Welcome to the original English language Poland and Polish discussion group board. This message forum is a place where English-speaking Poles, foreigners (expats) living in Poland, and anyone with a genuine interest in Poland can discuss and read the views of others concerning Poland. Subjects include: Polish news and current affairs; Life in Poland; politics; genealogy research; Polish culture and history; advice and tips on visiting Poland; Polish property and investment issues. The aim of our group is to increase awareness of wonderful Poland using the English language and allow and foster the honest debate and exchange of opinions on anything vaguely related to Poland and Polish - positive, negative and/or neutral! To state the obvious: all opinions and views expressed on this site are solely those of their respective authors and are not necessarily those of anyone else! Messages consisting of ads will be deleted.
Yes you should go. But don't forget that there are many other interesting places in Poland. Poland is not just Aushwitz, Kraków and Warsaw! Even o people interested in the second world war there are many other smaller camps and German military sites to see.
Majdanek concentration camp (just outside Lublin city centre) is even spookier, as it doesn't get all the snap-happy tourists.
I cried as I went into a barrack house full of children's shoes. They have an enormous pile of human ashes in a dome-covered monument.
But Poland shouldn't be viewed as a life-support mechanism for Nazi death camps.
But Poland shouldn't be viewed as a life-support mechanism for Nazi death camps
Absolutely agreed! We went to Auschwitz at the very START of our 2-week holiday. After a 10-hour drive from Calais, it was actually pretty surreal as we were so tired, but it was the best way, as then we went on to Krakow to be part Poland NOW.
The Polish government has asked UNESCO to officially describe the place as the ‘former Nazi German Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp’. Currently in the UNESCO listing the words Nazi and German don't feature in the name.
This move follows on from people referring to Auschwitz as a Polish death camp. The German weekly magazine Der Spiegel used the term Polish Death Camp only a week or so back ...
Oswiecim, Auschwitz, Polish German, I think everyone knows what it is whatever the name. Simply using the German name and not the Polish name could be seen as non PC.
Tricky subject. I visited Birkenau a couple of years back. Very moving, I was suprised just how shocking it was. Auschwitz was to full of American tourists taking sick photos to be as shocking.
It is history, a name can't change what it is. Should we stop allowing Germans using Danzig, Maybe Brits should say Warszawa?
We we never find a name that will please everyone.
As long as we can think of it as History and leave it as history we are getting somewere.
There are many people who believe that Auschwitz is part of the past, is history and that it should be recognised but not dwelled upon.
To understand any country and it's people you have to understand their history. I don't think you can go to Auschwitz and just tick it off your tourist itinerary.
It's an experience to be there albeit an unpleasant and uncomfortable one. Go to Auschwitz and don't forget what you feel.
Modern day Poland has many things to offer but Auschwitz is as much a part of their heritage as anything else.
I think name 'Polish' should be replaced with 'German-Nazi' because if the camps are situated in Poland it doesn't mean they are Polish. I've heard a Frenchwonam saying she didn't like Poland because there had been camps. It's not the Poles' fault they were. It's the Germans' fault :P
Another Auschwitz Update:
The World Jewish Congress has accused Poland of attempting to rewrite history with the Auschwitz name change proposed by the current Polish government. The WJC organisation, which aims to represent Jewish opinion globally, said that "although the camp had been built by Germany, everybody in the area had known about its existence and that workers were recruited from the Polish population in the neighbouring village".
i don't know who wants to rewrite history. The truth is that it was German camp, built by Germans, only situated in Poland. There died about 2 milion people from 30 different countries, mainly POLES and Jews. You can find it in every history book. I knew a woman who was there. I'll say it once again - it's a German camp, not Polish.
WJC forgot that all world knew about Auschwitz but nobody did anything to help polish Jews, especially american Jews. And it was the polish intelligence that was reporting all the time about what was happening there. If there were any polish workers they were recruited by force. It`s worth to notice here that Poles were the only ones amongst european nations who were thretened with death for helping Jews, but it didn`t stop them from doing so, and many of them pay their lives because of that.
And the question is now: what for?
Anyone knows a bank account where I can donate palestinian fighters?
Fortunetely they are only one organization of many other jewish which are supporting our opinion. It is not rewriting history, it is making it clear to guys writing about "polish camps" - they are rewriting history. About polish people working there: we were under occupation and for germans our lives or opinions were wothsless and a good reason to kill. Nobody could say "i wont work there" and still nobody knew what was going on there, later when poles were telling about it to Americans, British etc, even shoving pictures they didnt believe.
Next thing, in Auschwitz were working also 300 Jews they also didnt have a choice. Many Poles killed there were Jews, and many Jews were Poles.
Changing history like some papers are doing now (polish camps) in future we may see "jewish camps" cause Jews were being killed there. That is why we should defend history.
The name "Auschwitz" is German. There is no such Polish word. The Polish name for the same camp is "Oswiecim" which is also the name of the town where the camp is.
I went a few years ago. It is a very sad place. You will not find it difficult to use your imagination to see what had taken place there. There are many things to remind you.
If you are a sensitive person you will find it very hard. They show you a documentary film before you go round and I could not stop crying.
Even though it happened so many years ago I cannot stop thinking about the children and people who lived in the camps. Especially the children.
it really was a death camp.
The latest news story from Reuters:-
Jan 31, 2007 — OSWIECIM, Poland - Auschwitz is disintegrating.
Over 60 years of winter snow, summer drought and millions of visitors have taken a heavy toll on the former Nazi death camp.
Just as survivors visiting the camp dwindle each year, so time is bearing down on the prison buildings, the rusting barbed-wire fencing and remnants of the gas chambers left behind when the Germans fled in January 1945.
Evidence of the victims — hair, spectacles, children's toys and other belongings — is also falling to pieces, eaten away by insects and mildew, its disappearance giving slow support to those who try to deny the Holocaust ever happened.
Unless conservation is stepped up there may soon be little left of the biggest graveyard in Europe, where up to 1.5 million men, women and children, mostly Jews, were slaughtered.
Now new management at the camp, covering 470 acres on two sites near Oswiecim in southern Poland, is accelerating work and hiring more staff to slow the deterioration and save the site as a lesson for future generations.
"If there is one place in the world that should be kept as a reminder of the consequences of racism and intolerance, it is this one," said Piotr Cywinski, who took over as director of Auschwitz in September. "But it gets more difficult every year."
One of the many problems facing Cywinski and his 260 staff at the site, now a museum, is that Auschwitz was not built to last. The concentration camp known as Auschwitz was actually two camps, and both are suffering serious problems.
"NOT STONES — BONES"
Auschwitz I, a stone and brick-built Polish military base used by the Nazis to house Polish political prisoners, was hastily enlarged with forced labor using the cheapest possible materials after Germany invaded Poland in 1939.
Auschwitz II Birkenau, two miles away, was a specially built killing factory thrown up in 1943 for the mass murder of Jews, gypsies, homosexuals and other minorities.
Linked directly to Europe's railway network by a special siding to speed up the murders, the Nazis used it to expedite their plans for a "Final Solution" to "the Jewish problem."
Parts of the Birkenau site are built from the remains of demolished Polish villages and stable blocks and these have survived. But many other buildings have already disappeared.
Most wooden huts were removed after the war for use as temporary shelters. And the strongest of the buildings, the concrete gas chambers and crematoriums, were blown up by the guards before their retreat. These ruins have collapsed, undermined by rising ground water, flooding and erosion.
The area around the gas chambers is cordoned off with tape but still accessible to the public, some of whom clamber over the rubble. Some visitors even remove relics and artifacts.
The ash pits where the remains of many victims were dumped lie open to the elements and the ground trampled by visitors around them is studded with what look like tiny white stones.
"Not stones — bones," explains Jarek Mensfelt, a linguist and senior guide at the museum. "Tiny fragments of human bones. It is terrible that tourists can tread on human remains."
Cywinski is acutely aware of the deficiencies of the museum but is constrained by money and the physical limitations imposed by the scale of the site.
HAIR AND SHOES
Various grandiose ideas — including one for a giant dome — have been rejected on grounds of cost and because any major construction would destroy some of the area and alter it ... ...
I was there a few years ago, and when I go back to Poland this year, I will go again. Don't miss it, it will make you cry.
The whole Polish camp debate has been done to death
The correct terminology is apparently german concentration camp in nazi occupied poland. Or is that Nazi concentration camp in german occupied poland. The point being that Poland was not in Polish control at the time. Whatever crap now gets spewed on who helped or knew about it locally doesn't change the fact that it was a nazi project. As someone already said, allies knew about it from Polish underground intelligence but were too scared to do anything constructive like even blow up railway lines. It's not like nobody in the west knew that jews were being rounded up in places like france holland etc and were being shipped to germany.
Purleese no more of this debating of who did what to whom. Move on folks. Everyone knows who thought it up and yes there have been apologies from guilty parties so please respect that it was not a Polish camp and unfortunately all these terrible atrocities took place on Polish soil deliberately. Poland has found it hard enough to deal with the after effects of WWII on both it's country and generations of families. We should lay it all to rest as everyone who was involved suffered or lost in some way. Myself included.
There is a legitimate debate amongst conservators as to the appropriate way to preserve artifacts for which (for good or ill) Poland is custodian. And Poland is the appropriate custodian as so many of its citizens suffered their fate in these places. Certainly a remembrance for the victims is appropriate. The sole good that can come of the horror is that perhaps the abject lessons of this episode may work to prevent future degradations of humanity.
Auschwitz is overwhelming in many ways. It is almost better to see just one part at a time. Personally I found Majdanek and its commemorative dome to be more conducive to contemplative reflection.
I had the privilege of having actual survivors as guides on my visits. The nature of historical presentation will have to change to accommodate the loss over time of the first-person narrative. That will be a loss.
Poland and Russia row over Auschwitz exhibition
A row has broken out between Poland and Russia over a memorial at the Auschwitz death camp to Russian victims of World War Two and the Nazi Holocaust, rekindling old resentments between the two countries.
An exhibition at the camp museum dedicated to Russians who died in the war with Nazi Germany has been closed for three years and its opening has been delayed by a disagreement over the nationalities of the victims, officials said.
Russian historians say almost half the 6 million Jews who died during the Holocaust were citizens of the Soviet Union.
But the Auschwitz museum disputes this, saying almost 1 million of these Jews were citizens of Poland, Romania and the Baltics, who were only in the Soviet Union as a result of a deal in 1939 between Hitler and Stalin to annex central Europe.
They say these Jews are commemorated elsewhere in the museum, which covers two former German-run concentration camps at Auschwitz and Birkenau, near the southwestern Polish city of Oswiecim.
The row has stirred resentment between Poland and Russia, which have a long history of mistrust and hostility.
Moscow daily Kommersant this week quoted Russian officials as saying Poland was deliberately delaying the opening of the Russian exhibit for political reasons. One member of the Russian parliament said Polish politicians were attempting to "rewrite history," Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza reported.
But museum director Piotr Cywinski told Reuters the museum's actions were not dictated by politics.
He said some of the information displayed within the special exhibition block dedicated to Russia was simply not acceptable to historians at the museum or to the International Auschwitz-Birkenau Council, which oversees the museum.
"We have to respect the people who suffered and died in the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp," Cywinski said. "And if they were Gypsies or Estonians, we cannot agree to call them Russians."
Up to 1.5 million men, women and children, mostly Jews, were slaughtered by the occupying Germans at the Auschwitz-Birkenau camps, which remain Europe's biggest graveyard.
It's not surprising they are arguing about figures yet again. They have been arguing about how many died in Katyn for years.
If you started unpicking it you would find that Stalin killed far more than Hitler over a longer period of time. It's estimated that his deliberate famines, labour camps, executions and deportations killed up to 50m people (other estimates go up to 62m) of various nationalities but mostly soviet citizens who were imprisoned if they merely sneezed and used as free labour for building the soviet empire. It's impossible to quantify as adequate records were not kept. It's a genocide not discussed much in the west because of the sensitive relationship....There was recently a Ukrainian row with the russians about whether the ukrainian famine should be called a genocide (ukrainian version) or tragedy (russia's preferred terminology). Relations soured between the two countries as a result of this mere debate about which description to use.
Legacy of famine divides Ukraine
By Helen Fawkes
BBC News, Kiev
A row of emaciated Ukrainian children stare out of a photograph. Their gaunt faces are full of despair and their bodies are little more than skeletons.
Ivan Leschenko says some resorted to cannibalism in the famine
It is one of many images being shown on Ukrainian television in the run-up to Memorial Day, which is being held this weekend to mark the Soviet-era famine.
It was one of the bleakest moments in Ukraine's history. The famine which happened between 1932 and 1933 killed up to 10 million people.
It is widely believed to have been caused by the actions of the communist regime. The harvest was confiscated and people starved to death.
It was part of a brutal campaign by the Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin to force Ukrainian peasants to join collective farms.
Ukraine is now trying to get this mass starvation recognised by the United Nations as an act of genocide.
But the issue is highly controversial and Russia is strongly against the move.
Now in his eighties, Ivan Leschenko was a child during the famine. He remembers how some people resorted to cannibalism.
A quarter of Ukraine's population was wiped out in just two years
"Such things really did happen. I know that one of my relatives ate human flesh. Just imagine how bad the situation was that people were forced to do that."
On the eve of Memorial Day, Ivan visited the capital's monument to the victims of the man-made famine to pay his respects.
"I remember walking the streets and seeing dead, bloated bodies of children and adults all over the place. I went up to one boy, he was saying something and suddenly he started shaking and then passed away," Ivan says.
"I was so scared; it was the most frightening experience of my life."
'Dancing on graves'
The famine had a devastating impact on villages across Ukraine. It is thought that around a quarter of the population was wiped out.
Called Holodomor in Ukrainian - meaning murder by hunger
About a quarter of Ukraine's population wiped out
Seven to 10 million people thought to have died
Children disappeared; cannibalism became widespread
At the KGB archive in Kiev, recently released files are piled up on an old-fashioned desk. These are said to demonstrate how the famine was artificially engineered.
One document is an order from Moscow to shoot people who steal food. It is signed by Stalin in red ink.
Now Ukraine's president wants what happened to be recognised as an act of genocide.
Russia admits this was an awful tragedy but is angry at claims that it was an attempt to destroy the Ukrainian nation. It says that other parts of the former USSR were affected.
This issue has also divided Ukraine's parliament. Last week MPs refused to vote on a law proposed by the president.
He wanted parliament to declare that the famine was an act of genocide.
Old KGB files allegedly show the famine was engineered
The ruling coalition which includes the Communist Party is pro-Russian.
It is led by the president's rival, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych - the man who was defeated by mass protests in the 2004 "Orange Revolution".
"This is like dancing on the graves of the dead. Before it's been proved this was an act of genocide, the Orange authorities are doing their best to persuade everyone that it was," says Sergei Gmyrya, a historian for the Communist party.
"I am furious that this is being used by the politicians in their games," he says.
For Ukraine's pro-Western President Viktor Yushchenko this is personal. "In my family we remember my grandfather Ivan, a strong and hard-working man who died. In my local village alone 600 people died," he says.
"It is important to realise that politics were behind the genocide. It's terrifying to know that the only aim of that experiment was to exterminate Ukrainian people."
Last year the president initiated the first ever Memorial Day to honour the victims. This Saturday, Ukraine will once again pause to remember the tragedy.
Kiev is determined to push for a UN resolution on the issue. But this could put the president on a collision course with his pro-Russian opponents.
It also threatens to damage the country's fragile relations with Moscow.