I haven't posted in a couple of days because I've been putting off blogging about Auschwitz. It was horrible. I didn't think at the time it affected me that much, but it got worse and worse over the next two weeks. Anyway, here are some pictures.
The "Arbeit Macht Frei" gate was at the entrance to Auschwitz I, the first camp set up in the Polish town of Oświęcim. It looked nothing like I imagined - it was all solid brick buildings and a very small area. And if I remember correctly, people there died primarily from starvation. (Although many were executed, and it's also the camp where Joseph Mengele did his medical experiments.) The prisoners were forced laborers at German-owned factories nearby. The exterminations were at a different camp, Auschwitz II or Auschwitz-Birkenau, which was built later a few kilometers away.
It was raining pretty hard the day I was there, and it was the very beginning of March, and there were still a lot of people. Most people were in tour groups. I was glad I saw it by myself. Leaving the fenced-in area of the camp:
This next picture is the entrance to Auschwitz-Birkenau. The Nazis destroyed most of the camp when they retreated. This camp is where the large-scale exterminations took place.
In the next picture: Those rail lines brought people in. On the bare patch where the rail lines split, that's the ramp where the "selections" took place - where the Nazis decided who would live and who would go straight to the gas chambers.
Beyond those fences (below, looking across the ramp) were once rows and rows of barracks. Birkenau is vast, over 400 acres.
Ruins of a gas chamber and crematorium at Auschwitz-Birkenau:
Over a million people died at the Auschwitz camps, the vast majority of them Jews. Here's the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum's entry on Auschwitz.