Feb 03

Mauthausen (Austria)

The memory of WWI and II is kept alive throughout the globe, whether we are talking about monuments erected in celebration of the fallen heroes or whether we put forth the exhibits presented in various museums from all over the European continent. But probably the places which best depict the gruesome reality of the world conflagrations are the former concentration camps which even today bring chills to visitors.

http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/gallery.php?ModuleId=10005196&MediaType=PH

http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/gallery.php?ModuleId=10005196&MediaType=PH

One such camp is situated in Austria, at a 20-kilometer distance from the city of Linz, in the small town Mauthausen. The camp came into being on the 8th of August 1938 and it was mainly established in order to provide the stone quarry which existed in the neighborhood with the necessary laborers. Initially, all the prisoners were forced to build the camp which would serve as their confinement quarters, only afterwards to be delivered as slaves to the stone quarry. The building of the camp was concluded in 1939 and it expanded greatly in the year to come, inasmuch as in summer of 1940 it had turned into one of the biggest labor camps which existed in Europe.

What some of you might be oblivious to is the fact the concentration camps were developed in accordance to their purpose. While many of these complexes were built to house prisoners of all types, Mauthausen was actually created for specific purpose: to annihilate the people of the superior social classes. In other words, the concentration camp aimed to exterminate through labor – which meant that the educated individuals from countries which were subdued by Nazi Germany were subjected to infernal toils that ultimately crushed their bodies.

https://ssl.panoramio.com/user/3849664/tags/Concentration%20Camp

https://ssl.panoramio.com/user/3849664/tags/Concentration%20Camp

Mauthausen housed many prisoners but their number increased considerably almost overnight, to the extent that the administration had to enlarge the establishment in order to ‘accommodate’ everyone. This meant surrounding the fields to the north and west with barbed wire and keeping the newcomers, which were mainly Jews brought in from Hungary and Russian soldiers captured in battle, in the open almost all year long.

This was a ‘category III’ concentration camp which was basically one of the most severe kinds there were. Those brought in were never supposed to leave the premises and their demise was inflicted by labor.

But there were exceptions to the rule, as it so often happens. The terrible and sometimes useless works they had to perform were beyond imagination. Because the guards were given exact orders concerning the extermination of the inmates, they started to be creative. One historical account talks about how a stone which weighted almost 45 kilograms was laid on a prisoner’s back and how he was afterwards ordered to run around with the heavy burden. The outcome is no surprise: the prisoner fell to his death due to exhaustion. Another method of annihilation was to take a group of inmates to a garage, command them to remove their clothes and spray water over them. Taking into account that in the wintertime the temperature went below minus ten degrees Celsius, the result of the practice was evidently hypothermia.

Gas Chamber-http://www.scrapbookpages.com/Mauthausen/Tour/PhotoTour03.html

Gas Chamber-http://www.scrapbookpages.com/Mauthausen/Tour/PhotoTour03.html

These historical facts conjure up terrible images of what humans are capable of doing towards other humans. A trip in this land where so many atrocities have occurred will definitely not be what you might have imagined. The road there takes you through a pastoral setting which inspires only peace and tranquility. But once you reach your destination, reality strikes you.

The barracks might no longer look as grim and terrifying as they did in their ‘peak,’ but walking around the location you will get to see the chambers of death: the crematory as well as the rooms in which the inmates were brought in order to find their death by heavy beating.

Visitors can also see the ‘stairway of death’- the infamous cliff from where the prisoners were pushed over the edge to find their death into the granite quarry which spread below them.

http://adlyoungleadershipmissiontoaustria.wordpress.com/

http://adlyoungleadershipmissiontoaustria.wordpress.com/

The camp is filled with an abundant number of commemorative items, such as monuments, statues and tiles with various inscriptions. To put it simple, the area has been transformed into a sort of memorial which keeps the sufferings of the prisoners alive and brings homage to them.

The complex is situated at a relatively small distance from Vienna. Tourists can reach Mauthausen in almost an hour and a half and even if for some the location might be out of their course, it should be pinpointed that this camp is one of high historical value and the discoveries you will run across will be change you forever.

Sep 26

Museum of Independence, Poland

At a time when it seems that a technological revolution is underway, with so many breakthroughs in the IT area occurring on a daily basis, it seems almost impossible to maintain the past alive. For some this aspect is not even relevant since many are interested only in looking forward.

But since the past and history have molded us as individuals and nations it is relevant to keep them alive for as much as possible.

http://www.warsawtour.pl/en/tourist-attractions/museum-of-independence-muzeum-niepodleg-o-ci-1935.html

http://www.warsawtour.pl/en/tourist-attractions

Today we are going to have a look at a museum located in Poland. The first thing which ought to be mentioned about the tourist attraction presented in today’s article is that the Museum of Independence, whose scope (as you have probably already guessed) is to pinpoint the struggle underwent by the Polish population in order to achieve freedom, was previously the Lenin Museum. Come to think of it, the setting could not have been more suitable for it captures the transition from one historical era, communism, to another, independence, reviving the country’s autonomy.

http://www.warsawtour.pl/en/tourist-attractions

The exhibitions found inside the museum are arranged chronologically so as to depict the way in which the political agenda shifted in the country with the passage of time. All the relevant events in the Polish history can be traced simply by having a look at the multitude of objects maintained in great condition from the second part of the 18th century onwards. Thus visitors can gain knowledge about the Kościuszko Uprising from 1794, about the rebellions which swept the country in the 19th century, as well as about the return of Józef Piłsudski to Poland, the revolutionary who played a critical part in the instatement of freedom in Poland. The museum is home to almost 50.000 exhibits, a considerable amount of which are items which have been recovered from concentration camps built in the second world conflagration, but also objects which clearly portray Socialist Realism leitmotifs.

http://www.krakow.pl

All these objects brought together reflect the downfall and uprising of Poland under different rulers, but also pinpoint the dire conditions the population was subjected to in various historical periods and during wars which have devastated the country. The exhibits go further to portray the fate that Polish individuals had while disseminated in different parts of the world.

The collections encountered here include various national symbols, military pieces, distinctions such as medals and engravings, photographs, posters, letters, works of art, and an impressive collection of documents which honor the memory of those who have given their life for freedom, but also materials which serve as a remembrance of the past occurrences which have changed the face of the country to such an extent. The museum is also the proud owner of one of the most impressive collections in Poland which commemorate the Resistance Movement of the ‘70s-’80s.

So if you are one of those people who are hungry for historical facts and you happen to visit Poland, then the Museum of Independence is definitely one of the places which demand your attention.

May 31

Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum

Whenever a conflagration of massive proportions occurs, the face of the world is changed completely. So it is no surprise that the two World Wars have devastated nations and have made tens of thousands of victims.

It is relevant to maintain the gruesome image of the war alive in our memories in order to prevent the history from repeating itself due to the ambitions of some. In order to commemorate the extensive loss of human lives and the atrocities which so many had to endure during World War II, the Auschwitz Birkenau State Museum was established in Poland. This museum is constituted of the two concentration camps, Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II – Birkenau, where the Jewish population was imprisoned before being exterminated, but also where thousands of war prisons of different nationalities were held captivate.

http://en.auschwitz.org

http://en.auschwitz.org

Besides the fact that the museum is meant to honor those who have lost their lives between 1942 and 1944, the institution is also focusing its attention on investigating the Holocaust. It was brought into being in the middle of the 20th century (1947) when the Polish Parliament decided to maintain the concentration camps as such and allow people to visit them in order to comprehend the impactful effect of WWII on the world. The museum has been visited extensively ever since its inauguration and the number of visitors has increased year after year. Tourists can see the place where the inmates where debarked and can follow in their footsteps trying to imagine the horror they experienced while walking to their imprisonment.

http://en.auschwitz.org

http://en.auschwitz.org

Tourists can enter the barracks where they can envisage the conditions in which the inmates were living. In order to best depict the past and connect with that specific time, tourists are invited to visit the exhibitions which are spread throughout the grounds of the museum. These are organized depending on the items on display. Thus you will have the chance to see the personal items that the inmates had brought with them upon arriving to camp, such as kitchen vessels, suitcases, the majority of which still bear the name of their owner, shoes and garments. Getting in touch with personal belongings is definitely intimidating because what you have only heard on television or have read in books, strikes you as being real. The authenticity of it all makes you realize that those were not just tales but the ghastly reality.

http://www.eriding.net/media/poland.shtml

http://www.eriding.net/media/poland.shtml

There are also a multitude of works of art presented, such as paintings and drawings in which the severe conditions the prisoners were subjected to were portrayed in detail.

Many modifications were conducted in the 20th century but they did not altered the general design of the camps which still maintain their originality. The changes refer to a memorial museum which was inaugurated in the ’67 and several boards which provide visitors with information regarding the surroundings.