Friday, 31 October 2014

A Harrowing Photo Essay: Auschwitz-Birkenau

Around an hour drive from Krakow lies the town of Oswiecim. During the years of 1940 and 1941 around 17,000 Polish residents were expelled from the area and 8 surrounding villages destroyed. 

All this so the Nazis could keep the existence of Auschwitz-Birkenau a secret.

Between September 1941 and January 1945 over 1.1 million people, including Jews, Roma and Sinti gypsies, Poles, Soviet POWS, homosexuals and Jehovah's Witnesses, were murdered. 

Work Will Set You Free

Left over cylinders of Zyklon B gas

While many victims were gassed, many prisoners died of starvation, forced labour, infectious diseases, executions and medical experiments. 

The Jewish victims were told that they were being transported to a resettlement. 
The plundered possessions included pots, pans, toothbrushes, hairbrushes, suitcases, clothing, eyeglasses, 

Artificial limbs

Victims of Auschwitz 

double electrified barbed wire fence with guard tower

hanging post


transport carriage

As many as 50 people were squeezed into an unventilated carriage like the one above, including their luggage. There was no food and water provided and only a bucket in the corner for waste. 
Many transports came from as far away as Norway in these conditions. 

Foundations and chimneys of blocks at Birkenau

bunks 3 high

Prisoners were 5 to a bunk with no mattress or blankets. It was unbearably cold in the winter with the bottom bunk getting flooded due to the leaky roof and turning into mud.


Before the evacuation the Nazis attempted to blow up the crematorium to hide their crimes. 
After liberation buried notes were found from the Sonderkommando detailing the horrors of the gas chambers. 

The sheer size of the camps is unbelievable. Birkenau was set up for 100,000 prisoners and standing in front of the train entrance either side goes for kilometres.  

Camel Riding in Tunisia

On trying to find a suitable holiday destination with my boyfriend I had one request: I wanted to ride a camel in the desert.

Tunisia was a great choice because it ticked all of our boxes:

* All inclusive (blame the British boyfriend for this one)
* Cheap
* Somewhere I/we hadn't been before
* Somewhere we could ride a camel

On our first full day we booked our half day Camel Caravan with our Thomas Cook representative for the following Monday.

Monday dawned bright and hot! After an early breakfast we awaited our first steed - the bus. 

After a rocky start - thank you bus sickness! - we were in amongst the olive groves in the Tunisian desert. 

Our camel
These camels didn't know how to sit down, so I had to place my left leg in the hands of the guide who basically just threw me over. It's a bit hard considering the camel is over 6 foot high! But, I got up there and then Dan had to get thrown up behind me.
Unfortunately I'm not all that good with heights either and with Dan wriggling around I was not feeling the safest! Finally he settled down and we were on our way!


After about 10 minutes trying not to fall off we stopped to feed the steeds. 
Getting off the camel was worse than getting off! It was sooo high! Once I was back on the ground I felt much safer. 

Camels eat cactus due to the amount of water the plant can hold. We all lined up with a piece in between our teeth. 


After my experience on the camel I wasn't getting back on it! Luckily they had some horse drawn carriages that took us to our second stop of lunch. 

After our 45 minute rest we were back on our steeds heading home. This time I got to ride the donkey. Much more comfortable and a lot closer to the ground the donkey was a wee bit slow, but that lead to a nice relaxing amble through the olive groves. 

All in all, I'm glad that I got to fulfill something that was on my Bucket List, even if I didn't enjoy it.