Earlier today about 300 survivors of the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz, various heads of state, representatives of the World War II allies and members of the general public gathered to mark the 70th anniversary of its liberation. The commemoration was held at the site in southern Poland where 1.1 million people, the vast majority of them Jews, were killed between 1940 and 1945.

Whenever I am in a heated debate with some small minded conservative hack and I mention something about the excellent health care system or benefits of the social welfare system in Germany, the first thing that usually pops out of their mouths, just as quick as puss out of a lanced boil, is a degrading remark about Germany’s Nazi past. I suppose that I should be glad that at least they remember the horrors of what went on here during the Second World War, but that’s not really where they are coming from. Their game is just a pathetic ploy of bait and switch. Thankfully the Germans certainly remember (see the link below to my earlier post about one of the ways those memories are kept in the public consciousness). Today’s commemoration will probably be the last time a large number of survivors will be able to gather at the site. Most of them were children at the time of their interment. Those who were lucky enough to survive in Auschwitz lived through one of the 20th Century’s worst acts of hatred, horror and inhumanity. They will never forget their ordeal. And neither should you and I nor the rest of the world.

Where I live, to one side and in back of the main train station, there used to be a slaughterhouse complex, where the animals were brought in from the surrounding countryside to be slaughtered, prepared and brought to the local markets and butcher shops. It was from this area, with its access to the railroad tracks, that the people being sent to the various concentration camps were brought and loaded into the wagons of the trains. Most of the old slaughterhouse buildings were gradually torn down in the 1980’s and today this area has been turned into a cultural park and concert center. On the site stands the remains of a building, with three walls upon which several murals depict the deportation of the Jews. The largest mural was painted by one of the city’s young graffiti artists, a person creating street art under the name of Jorkar 7. The scene, which shows the people lined up on a ramp being loaded into the train, was copied from a photo originally taken by a policeman and was discovered in a city archive. The ramp it depicts is exactly where Jorkar 7 has painted his realistic image. If you look closely you can see that the railing in my photo is the same one depicted in the mural. Recently the wall was cleaned and Jorkar 7 repainted the image. The site has been transformed into a memorial dedicated to the memory of the deported Jews and other undesirables the Nazis sent to their death camps and has been incorporated into the cultural and recreational area.

The horrible events of some 75 years ago should never be forgotten. And the Germans themselves are perhaps more aware than most of the rest of the world that, keeping the memories of the Holocaust fresh in the public consciousness is one of the best ways to make sure that the genocide is never repeated. Unfortunately, the very race of human beings that once were the victims, today themselves have become the oppressors of another generation of nation-less people. Such is the curse of human nature and the high price of lessons of history not learned. But then, that is another story for another day…


000 MemorialJorkar 7’s large mural depicting the deportation of the Jews at that very location. Photo taken in September 2007.

000 Memorial 2A second mural on one of inner sides of the walls. Photo taken in September 2007.

I wrote about the Stolpersteine, another kind of very personal Holocaust memorial,  in a earlier post. It can be found here:


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Categories: History, Perspective, Photography | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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