Created on: 03 Feb 2012 | Last modified: 19 Feb 2018
The extermination camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau was created as a means to deliver the Nazis’ desired ‘final solution to the Jewish question’.
After the successful tests with Zyklon B in the smaller gas chambers at Auschwitz I, the Nazis – exercising ruthless logical efficiency – determined that these existing gas chambers were too limited in size to enable the high volume, mechanised killings that their final solution demanded.
So it was that a new, far larger, dedicated killing camp near the village of Brzezinka was commissioned and constructed in 1941.
It was at this new camp, known by its German name Birkenau, that the Nazis perfected the mass extermination and disposal of those the deemed unworthy, particularly the Jews but also the disabled, gypsies, intellectuals, homosexuals and others who did not fit with the Master Race’s view of the world.
Arriving at Auschwitz-II Birkenau, we disembark from our coaches and walk towards the familiar entrance. We have all seen it many times in photographs, with the train tracks that brought victims from across Europe running right through the stone archway beneath the guard towers and on into the depths of the camp.
As we walk beside the train tracks on our way towards the entrance, a local farmer is ploughing his fields which run right up to the walls of Birkenau. He glances at us with a kind of jaded disinterest, no doubt he has watched many thousands of visitors trudging up the tracks that mark the edge of his farm.
It is doubtlessly difficult for him and others living in the shadow of the Auschwitz compounds – they will never escape the association of all that happened here all those years ago.