Created on: 03 Feb 2012 | Last modified: 19 Feb 2018
Our guide now leads us into one of the few areas in the Holocaust Musuem where photography is not permitted.
It is in this darkened room, behind another massive glass wall, that the hair of Auschwitz victims is on display.
We realise that we are looking at parts of human bodies, thousands upon thousands of them, and what little conversation there has been to this point now ceases completely. The massive piles of human hair on display here were all shorn from their victims immediately after death.
The victims were led to the gas chambers under the pretence of showering and, following their murder, had their heads shaved before their bodies were loaded into the massive furnaces for incineration.
The Nazis wasted nothing that was useable from their victims, and sent the massive quantities of human hair to be spun into thread. Much of it was eventually used to make clothing for their armed forces, particularly socks for U-Boat crews.
Today, the human hair forms one enormous mass, with years of decay having taken their toll on the colour and fine individuality of each strand. But even in this tangle of thousands of human remains, you can still pick out the hair belonging to individual victims. A pigtail is clearly visible near the front of the mound, its once brightly-coloured ribbon still holding this young girl’s pleats neatly in place.
Returning outside to complete our tour of Auschwitz I, we visit the purpose-built brick building that housed the camp’s first fully operational gas chamber.
Unlike the chambers at the larger extermination camp Auschwitz II – Birkenau, the Nazis did not have time to fully destroy those in this camp, which left vital evidence of their crimes after the war. This, along with the scrupulous records that the operators of the camp maintained, provided much of the evidence that would later be used to convict many of the perpetrators of the crimes that took place here.
Our tour of the Auschwitz sites continues as we return to our coaches to travel to the nearby, and massively bigger, camp II at Auschwitz-Birkenau.