Auschwitz Map, Historical Preservation & Areas Closed to the Public
Our Guide, Lukas, Pointing to the Location of the
IG Farben Factory at Auschwitz III-Monowitz
In the above photo, Lukas points to an outline of what used to be a factory for IG Farben, maker of the Zyklon B chemical used in the gas chambers, in the area of the camp known as Auschwitz III-Monowitz.
Auschwitz III-Monowitz served as an industrial complex for the Nazis, whereby company owners could relocate or build new factories that supported the war effort and exploit the hundreds of prisoners at Auschwitz as slave labor.
Block 15 & Map of Auschwitz Concentration Camp
Near Block 15 (a prisoners block), our guide, Lukas, reviewed a map of the Auschwitz Concentration Camp with our group, provided some additional historical background, and explained our tour itinerary and what we would see in Auschwitz I.
In the photo below, you can see Auschwitz-Birkenau on the left, Auschwitz I (where we are now) on the lower right, and a gray section that marks the town of Oswiecim across from Auschwitz I.
Map of Auschwitz Concentration Camp
I took a photo of the streets lined with prisoner blocks behind us. I was amazed by the size of Auschwitz I; it poorly prepared me for the size of Auschwitz-Birkenau, which is ten to fifteen times that of Auschwitz I.
Trees did line the streets of the original camp; there were also gardens, flower beds, and other assorted landscaping. The presence of nature and beauty within the confines of such a horrible place was as paradoxical as ironic.
Tree-Lined Street of Prisoner Barracks Behind Block 15
The Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum and Memorial is the only death camp designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Part of Lukas' monologue included a brief introduction to the ongoing conversation efforts by the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum and Memorial, the Polish government, and participation from international agencies to preserve the grounds in their original state. The preservation work on Blocks 2 and 3 was significant and completed in 2013. The news release below details the work performed and why it is important.
"A three-year project concerning the preservation of historical blocks 2 and 3 of the German Nazi concentration and extermination camp of Auschwitz has just been completed. Its aim was to protect the authenticity of these preserved blocks and to make them available to visitors in the future.
'It is of the highest importance to maintain the authenticity of the camp from the moment when the last of the former prisoners departed,' said Dr Piotr M.A. Cywiński, director of the Museum, during conferences summarising the project, which took place on 9 October. 'The original objects of Auschwitz are today, for the world, not only unique, material evidence of the German Nazi crimes, but also a symbol of the atrocities of war, terror, Shoa, and the genocidal, racist policies are a clear sign for future generations,' stressed Cywiński.
Among the many buildings of the former Auschwitz I camp, two very valuable masonry prisoner blocks were selected that did not go through too much transformation after the camp ceased to function. The works included comprehensive maintenance on all the preserved original features and equipment of the buildings.
'Particularly challenging was to minimise any interference through the introduction of new installations necessary for the protection of the buildings,' said Rafał Pióro, deputy director of the Museum. 'As much as possible of the original structure of the block was utilised during the occasion of working out a variety of unique conservation solutions,' he noted.
Prof Małgorzata Omilanowska, Vice-Minister of Culture and National Heritage, who attended the conferences, thanked all those involved in implantation of the project for their great effort. 'For us it is an event of great importance, because this is the first time in the history of Polish conservation, and probably for the first time in the history of conservation in the world, that we have completed maintenance work using an entirely new way of treating the existing material of the monument,' said Vice-Minister Omilanowska.
'In any other building, this material would be replaced, but here it is meticulously maintained. For those who are accustomed to seeing preserved landmarks, the shock will be inside the barracks, because it was here that the flaking panelling was painstakingly restored. They are as authentic as was possible to maintain. What I saw is unique and incomparable to any other effort used to preserve anything that might be evidence to the drama that played out here,' underlined the minister.
The project was realised with the use of funding from the European Regional Development Fund under the Operational Programme Infrastructure and Environment for the years 2007-2013 and with funding from the budget of the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, as well as with the involvement of the Museum. Restoration work took place from autumn 2010, and the entire cost of all the works amounted to PLN 17.5 million.
Author's Photo of Auschwitz Block 3
A detailed brochure, in PDF form, with excellent images and descriptions explaining the efforts to preserve Blocks 2 and 3 can be downloaded by clicking on the PDF link you see below the text. The original PDF is found at the auschwitz.org website by clicking here: To Preserve Authenticity: The Conservation of Two Blocks at the Former KL Auschwitz.
Auschwitz Concentration Camp Sites and Areas Not Open to the Public
The Auschwitz Concentration Camp complex is well over 500 acres, with Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II-Birkenau covering approximately 470 acres. (In later posts, I will describe the enormity of Auschwitz-Birkenau.)
Thanks to Lukas, our group developed an appreciation for the size and scope of the efforts required to fund the preservation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum and Memorial. Due to these ongoing efforts, a portion of the camp museums and tour were inaccessible:
• part of the exhibition in Blocks 4, 5 and 6
• the Russian exhibition in Block 14
• The exhibition The Destruction of the European Roma in block 13
• The so-called Central Sauna building in the Auschwitz II-Birkenau
For an updated listing of sites and areas closed to tours, please visit this link, "Temporarily Closed for Visitors" found on the auschwitz.org website. Individuals or groups with research or otherwise special interests are advised to contact the museum in advance.
I took the picture you see below before we entered Block 4 – one of the buildings famous for the information and artifacts associated with Auschwitz. My next post will feature Block 4. Viewer discretion is advised.
Approaching Block 4 in Auschwitz I