that could have electrocuted a human person when touched is still intack and present till today as we speak, shows that The Holocaust was not something that had happened a couple of centuries ago however it was 70 years ago.

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How the Crematorium looks like in the past. it was place exactly right next to the barracks where the prisoners were living.

Auschwitz II also contained the gas chambers and Crematoria II, III, IV, and V. The presence of the death chambers near the barracks served as a constant reminder to the inmates that at any moment they could be sent in to the showers to be gassed and cremated. The strong scent of charred flesh and burned hair were detected from the living quarters to the work sites.

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The ruins of the crematorium today, which was destroyed by the prisoners after the liberation.
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Beautiful it may seem, The ashes of the burnt body was so many it was able to produce fields of flourishing flowers.

Auschwitz II held the Birkenau commandant’s office, the kitchen barracks, the “experimental block” for medical experiments conducted on the prisoners, execution barracks mass graves for Soviet prisoners of war an incarceration area, and a storage area for the personal items of the dead and captured prisoners. The entire perimeter of the camp was surrounded by a barbed wire fence and 28 watch towers with armed guards. This made prisoner escapes virtually impossible.

The fact that the Nazi took so much effort, time into building such a place whereas they could use their efforts to build a better world; their time to think and ponder if what they were doing was appropriate but instead, they creat a place where life was systematically perished with no remorse.

After my experience visiting the Former concentrating camp it could only give me a sense of what happens in such a place which brought me to tears. However I can never understand what exactly it would be like for someone who actually went through such hardship which brought me to my knees and pray for the millions of souls who died here.

This part of history is still relatively new, 70 years was not long ago and the Auschwitz survivors are still alive today is literally the living proof of that.

If we do not remember the past we are doomed to repeat it

The Holocaust Memorial of The Former German Nazi Concentration and Extermination Camp is a reminder to us that The Holocaust actually happen and people who died should never be forgotten and their sufferings was not in vain and it is our responsibility teach ourselves and future generation so that people can learn and not repeat the mistakes of the past when they grow up.

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“For ever let this place be a cry of despair and a warning to humanity, where the Nazis murdered about one and a half million men, women and children, mainly Jews from various countries of Europe. Auschwitz – Birkenau 1940 – 1945”

for more WYD experiance of The Holocaust Memorial, below are Vlogs of other WYD youths from other Countries.

AUSCHWITZ

Walking through Auschwitz

Youths from Diocese of Tyler Holocaust Memorial experience

Youths from Australia Holocaust Memorial experience

Pope Francis visit to the Holocaust Memorial

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