Auschwitz, Dachau and Mauthausen nazi camps. And three other Holocaust museums that have impressed me in Europe

Auschwitz, Dachau and Mauthausen nazi camps. And three other Holocaust museums that have impressed me in Europe

I don’t think that you are ever ready to see these places, and when I say “ready” I’m thinking about the emotional impact, which is huge – at least for me it was. But I truly think that they are all “must see” at least once in your life, to understand much more, to learn much more and not to forget. I’ve seen many documentaries, have read also many memorial books, but nothing has taught me more than those visits. So, after coronavirus pandemic passes and everything will be ok, go and see them, if you have this possibility – they are all not only and incredible painful history lesson but also a point to realize once more how lucky and blessed we are for what we have, and to be grateful and thankful for this every single day.

Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum

Over one million men, women and children have lost their lives in Auschwitz-Birkenau – and the visit to the memorial can hardly be described in words. I strongly recommend a guided tour – when we went there it was four hours and a half, both Auschwith and Birkenau camps – from one to another you are transported by bus. Everything is painful and deeply impressing – but first pictures that come to my mind are the place where it is exposed the hair cut from Jewish prisoners, to be used for making blankets, their shoes, suitcases and dishes put all together. Of course, the place where they had been shot or hanged. And the crematory.

I also keep in my heart a highly emotional moment. When we left Birkenau, in front of the camp there was a group of Jewish teenagers. They were gathered in a circle, with a huge flag in the middle, were holding each other’s hands, singing and crying. It’s something that brings tears into my eyes every time I remember.

The Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum was created by an act of the Polish parliament on July 2, 1947, and includes the grounds of two extant parts of the Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II-Birkenau concentration camps. The Museum grounds cover 191 hectares, of which 20 are at Auschwitz I and 171 at Auschwitz II-Birkenau. On the museum grounds stand several hundred camp buildings and ruins, including the ruins of the gas chambers and crematoria, over a dozen kilometers of camp fence, camp roads, and the railroad spur (“ramp”) at Birkenau. In 1979, the site of Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp was entered on the UNESCO international list of world heritage sites.

More about the memorial on their website, HERE

Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site

Located about 16 kilometers from Munchen, Dachau was the first nazi concentration camp built in Germany, and it was used as a model for all concentration camps built afterwards. Over 200.000 people from more than 30 countries were imprisoned here.

The Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site was established in 1965 from the initiative of the surviving prisoners who had joined together in 1955 to form the Comité International de Dachau and fought for the establishment of a memorial site on the grounds of the former concentration camp. Between 1996 and 2003, a new exhibition about the history of the Dachau Concentration Camp was created, following the leitmotif of the “Path of the Prisoners”.

More about the memorial on their website, HERE

Mauthausen Memorial

The concentration camp was built by the nazis closed to Linz, in Austria, and over 100.000 people have been exterminated here.

In spring 1949 the memorial site opened as the “Öffentliches Denkmal Mauthausen” – the ‘Public Mauthausen Memorial. As part of changes to the site, a chapel and a secular reflection room had been installed in the laundry barracks. On the roll call area, which had been maintained as an ensemble, was built a central memorial, a sarcophagus bearing the inscription “May the living learn from the fate of the dead”. In autumn 1949 France unveiled the first national memorial. A memorial park subsequently grew up in the area where the SS barracks had stood and numerous nations and victim groups have built further monuments.

In the 1960’s the memorial site underwent further changes. Cemeteries were laid out in Camp II and the area of barracks 16 and 18. The dead of the concentration camp exhumed from the “Camp Cemeteries” in Mauthausen and Gusen, and from the mass grave near Marbach, were reinterred here. Later, bodies from the mass graves in Gunskirchen were buried where barracks 19 had stood. Over 14,000 victims are buried in the cemeteries at Mauthausen. Since 1970 the former infirmary building has been used as a museum. Most recently, in 2013 two new permanent exhibitions and a “Room of Names” commemorating the dead of the Mauthausen concentration camp and its subcamps were opened.

More about the memorial on their website, HERE

Polin Museum in Warsaw, Poland

Polin Museum of the History of Polish Jews was built on the site of the former Warsaw Ghetto and presents the 1000 years of Jewish life in the Polish lands. In 2016, it was declared European Museum of the Year.

Opened in 2013, it’s an impressive and also extremely emotional history lesson. And I have kept something in my heart here, also – you can see here, among other exhibits, original pictures taken by a german photographer that show, step by step, deportation of Polish Jews from Warsaw.

More about the museum on their website, HERE

Oslo Jewish Museum, Norway

Oslo Jewish Museum´s aim is to collect, keep, research and communicate reliable knowledge on Jewish immigration, life and integration into Norwegian society. The museum’s collections are the foundation on which everything else rests.

Oslo Jewish Museum aims to be an open and vibrant museum and cultural center, visible in Norwegian cultural life and politics through publications, lectures, concerts, various exhibitions and further outreach activities. Topics to be covered are Jewish culture, tradition, history and Judaism.

More about the museum on their website, HERE

Elie Wiesel Memorial House in Sighet, Romania

Elie Wiesel was a Holocaust survivor born in Sighetu Marmatiei, Romania, and laureate of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986. His most-known book, called “The Night”, describes his life in nazi extermination camps and it is one of the most impressive books I have ever read.

The memorial house where the small museum can be visited today is the house where he was born and lived up the moment his family had been deported – very interesting information but also original pictures from those times can be found here.

More about it, HERE

PHOTOS FROM PERSONAL ARCHIVE

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