Silent witnesses

This chapter is dedicated to today’s memorial sites all over Europe.

I have visited already quite some locations, where people suffered and died. We should never forget what happened. The cameras of the WW2 combat photographers and cameramen allow us today to see what the Liberators of the camps saw with their own eyes.


Berlin, Holocaust memorial (Germany)

The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, also known as the Holocaust Memorial,   is a memorial in Berlin to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust, designed by architect Peter Eisenman and engineer Buro Happold. It consists of a 19,000 square meters (4.7 acres) site covered with 2,711 concrete slabs or “stelae”, arranged in a grid pattern on a sloping field. The stelae are 2.38 m (7 ft 10 in) long, 0.95 m (3 ft 1 in) wide and vary in height from 0.2 to 4.8 m (8 in to 15 ft  9 in).An attached underground “Place of Information” holds the names of all known Jewish Holocaust victims, obtained from the Israeli museum Yad Vashem.


Sachsenhausen or Sachsenhausen-Oranienburg was a Nazi concentration camp in Oranienburg, Germany, used primarily for political prisoners from 1936 to the end of the Third Reich in May, 1945. After World War II, when Oranienburg was in the Soviet Occupation Zone, the structure was used as an NKVD special camp until 1950 (NKVD special camp Nr. 7). The remaining buildings and grounds are now open to the public as a museum.

Ravensbrück was a notorious women’s concentration camp during World War II, located in northern Germany, 90 km north of Berlin at a site near the village of Ravensbrück (part of Fürstenberg/Havel).

The camp opened in May 1939. In the spring of 1941, the SS authorities established a small men’s camp adjacent to the main camp.

Between 1939 and 1945, over 130,000 female prisoners passed through the Ravensbrück camp system, around 26,000 were Jewish. Between 15,000 and 32,000 of the total survived.  Although the inmates came from every country in German-occupied Europe, the largest single national group incarcerated in the camp consisted of Polish women.

Mittelbau-Dora (also Dora-Mittelbau and Nordhausen-Dora) was a Nazi Germany labour camp that provided workers for the Mittelwerk V-2 rocket factory in the Kohnstein, situated near Nordhausen, Germany.

Approximately 60,000 prisoners from 21 nations (mostly Russians, Poles, and French) passed through Dora. An estimated 20,000 inmates died; 9000 died from exhaustion and collapse, 350 hanged

(including 200 for sabotage), the remainder died mainly from disease and starvation. The subcamps of Konzentrationslager Mittelbau (Concentration Camp Central Construction) eventually totalled more than 40.

Konzentrationslager Flossenbürg was a Nazi concentration camp built in May 1938 by the Schutzstaffel (SS) Economic-Administrative Main Office at Flossenbürg, in the Oberpfalz region of Bavaria, Germany, near the border with Czechoslovakia. Until its liberation in April 1945, more than 96,000 prisoners passed through the camp. About 30,000 died there.

Buchenwald concentration camp (KZ) Buchenwald, was a German Nazi concentration camp established on the Ettersberg (Etter Mountain) near Weimar, Germany, in July 1937, one of the first and the largest of the concentration camps on German soil.

Camp prisoners from all over Europe and Russia—Jews, non-Jewish Poles and Slovenes, religious and political prisoners, Roma and Sinti, Jehovah’s Witnesses, criminals, homosexuals, and prisoners of war— worked primarily as forced labor in local armament factories.

From 1945 to 1950, the camp was used by the Soviet occupation authorities as an internment camp, known as NKVD special camp number 2. 7113 German citizens died during that period.

The Breendonk concentration camp (Breendonk Memorial) is situated near Antwerp (Belgium). On September 20th 1940 Sturmbannführer Philip Schmitt brought his first victims to Breendonk. The Fort became officially the Auffanglager Breendonk, a transit camp; a major centre for the Sicherheitspolizei-Sicherheitsdienst.

In total, around 3500 persons, including around thirty women, were subjected to the “Hell of Breendonk”. Around half of them did not come back from the camps alive.

Auschwitz concentration camp was a network of concentration and extermination camps built and operated by the Third Reich in Polish areas annexed by Nazi Germany during World War II. It was the largest of the German concentration camps, consisting of Auschwitz I (the Stammlager or base camp); Auschwitz II–Birkenau (the Vernichtungslager or extermination camp); Auschwitz III–Monowitz, also known as Buna–Monowitz (a labor camp); and 45 satellite camps.

Auschwitz had for a long time been a German name for Oświęcim, the town by and around which the camps were located; the name “Auschwitz” was made the official name again by the Germans after they invaded Poland in September 1939. Birkenau, the German translation of Brzezinka (birch tree), referred originally to a small Polish village that was destroyed by the Germans to make way for the camp.

Auschwitz II–Birkenau was designated by the Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler, Germany’s Minister of the Interior, as the place of the “final solution of the Jewish question in Europe”. From early 1942 until late 1944, transport trains delivered Jews to the camp’s gas chambers from all over Nazi-occupied Europe. The camp’s first commandant, Rudolf Höss, testified after the war at the Nuremberg Trials that up to three million people had died there (2.5 million gassed, and 500,000 from disease and starvation),a figure since revised to 1.3 million, around 90 percent of them Jews.       Others deported to Auschwitz included 150,000 Poles, 23,000 Roma and Sinti, 15,000 Soviet prisoners of war, some 400 Jehovah’s Witnesses and tens of thousands of people of diverse nationalities. Those not killed in the gas chambers died of starvation, forced labor, infectious disease, individual executions, and medical experiments.

On January 27, 1945, Auschwitz was liberated by Soviet troops, a day commemorated around the world as International Holocaust Remembrance Day. In 1947, Poland founded a museum on the site of Auschwitz I and II, which by 2010 had seen 29 million visitors—1,300,000 annually—pass through the iron gates crowned with the infamous motto, “Arbeit macht frei” (“work makes free”).

 

 

 

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