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Day two of our journalists' visit to @AuschwitzMuseum - today we are heading to the death camp at Birkeneau, and we will also find out how artefacts here are preserved. Finally, we will talk about the role of the media in telling this story and what "never forget" should mean.
At its peak, Birkeneau could hold 90,000 prisoners l, there were plans for two more sectors. Rail sections finished in 1944 allowed the Nazis to bring Jews directly into the middle of the camp, and swiftly on to the gas chambers where they were killed. This was industrial murder.
"Prisoners" is probably the wrong word - many were never registered here, they were simply brought in and killed. Rail lines at Birkeneau.
Converted wooden horse stables housed around 500 prisoners in the male part of the camp. There were dozens of these barracks at Birkeneau.
Working in the latrines was a filthy, smelly job but considered a privilege - it was warm, sheltered and the SS tended to stay away.
Block 16 is where thenon-Jewish children of the Warsaw uprising were held prisoner in the concentration camp. Some of them are among the few #Holocaust survivors still alive.
Jews and others were not shipped here in cattle cars - they were treated worse than cattle, in cars like this with no air or light. They arrived here to the platform in the middle of Birkeneau and were examined. Within an hour, most would have been taken away to be gassed.
Prisoners told women arriving with babies from the trains to give them to old people. The Nazis would not separate them, but if they held on to them, both would be taken away immediately to be gassed. The young or the old could not be saved.
Doctors - men who had taken the Hippocratic oath - were those who selected those who would live & those who would die. The old, the young and the infirm were immediately selected and sent to their deaths. To save them, prisoners told teenagers to say they were 18 instead of 15.
A mass grave in the forest at Birkeneau, where bodies were burned in a pit.
The ashes of tens of thousands of corpses are believed to be buried at this site.
On busy days at Birkeneau, Jews sent to their deaths would have to wait in this thicket of trees before being brought to the gas chambers and murdered.
The ruin of one of the gas chambers. There are three in all in this building, for efficiency. The shower heads were not connected - instead, the gas was dropped in. The hydrogen cyanide in Zyklon B stops oxygen from bonding to red blood cells, leading to death.
In July 1942 murders began here. This is Gas Chamber number 2 - to the right you can see the four stones marking the mass grave where the bodies were later burned. When dehumanisation starts, this is the last stop.
Large suitcases were confiscated immediately. In this building pockets were emtptied and the last personal effects were confiscated. These were disinfected and sent for reuse, usually by German civilians. This was essentially the biggest robbery of all time.
In this room, after stripping naked, the heads of prisoners were shaved. This was particularly humiliating for women, who were shaved by male barbers, the last of their femininity stripped away, and they were often taunted by guards during the process.
These steam ovens were used to disinfect clothing.
Prisoners were medically examined before showering, and any woman found to be pregnant was sent to the gas chambers. The prisoners were then given their striped uniforms, and the process of dehumanization was complete.
Over 2000 photoraphs survived. Those pictured almost certainly did not.
The museum has a policy of not engaging with #Holocaust deniers. There is nothing to talk about.
The mission of the museum is to presethe, not to rebuild. The tile roof of this brick barracks has been cleaned, rather than being replaced. Costs for conservation are huge.
In November 1944 the Nazis ceased the gassing, turning instead to covering up their crimes. 95% of the records of Auschwitz are believed to have been burned.
Of the estimated 8500 Nazis who worked here in this industrial murder complex, only about 15% ever faced justice.
In other words, 85% got away with the most grievous mass murder known to man, while Jews returning home after liberation were not welcomed back, causing many to move to Israel, which in turn begs the question - who, exactly, won the war?
There is an on-site conservation centre that tries to preserve as many of the artefacts as possible. Many items were designed with limited life spans and were never meant to last for 75 years or more.
Suitcases are painstakingly preserved and restored. Over 4000 still exist, and they were immediately taken from their owners when they arrived at Auschwitz.
This suitcase was owned by the Meyer family of Berlin. As Jews, they were most likely shortly after it was taken from them.
"We do this (conservstion work) now because there are still survivors - when they die, the objects will have to tell this story."
- Andre, conservator at the @AuschwitzMuseum.
Listening to the Director Of Education now. "Every brick, every object has a role to play in telling the story of what happened here. The bricks came from the houses that Poles lived in before the war. Authenticity is what tells us this story."
"We want to change people ... people should leave this place and change themselves, or search for this change. Each volunteer here gets a pin that says 'do something.' We're not saying what to do, but don't be indifferent."
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