Saturday, August 24, 2013

Visiting Auschwitz and Birkenau

Our day started with a walk to the train station to make sure we were good for our trip on Monday night to Budapest.   Then a slow walk through the park that surrounds the old town and contains the foundations of the wall that surrounded the town in medieval times up through the fifteenth century and a beautiful fortification that we’ll visit while we’re here. 

We also enjoyed a parade of people of all ages in their National Dress parading in the Main Square, many of them playing music as they marched. 
By 11 am we were at the Management Office for our apartment where we were scheduled to meet the tour group for the day.  While we waited we also arranged for a taxi at 10 am on Monday to pick us up and bring our luggage to the office for storage until our train that is not until 10 pm at night.

The tour bus held about twenty people; the seats were tight for the guys with long legs!  But it did have air conditioning and in just a little over an hour we arrived at Auschwitz Concentration Camp.  It was a somber day as we spent the next four hours visiting both this camp and the death camp of Birkenou that is located about twenty minutes away from Auschwitz.  We walked the whole time.  Auschwitz is the Museum; the barracks have exhibits instead of beds. 

  Birkenou has remained as an exhibit itself, the brick buildings still stand but the wooden ones have gone leaving the stark brick chimneys of each standing like soldiers in rows.  The huge crematoriums were destroyed days before the end of the war but the ruins are still there.  There is a large memorial when they stood.  They were at the far end of the camp; downwind as we were reminded with the wind in our faces as we walked back along the lonely road next to the rails that carried the death carriages during WW II.  All Polish children are required to visit these camps as part of their schooling. 

It was a long day and sad.  Interestingly I had an opportunity to talk to our guide; who was excellent, and mentioned that I remember the German POW that worked in our cemetery during the war.  He was amazed that we had German POW’s in the United States.  By the way we were the only Americans in the English speaking group and the only ones who remember WW II.
When we arrived home this evening we looked it up and there were 425,000 German POW’s in camps within the USA during the war.  They brought them to the Midwest; away from coastal waters, and used them for labor since most of the young men were away fighting the war.   They used the empty boats coming back from Europe to transport them and because of all the bombing there was a housing shortage in Europe. 
Well…we close another chapter tonight…I’ve notice that when I post this and insert the photos that it moves some of the words around…Sorry!   But, everyone likes the photos so I’ll continue to use them.  Hope you enjoy the slideshow link below:

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