VIDEO: A chilling tour of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp

More than 1.1 million men women and children - most of them Jews - perished at Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. At the entrance, a sign says "arbeit macht frei", meaning "work sets you free", but which was far from the truth for the many people who were killed at the camp.
More than 1.1 million men women and children - most of them Jews - perished at Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. At the entrance, a sign says "arbeit macht frei", meaning "work sets you free", but which was far from the truth for the many people who were killed at the camp. © FRANCE 24 screengrab
4 min

More than 1.1 million men women and children – most of them Jews – perished at Auschwitz-Birkenau. It was the largest of the thousands of concentration camps dotting Nazi-occupied Europe during World War II. FRANCE 24’s Gulliver Cragg and Pavel Pieniajek report from the former camp.

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“Work sets you free”, the notorious sign hanging over the entrance of Auschwitz says. But it’s a deceptive message: From 1942 and onward, 80 percent of the people arriving at the camp were never given the chance to work for their freedom at all, instead they were immediately sent to their deaths.

Dorota Kuczynska, a guide working at the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial, says deceit was always a key aspect of the Nazis' strategy.

"The Germans went to great lengths to hide the truth. For example, they sold train tickets to Auschwitz to Jews from Greece. For the same reason, they sold non-existent houses and land in Poland," she explains.

Visitors touring the former camp can read the packing lists the Nazis had sent the Jews and see the things they had brought with them, though most of those items were confiscated upon arrival.

The memorial also has models on display showing how the exterminations were carried out, as well as some of the poison gas cylinders that were used. Although the Nazis tried to destroy the most flagrant pieces of evidence, including the gas chambers and the crematoriums, much of the camp’s infrastructure remains intact.

It is painful to look at, but people from all over the world clearly feel it is important. Last year 2.3 million people visited the memorial – a number that increases from year to year.

To watch the full report, please click on the player above.

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