On May 8th, the UBC Mining Engineering Students visited the Auschwitz concentration camp located in Oświęcim, Poland. Auschwitz consists of a network of concentration camps used by the Germans during World War II. Auschwitz I was the original concentration camp which was initially constructed by the Polish to hold their political prisoners. The Germans started deporting their prisoners to Auschwitz I in 1941. These prisoners generally consisted of Jewish people, prisoners of war, political prisoners, homosexuals, and anti-socials. As space became more and more scarce in Auschwitz I, the Auschwitz II-Birkenau concentration and death camp was built by the Auschwitz prisoners. From 1942 to 1944, the Germans deported Jewish people from all over the world to Auschwitz II-Birkenau, where they were used for labour and exterminated.
As we arrived at Auschwitz I, there was a serious and somber atmosphere in the area. We started the tour by walking through the streets that used to funnel the prisoners held at these camps and began to visit buildings which covered the history of the concentration and death camp. Even a fraction of the prisoner’s personal belongings were displayed within the buildings. Although a fraction, the belongings were many in number, making us realize the devastating magnitude of the Holocaust.
After Auschwitz I, we arrived at Auschwitz II-Birkenau which consisted of a concentration camp and death camp. Here you could see the many buildings which were used to house up to 200,000 prisoners. Past the concentration camp you could see the ruins of the death camp which consisted of 4 buildings each with an undressing room, gas room, and crematorium. These ruins along with a human ash pit showed the morbid reality of what occurred in these camps.
Lastly, after viewing Auschwitz II-Birkenau, we visited Oskar Schindler’s Factory Museum. This tour shed light on the concentration camps held in Krakow and how Oskar Schindler saved a total of 1100 Jewish people by having them work in his factory as essential workers.
Mike and Matt