Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Brom follows Anne


Do you remember Anne? I wrote about her a few days ago, when we went to visit the first camp she was sent to after they were discovered in the 'Achterhuis' in Amsterdam. As I said, she and her family and her other housemates left on the very last train to leave Westerbork and were sent to Auschwitz.

Auschwitz I with its brick baracks and high voltage barbed wire fences
There were three areas in Auschwitz. The original part or Auschwitz I, where mainly Polish nationals and Russian prisoners of war were held, but also Jewish prisoners. They were basically forced to work and starve, since especially the Russians and Jews were viewed as sub species. But it was in this camp the first working gas chamber of the area was made, using Zyklon B.

Entrance to Auschwitz II (Birkenau)
The train entered through the gate under the tower.
Auschwitz II (Birkenau) was the main Jewish camp, which became known the world over as the extermination camp. Several large gas chambers and crematoriums built especially to eradicate the Jews of the world. And then there was Auschwitz III (Monowitz) which was built especially to house workers for the IG Farben factory, since the main camp was too far from the site. Plus there were about 45 bigger and smaller subsidiary camps in the area, most catering for the industry. 

The 'station' on the right hand side.
Selection took place right where the group of people is.
When Anne and her family left Westerbork on September 3rd in 1944 they were put into cattle cars and together with about 1,000 other prisoners they travelled for 2 days before arriving at Auschwitz II (Birkenau). As soon as they got off the train they were forced to make two lines: men and older boys on one side and women and children on the other side. Anne could probably not even say goodbye to her father, before he was forced to stand on the left, while Anne and her sister Margot and her mother were forced to the right. 

'Planned' for 7-8 people to a bed, but it was more common for more, anything up to 20.
Most of the prisoners who arrived were killed within 1 hour of arrival, but Anne and her sister and parents were 'lucky', they were deemed fit enough by the doctor to work and they were sent to the camp instead of to the gas chambers. Father to Auschwitz I and the women stayed where they were. 

Twins got 'special' treatment. Here two 15-year old Polish girls.
It must have been strange for Anne to enter the barack where she would spend her time. Instead of a bed, there were bunks, the lower ones being on open ground. Sharing with a lot of other women and girls, sometimes so many that if one person turned, all the others had to turn as well. 

An original drawing on one of the walls in a washroom at Auschwitz I
There were lice and fleas, other creepies and rats as big as cats, that fed themselves on the dead and even on the living at some point, because they were too weak to fight them off. After a short while Anne developed scabies and was put in the scabies ward, which was separated from the camp by a high wall. Margot went with her. That was probably the last time they saw their mother, because only 6-7 weeks later a train left for Bergen-Belsen and it is very likely Anne and Margot were on it. Their mother died in Auschwitz II in January 1945.

Count the towers going off to the right. They just seem to go on and on!
Seeing the site for ourselves was incredible. Seeing the documentaries and films doesn't prepare you for the sheer scale of Auschwitz II (Birkenau). Most of what is standing right now are chimney stacks, but even then it is mind blowing and scary. Eighty percent of people arriving were killed within an hour of arrival and never stood a chance. 

Write your name on your luggage, so you can get it back after the 'shower'
Of course they never did and the contents were sorted and sent to the Reich..
Mothers and children, old people, the handicapped and everybody the 'doctor' thought was not fit enough for work. And even if they did survive that first hour, sleeping on the cold ground, living on meagre rations, being worked to death, being forced to stand in the cold for hour upon hour killed many more. 

Two chimney stacks to every wooden barack
As with Westerbork I didn't want to be in any photo and felt sorry especially for all those children who never got the chance to cuddle a teddy, to go to school, to swim in the river and to enjoy their childhood the way they should. 

Polish teachers and doctors, locksmiths and farmers.


  1. Hari OM
    Brom, thank you for sharing your visit with us... I can feel how it affected you and it is impossible to imagine, really. Big huggies to you and the girls today, as you 'process' on this one. Growlies, YAM-aunty xxx

    1. It certainly makes you think about how and why and all those things.

  2. This is a place our mom says she would like to go but would never want to go too. She has read many stories and it is horrific. Thank you for your report and photos.

    Your Pals,

    Murphy & Stanley

    1. We felt like that. We didn't want to go, but felt it was sort of a duty to do so, especially since we were staying so close by!

  3. Oh, Brom, what a solemn day for you. Hugs to you and the girls and you process these sights.

  4. I was there last December and all those feelings I had then came rushing back through your post. It is a difficult place to visit and absorb the horrors of what happened there. The fact that these horrors live on in other parts of the world today is beyond belief.

  5. Eighty percent within an hour, those numbers are horrible numbers! Thank you for sharing and the history you shared was very interesting to learn.


Any weighty (and not so weighty) comments are welcome!