‘work sets you free’
Auschwitz was a network of three main labor/extermination camps and 45 satellite camps built and operated by the Third Reich in Polish areas annexed by Nazi Germany during World War II. We visited Auschwitz I.
Auschwitz was first constructed to hold Polish political prisoners, who began to arrive in May 1940. The first extermination of prisoners took place in September 1941. At least 1.1 million prisoners died at Auschwitz, around 90 percent of them Jewish.
Others deported to Auschwitz included 150,000 Poles, 23,000 Romani and Sinti, 15,000 Soviet prisoners of war, 400 Jehovah’s Witnesses, and tens of thousands of others of diverse nationalities, including an unknown number of homosexuals. Many of those not killed in the gas chambers died of starvation, forced labor, infectious diseases, individual executions, and medical experiments.
The SS officer who did role call had his own little hut to stand in, outside of inclement weather while the prisoners stood out in the elements.Janet and I discussed how unfair it seemed that a place that housed such evil could be so beautiful, and even in the haunting silence some places there was even a peace. But yet, somehow – good will come out of this evil.A memorial was resurrected at the back of Auschwitz I for people to pay respects to the victims of Auschwitz. A place of silence, there were candles burning and a bouquet of red carnations. We both left a stone in the memorial as in the Jewish tradition to signify that we honored the deceased person’s memory with a visit to the grave.Even now, I am overwhelmed by the enormity of evil that happened in this place, that time period. If I had been alive then, which side of the Holocaust would I have fallen? Would I have blindly followed Hitler, agreeing with him, or obeyed in fear? Or would I have silently stood up to him by hiding and helping Jews and other people the Third Reich sought to exterminate? I cannot think on that too long – it shreds my heart. I will never know, unless I live through something like that. I pray that if I do, I have the strength and courage of Jesus Christ to do what is right and not give in to the reigning terror.Here are the train tracks that brought prison at Auschwitz. Today they are covered in daisies, forget-me-nots, and a variety of other wild flowers. I have decided to not post much about the history of Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II-Birkenau (which we didn’t have a chance to visit). Here are some different resources to read if you wish to know more history about the camps.
How blessed the man you train, God,
the woman you instruct in your Word,
Providing a circle of quiet within the clamor of evil,
while a jail is being built for the wicked.
God will never walk away from his people,
never desert his precious people.
Rest assured that justice is on its way
and every good heart put right.