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. Psalm 94:12-15
While Janet was in town this fall, there was the Thresher’s show in Dalton, MN, and I was invited to go check things out! Being a city born and bred girl, I kinda geeked out at all the cool old engines I saw and watching two farmers thresh wheat! WHAAAAT?! Chaff! Many of the machines were over a hundred years old! All the belts and gears were fascinating! And seeing how the belts are repaired because replacement belts aren’t made anymore! The little town there was sweet, with a church, store, and red school house. We also watched a Railroad stake being made in the blacksmith shop! There was a cute little old man sitting in the General Store.
The 2011 Three Musketeers was filmed here at the Alte Hofhaltung in Bamberg…now I must watch it again! We walked past the old town hall, which was closed for renovations.Interesting tidbit: In 1459 the first book printed in the German language was published in Bamberg.
“To commemorate the Jewish citizens and those who have done during the National – Socialist violent domination resisted, ignored, persecuted and murdered.”
The old town hall is opposite the Queen Kunigunda statue on the Alte Rathaus bridge; they are just down the road from the New Residence.I wandered through the royal Rose Garden of the New Residence Bamberg, which was first created in 1703. In 1733 the garden was laid out the way it is today by designer Balthasar Neumann under the direction of Prince-Bishop Friedrich Carl von Schönborn.The sculptures were completed in the winter of 1760/61, but have been replaced by copies to preserve the originals. Some of the roses are the most beautiful I have ever seen. The garden is lined with lime tress and around 4500 roses bloom every summer! There is also a wonderful view of Michaelsberg Abbey. The Bamberg Cathedral (official name Bamberger Dom St. Peter und St. Georg) was completed in the 13th century. It is a late Romanesque building with four large towers. It was founded in 1002 by Emperor Henry II and finished in 1012. In 1081 it was partially destroyed, but was reconsecrated in 1111 and received its present late-Romanesque form in the 13th century. The Cathedral took so long to be constructed that several styles were used in different parts of the cathedral: Romanesque, Gothic, and in the middle is the Transitional style; this is the style which is characteristic of the nave.^ This is my favorite picture of my entire trip. It is like The Past shining light to show the way for Now and The Future. We can learn from Past (if we want to) and it will guide us to a better future. However, God MUST be a part of Present and Future for Past to guide in any way.
The Second Coming of Christ is a fresco in the apse of the east choir and was painted by Karl Caspar in 1927/28. In the west choir stands The Crucifixion of Christ; it is gold plated limewood plated and was created by Justus Glesker in 1649.One more treasure of the cathedral is an equestrian statue, the Bamberg Horseman (Bamberger Reiter). It was created around 1235 by an unknown craftsman, and it is unknown who the rider is, although there are many theories about that. You can read more about it here. From the Cathedral’s brochure: In Bamberg Cathedral, the central house of worship in the diocese of Bamberg, God is our opposite and our host. We are all invited to accept Him and His presence.
to save Him,
to touch Him,
to know He is with us.
Here He hears our prayers,
here we celebrate Him,
here you are close to Him,
here you are in His presence.
We are creations,
He is the creator,
We are the people,
He is God.
Meissen is famous for the manufacture of porcelain. Meissen porcelain was the first high quality porcelain to be produced outside of the Orient, established by King Augustus the Strong in 1710. The mathematician and physicist Ehrenfried Walther Graf von Tschirnhaus and the alchemist Johann Friedrich Boettger had succeeded in manufacturing the first white European porcelain in 1708. This porcelain was called “White Gold” was of great significance, because of the Chinese monopoly in this market.
Visiting the porcelain manufacturing building and taking the tour was one of the highest of highlights of my trip – so much so that I went through twice! This will easily be the longest post about my trip because there’s so much I learned! Once going through the tour made it apparent WHY Meissen porcelain is SO famous and WHY is COSTS SO MUCH!!The onion pattern is the most famous pattern created, and has been used by many other companies trying to imitate Meissen Porcelain. Its signature logo, the crossed swords, was introduced in 1720 to protect its production and was added to the onion design. The crossed swords is one of the oldest trademarks in existence and is on each piece created here.Not only dish ware is created – large pieces such as this sad lion have been created and a selection can be seen in the upstairs museum. The yellow tea service set was made in 1722. There are also many figurines with intricate details of both molding and painting.The teapot with all the flowers? Each flower was individually hand made and applied to the tea pot and then hand painted.A sculpture of discarded pieces is on display and was amazing to look at each side and see all the little hidden elements!On the first stop of the tour, we watched a short video showing how the elements are mined, broken down, and then mixed together in a water slurry. After the 3 ingredients are well mixed, the water is spun out leave the clay which can be stored up to nine months before being created into a delicate porcelain something. I was mesmerized in the second room by watching the clay being formed by hand into a plain cup and then formed in the centuries old mold, removing excess clay to form the delicately thin clay. The clay dries in it’s mold for 30 minutes and is then removed. The base and handle are added using slip (some of the clay without the excess water taken out). After firing, each piece is only 65% of it’s original size! In another room of the tour, we witnessed another artist hand carving part of a statue. We also saw how each little ivy leaf is created in a mold and then added to the statue with slip, piece by piece. Some details, like roses and more detailed flowers, are created lovingly by hand – without any kind of mold! The third room of the tour taught how each piece is hand painted, how the colors used change dramatically during firing, and there were many examples of how paints change in firing. The steps to just make one plate are extensive, and require many years of training for each artist. When a piece is painted before firing, any paint that is applied cannot be removed, so perfection is a must!The gold paint used is 90% pure gold and looks very dark before firing. After a piece with gold is fired, the gold is hand polished to give it the bright lustre seen at the bottom of the sample plate. It is only after these steps that a piece can be sold! The last stop of the tour before the shops was watching another artist paint an already glazed and fired plate. At this time, paint is not permanent until it is fired. Multiple colors require multiple firings as only one color at a time is applied. The only exception to this is in scenery, which is all painted at once.
For more information on the history of porcelain manufacturing in Meissen, check out their website!
The bell tower of Meissen’s Frauenkirche can be seen from Janet’s living room. The porcelain bells are made in 1929 to commemorate Meissen’s 1,000 year jubilee. The bells toll all day long and can be heard all over. I was a bit worried at first that the bells would keep me awake all night, but I slept through them each night. I got used to telling time by them (they rang every 15 minutes!) and hearing for the tolls that rang for 10 minutes which announced it was either 7am, noon, 5pm, or 6pm. Then at certain half-hours during the day, tunes would ring instead of the usual half hour tone.
Coming home, I miss the bells.The Frauenkirche Meissen was first mentioned in history in 1205 by Bishop Dietrich II and is located in the old market place. After a fire broke out, the church was rebuilt, completed in 1450 in the late Gothic style. The Baroque cupola and a tower keeper’s apartment were built after a lightning strike in 1547. The inside is beautiful in its simple elegance. The ceilings mimic Albrechtsburg’s and in each area the flowers on the ceiling are slightly different. There are many magnificent stained glass windows and a beautiful altar. Janet related an interesting tidbit about this church. Several years ago, the building started splitting in half. The church was closed immediately for safety and the cause of the breaking about down the middle was investigated. It was discovered that the church had been built half on stone, half on sand! It reminds me of Matthew 7:24-27. The building was under construction for almost four years to correct this and re-opened the week before my arrival.
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”
Janet and I took a tour bus up to Castle Hill, where Albrechtsburg and the Cathedral still stand. King Heinrich I founded the fortress “Misnia” on the castle hill high above the Elbe river in 929. The Cathedral was built between 1260 -1425. The twin towers were added later in 1909.
The Meissen Cathedral or Church of St John and St Donatus (German: Meißner Dom) is a Gothic church in Meissen in Saxony. In 1581 the Meissen diocese was dissolved in the course of the Protestant Reformation, and the church was used by the Protestant Church since. It is the cathedral church of the Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Saxony. We did not make it inside except for the Room of Silence because we decided to tour the castle first and that took long enough that we only had a few minutes to catch the last bus back down to Meissen. There is a lovely little courtyard outside that we spent a lovely minute in. This bridge is the second oldest bridge still standing in Germany, leading up to Albrechtsburg and the Cathedral. Next week I will take you on a tour inside Albrechtsburg, the Meissen Castle!