Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Trip to Nazi Concentration Camps, Germany and Austria (July 2016)

Labor makes free...?
Traveling is not just for pleasure. At times, traveling may be for remembering the painful past so that lessens may be learned for humanity not to repeat the same mistake for causing such pain. Why bother? Because traveling is an education for living.

Kristin and I visited two Nazi concentration camps in Austria and Germany, not for pleasure but for education.

What is concentration camp? First, you need to know the background.

In 1933, the Nazis began to establish a network of camps. These were initially concentration camps to concentrate enemies and certain groups of people in one place. Local SS and police forces set up these first camps.

Soon, however, the Nazi leadership began to develop a controlled system of camps, initially in Germany and later to other occupied countries, notably Austria and Poland. These camps lasted until the World War II came to end in 1945.

This concept is still adopted else where primarily for the political reasons, notably North Korea.

There were different types of camps depending on the purpose although some types were combined..

Concentration Camps:     Initially, all camps were concentration camps. These were places in which a large number of people, especially political prisoners or members of persecuted/targeted minorities, were deliberately imprisoned in a relatively small area within inadequate facilities, sometimes to provide forced labor or to await mass execution. Later, the Nazi leadership used the concentration camp for the purpose of detaining or confining targeted people without trial.

For this blog post, I am calling all camps explained below concentration camps.

Transit Camps:     As the Nazi leadership completes the classification of the prisoners, they were sent to transit camps while they were waiting to be sent to their final destination camps.

Forced Labor Camps:     Concentration camps had many satellite camps where forced labor was demanded. Auschwitz in Poland, for example, had over 40 satellite camps that were operated as sections of the Auschwitz. In may cases, forced labor was imposed upon the prisoners in expectation of their death: i.e. "extermination by labor."

Extermination Camps:    As the number of people to be exterminated was increasing, the Nazi leadership began to set up camps for the purpose of exterminating people. The Nazis established six extermination camps on the Polish soil. They were Chelmno, Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka, Majdanek and Aushwitz-Birkenau. Auschwitz-Birkenau, the most infamous of the Nazi death camps was the most massive concentration, forced labor and extermination camp at the center of more than 40 satellite camps. More than 80% of the Jews transported to Auschwitz were selected for immediate death.

Dachau Concentration Camp, Germany:     Dachau Camp was the first camp that the Nazis set up in 1933 in Germany for the multi-purpose concentration camp.  Initially, it was set up to concentrate political prisoners and so-called socially undesirable people, such as homosexual, Jehovah's Witness people, the Jews, criminals.

The gate had a phrase, "ARBEIT MACHT FREI" meaning "Labor makes you free." Lie.

There were memorial monuments and places of worship, but all the surroundings were quite gloomy.
I could sense the futility of human hatred and greedy ambition.

Mauthausan Concentration Camp, Austria    Mauthausan Camp was a concentration camp that was administering approximately 30 satellite camps that imposed forced labor upon the prisoners. Extermination by labor was also executed with unbearable labor based on minimal food and health care.

Initially, political prisoners were transferred from Dacau Camp in Germany. But, as time went by, Mauthausan Camp received prisoners from 40 nations. The prisoners either worked at a number of underground production facilities or forced labor camps, or were exterminated through up to 65 methods as testified by one of the survivors. They included stairs for death (carrying unbearably heavy rocks up the stairs), gas chamber, lethal injection, parachutists, freezing, dehydration, to name a few.

Reportedly, 90,000 inmates had been killed at this camp until it was liberated in 1945.

There were several memorial monuments and parks set up for those who want to express their sadness against human cruelty, whatever it may mean for those who perished under such cruelty.

After visiting this camp, I felt that life is truly precious, more than ever. - Jeffrey

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