I take time out of my European travels to remember the Holocaust. In Europe, Holocaust remembrances are very present. Statues, memorial sites and artifacts from this horrific time period are displayed and available to the public eyes. It is not to be forgotten here. When I took a course at Canisius, “America & the Holocaust” – a break from my business classes to take a dip into my real passion of history, I was able to be exempt from the final exam because of an essay I wrote about my time in Europe and how its upfront display of Holocaust remembrances affected my time there. How being an American in Europe gave me an alternate look at the world and how U.S. perceives things differently than those who are from Europe. We don’t talk about or learn as much about this time period in history, mostly because it is not located on the grounds of the horrific tragedies, but Americans are naive about the role we really played during this time of events.
This was the largest Nazi concentration camp and death camp. From 1940-1945, the Nazis had deported as many as 1,300,000 people to Auschwitz. 1,100,000 of them were Jews. 140,000 of them were Poles. 23,000 of them were Gypsies. 15,000 were Soviet Prisoners of War. 25,000 of them were those of different ethnic groups.
1,100,000 of these people died here in Auschwitz – 90% of them being Jews. 865,000 of them murdered immediately upon arrival after traveling by train cart where as many as 80 people were stuffed into one cart. A majority were murdered in the gas chambers. The Nazis were able to kill up to 2,000 people in the matter of 20 minutes due to the gas chambers. The victims were told they were all going to get showers. Instead of a shower, they were gassed with a poison called ‘Cyclone B’. The Nazi’s then cut off their hair to be sold to textile manufacturing companies, to be made into tapestries and sold to the public, and burned the bodies. Thousands of bodies were burned in the crematories per day. If the victims were sparred immediate death in the gas chamber by selection, they caught infectious diseases such as typhus or spent their days slowly dying of starvation, forced-labor, imprisonment, being shot to death by the SS or for some, from being medical experiment guinea pigs. This place was known as the “final destination” to the Jews. A holding facility of forced labor, abuse and permanent separation of families. Permanent life sentencing.
It is so important to keep talking, learning and remembering about this mass genocide.
“Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it” – George Santayana