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The first gassing deaths of Jews at Auschwitz occurred at Auschwitz-I. The Nazis saw the potential in this new form of murder and decided to build Auschwitz-Birkenau to provide this service. Under the orders of Himmler, Rudolph Hess had this camp built near the original Auschwitz-I. The result was a death machine unequaled in the history of the world. The primary killings occurred inside Auschwtiz-Birkenau's five gas chambers, but victims were also likely to face death by shooting, beating, disease or malnutrition. Even conservative estimates say 3,000,000 people died inside the fences of Auschwitz-Birkenau (Hess himself admitted to at least 2.5 million). To put that in perspective, it would take a killing the size of the Oklahoma City bombing every day for over 50 years to reach those numbers. Hitler, Himmler, and Hess created a camp that could accomplish that in a little over three years.

Famous Entrance to Auschwitz-Birkenau
To enter the camp by train (as was the case for most prisoners) requires passage through this building at the front of Auschwitz-Birkenau. Consequently, this image has become one of the most famous of The Holocaust.Enlarge Picture

View From the Watchtower
This is the view of the men's side of the camp taken from the primary guard tower. After passing through the entrance, the trains stopped and the prisoners were forced to exit. Those who were to live to see the next day were divided, as the men went to the right and the women went to the left. The sick, old, young or just unlucky proceeded down the tracks to the gas chambers.Enlarge Picture

Inside Auschwitz-Birkenau
The view of the guard tower from inside the camp.Enlarge Picture

Remains of Crematoriums
As the Russians were liberating Poland, the Germans retreated from Auschwitz, but destroyed the crematoriums before leaving.

The death camp Majdanek contains gas chambers and crematoriums more suited for tours, and my photos from that section are more detailed.Enlarge Picture

Ash Ponds
Of the many stories and facts that are hard to forget from the trip, the existence of these ash ponds is one of the more unbelievable. The Germans learned that human ashes made good fertilizer for crops. When the crematoriums in Aushwitz-Birkenau were cleaned, the ashes were poured into ponds. The water from these ponds was used on nearby agriculture.Enlarge Picture

Our Memorial
While at Auschwitz-Birkenau, our group participated in an event to honor those killed in The Holocaust and to allow the survivors to reflect on the experience of returning.

The size of Auschwitz-Birkenau can be seen in this photo. If you look closely down the train tracks, you can see the primary guard tower (from the previous pictures) off in the distance. Enlarge Picture

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