2018-03-02 / Travel

Arbeit Macht Frei

(Part Two)
By Warner M. Montgomery, Ph.D.


This is an example of the triple-decker sleeping quarters for men at Auschwitz. This is an example of the triple-decker sleeping quarters for men at Auschwitz. June 1991. The sun was shining. Flowers were blooming. Birds were singing. But the air was screaming with the horror of four million people walking to their death in the gas chambers of Auschwitz.

Auschwitz was a network of concentration and extermination camps built and operated by the Nazi Third Reich in Polish areas annexed by Germany during World War II. It consisted of Auschwitz 1 (the original camp), Auschwitz 2–Birkenau (a concentration/ extermination camp), Auschwitz 3– Monowitz (a labor camp), and 45 satellite camps.

Auschwitz 1, which Linda and I were visiting, was constructed to hold Polish political prisoners in May 1940. The first extermination of prisoners took place in September 1941. Auschwitz II–Birkenau became the major site of the Nazi “Final Solution to the Jewish question.”


Jewish prayer shawls were among the items taken from prisoners and stacked for later disposition at Auschwitz. Jewish prayer shawls were among the items taken from prisoners and stacked for later disposition at Auschwitz. The trains would arrive at Birkenau where the women and children were unloaded. The men were unloaded two miles away at Auschwitz. Family members never saw each other again. The prisoners passed through the Arbeit Macht Frei gate, unsuspecting of what lay ahead.

They were interviewed individually by uniformed clerks sitting behind brown wooden tables. Personal, medical, family, and vocational information was recorded into neat notebooks. They were assigned a building by nationality, and a room by physical ability and security level.

The elderly were ushered directly to the gas chambers, and many of the children, especially twins, were taken to the hospital for experimentation. Everyone was stripped of all belongings, deloused, shaved, and showered. Their belongings were separated and shipped to the appropriate warehouse in another section of the camp.

Linda and I looked through the weathered graying glass at the enormous stockpiles of personal belongings the Soviets had moved to the museum from the warehouses. Each category was separated and processed in order to serve the “Master Race.” Coats and jackets, dresses, pants, hats, and shoes were neatly stacked, ready for shipment to Berlin. This was logical and necessary considering the damage the Allies were imposing on the Axis Powers.

Another section, filled with empty suitcases bearing the names and addresses of Jews from all over Europe, hit us with the horror of “The Final Solution.”

Rooms were piled to the ceiling with toothbrushes, hairbrushes, shaving brushes, corsets, jewelry, watches, cameras, and toys—each stacked neatly by size and color. One room even contained orthopedic appliances, such as crutches, leg braces, even artificial limbs. It was obvious that nothing went unnoticed or unused by the Nazi masters.

At the end of the hall, we witnessed a greater shock—tacks of hair and teeth, organized by color and texture, filled room after room. Once again, done in the name of the “Fatherland.” An example of man’s inhumanity to man.

Concluded next week

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