Author: Gojonnogo The History of Auschwitz 27th January 1945, Oświęcim, Poland. Red Army troops make their way through the Lesser Poland province of southern Poland, situated 50 kilometres west of Kraków. The SS began evacuating Auschwitz and nearly 60,000 prisoners were forced to march west towards Germany. Thousands had been killed in the days prior to the start of these death marches. If you were to stop, unable to walk any further, then SS officers would shoot you on the spot. However, it wasn’t just fatigue that would kill you; it was starvation and exposure to the cold weather. More than 15,000 died during these death marches. When the Soviet army entered into Auschwitz they were able to liberate more than 7,000 remaining prisoners who were mostly ill and dying. It is estimated that at minimum 1.3 million people were deported to Auschwitz between 1940 and 1945; of these, at least 1.1 million were murdered, 90% of whom were Jewish. Voices from Auschwitz Bart Stern: “So I was hiding out in the heap of dead bodies because in the last week when the crematoria didn’t function at all, the bodies were just building up higher and higher. So there I was at night-time, in the daytime I was roaming around in the camp, and this is where I actually survived” Soviet Experience “It was the silence, the smell of ashes and the boundless surrounding expanse that struck Soviet soldier Ivan Martynushkin when his unit arrived. As they entered the camp for the first time, the full horror of the Nazis’ crimes there were yet to emerge. “Only the highest-ranking officers of the General Staff had perhaps heard of the camp,” recalled Martynushkin of his arrival to the site. “We knew nothing.” But Martynushkin and his comrades soon learned. After scouring the camp in search of a potential Nazi ambush, Martynushkin and his fellow soldiers “noticed people behind barbed wire.” “It was hard to watch them. I remember their faces, especially their eyes which betrayed their ordeal,” he said. Among items discovered by Martynushkin and other Soviet troops were 370,000 men’s suits, 837,000 women’s garments, and 7.7 tons of human hair.” – source My Experience of Auschwitz-Birkenau I was lucky enough to go to Auschwitz-Birkenau a couple of months ago thanks to the Holocaust Educational Trust (http://www.het.org.uk/) and their project, Lessons from Auschwitz. Before I actually went on the trip to Poland I met with a Holocaust survivor, her name is Susan Pollack and she has to be one of the most amazing people I have ever had the fortune to meet. She was around 14 when she was sent to Auschwitz with the rest of her family and was lucky to survive as normally children would be sent to the gas chambers upon arrival, as were most women. Susan was fairly understanding of what happened to her and stated she felt “no need for retribution”. I spent a whole day walking around both Auschwitz I, with a guided tour, and Birkenau. Auschwitz was as I imagined, rows of buildings in a somewhat orderly fashion. Birkenau however completely blew my mind, it was so quiet (despite the mass of people visiting) and so vast that is was almost intimidating. As the Nazis were preparing to leave following the advance of the Red Army they decided to try and blow up some of the evidence of their crimes. This creates an astonishing view within Birkenau that is very difficult to stop picturing for me. As the picture above shows, there are rows upon rows of chimneys were huts, like the one in the forefront of the picture, used to stand. It makes for a truly awe-inspiring visit and something that will stay with be for a long, long time. Now you may be wondering what this has got to do with you and World of Tanks (which is why we’re all here). I have recently been observing not just in society and everyday life but also within the World of Tanks – one obviously directly affects the other – there has been a massive increase in anti-Semitism with many a keyboard warrior shouting out in chat “Take a shower you Jew” (or something to such affect). Now, it is apparent to me that this may be down to sheer ignorance, monkey see monkey do, but it could also be a lack of knowledge of what quite happened throughout the Holocaust. This is where I hope the first part of this article helped with some of the liberation and numbers involved. But I hope to help further within this second part. First things first, when I say Auschwitz-Birkenau I am actually talking about two separate camps; Auschwitz I and Birkenau. The Prisoners I’m sure most of you assume that the Holocaust only affects the Jews of Europe, I used to think just such a thing, however, you’d be wrong. Nazi Concentration and Death Camps contained not only Jews but Roma gypsies, Slovaks, Poles, homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses and even political prisoners. Now I have to admit that in comparison to the number of Jews the other categories of prisoner combined are significantly less. Life in Auschwitz-Birkenau In Auschwitz you were never known by name, you were known by a number that was tattooed on your fore arm, this is a clear example of how the Nazis tried their utmost to belittle and dehumanise the prisoners in the camp. Auschwitz I was opened in former Polish army barracks in 1940. Prisoner’s rooms were much better than the sleeping accommodation in Birkenau; however it was hardly suitable for living in. As the pictures below show the bedding was either layers of blankets, straw or human hair. Upon arrival prisoners were stripped naked and had their belongings taken from them, some were so optimistic that they would go home that they would write their name, date of birth and address on any luggage they had with them. Shoes were also collected and there is now a room within the museum where you can see just a fraction of the shoes that were taken from small children, adults and the elderly. In comparison an officers room was actually rather nice, they had a comfortable bed (like we would have today), a little desk to work and a wardrobe for their clothes. Experimentation The most well-known physician within Auschwitz was Josef Mengele, a psychopathic doctor who had a fascination with dwarfism and the science of twins. I say he was psychopathic because of what he did to such aforementioned people and his frankly disturbing obsession with torture and pushing inmates to their psychological limits. In the first phase of his Continue reading →

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