World Wars and Interwar

Wolf’s Lair

In late 1940, the Germans built the Wolf’s Lair in the middle of a forest, far from major roads and urban areas, and close to the Soviet Union. Completed by June 1941, the complex housed 2,000 people, including Adolf Hitler himself. A failed assassination attempt is well documented here.

It was an eery feeling to be in a place from which so much hatred brought about millions of deaths throughout the world. Now overgrown with trees, the bombed out buildings like in piles of concrete rubble…a sign of the destruction that authoritarianism eventually brings about.

Gdansk WWII Museum

Link to Wikipedia

The Museum of the Second World War was established in 2008 in Gdańsk, Poland.  It is devoted to the Second World War. The original concept of the museum was strongly criticized by national-conservatives as not focusing enough on Polish heroism and promoting "socialist-type pacifism". Newly appointed management of the museum has promoted re-nationalizing the museum and displaying Polish martyrology.  The architectural team that designed the building won the architectural competition.

Birkenau, Poland

Stop #5

Birkenau (Auschwitz II) is where most of the mass killings actually took place. The camp had more than 300 prison barracks. Still remaining are remnants of gas chambers and crematoria.

  • At Birkenau from 1942 until late 1944, transport trains delivered Jews to the camp’s gas chambers from all over German-occupied Europe.
  • Jews were killed in large numbers using a pesticide called Zyklon B.
  • About 1.3 million people were sent to the camp, and at least 1.1 million of them were executed.
  • 90 percent of those killed were Jewish.

One of the last buildings I saw in Birkenau was the one that left the most lasting impression. It is a building where medical experiments were performed on pregnant mothers or new mothers and their newborn children. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the pit in my stomach I felt when I read that sign.

Auschwitz, Poland

Stop #4

It is almost impossible or maybe even irresponsible to visit Krakow without taking a day trip to Auschwitz. We decided that we wanted to enjoy Krakow and ordered our trip to visit heartbreaking Auschwitz first.

Auschwitz (Auschwitz 1) is the main camp. Birkenau (Auschwitz II) is the larger camp about 2 km away.

Auschwitz I began as a polish military barracks, but the Nazis converted it into a death camp in 1940. You will see the words “Arbeit Macht Frei” in some of the pictures. This translates to “Through Work Freedom”.

It was a very depressing and moving exhibit with piles of shoes, glasses, luggage and other items heaped in never-ending piles with their rightful owners long-perished.

Auschwitz I was first constructed to hold Polish political prisoners, who began to arrive in May 1940. The first extermination of prisoners took place in September 1941.

Of those not killed in the gas chambers, many died of starvation, forced labor, infectious diseases, individual executions, and medical experiments.

Prisoners remaining at the camp were liberated on 27 January 1945, a day now commemorated as International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

In 1947, Poland founded the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum on the site of Auschwitz I and II, and in 1979, it was named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

World War II Valor in the Pacific NM

Link to Wikipedia

The USS Arizona Memorial, at Pearl Harbor in Honolulu, Hawaii, marks the resting place of 1,102 of the 1,177 sailors and Marines killed on USS Arizona during the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. The attack on Pearl Harbor and the island of Oahu led to the United States’ direct involvement in World War II.  The USS Arizona Memorial is one of several sites in Hawaii and elsewhere that are part of the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument.

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