Block 11, Auschwitz & Birkenau

Block 11

During my tour of Auschwitz I came across many different blocks, all initially designed for harrowing things. Block 11 was no surprise to me, I had read about it and heard about it from various sources. Anticipation (in a negative sense), came over me, I was about to walk into a building of such darkness and human depravity. This building does not disappoint, such disgust and shame to be part of a race that can do this to its own kind.

Hangman

Mini gallows, Block 11

When entering Block 11 you will pass a room with a long table and many chairs, this room is where SS sat and ordered either life or death. Upon a decision of death, the prisoner was then stripped of their clothing and either shot, hung or tortured. At the end of the corridor is a small noose for the hangings, which still stand to this day. Follow the stairs to the basement and you will notice a massive difference in the atmosphere, a dark, damp lonely place. The basement is where the torture happened, there is also a small room where the first gassings took place using Zyklon-B. ¬†Due to the amount of tourists visiting the camps, I was rushed around and didn’t have much time to absorb the moment. If possible I would always recommend visiting the camps during the quiet months and try to avoid summer.

History of Block 11

There are many blocks at Auschwitz and all come with their own horrors, but 11 was the most feared. Block 11 was known for torture, brutality and death. The block had a variety of cells ranging from normal, dark and standing. The standing cells were 1 sq metre and had an air hole measuring 5×5 cm in diameter. Prisoners in these cells were expected to stand for up to 20 days and assuming they survived, forced to work afterwards. Prisoners were generally sent here due to: attempted escapes, aiding escapees or contact with civilians.

Photography Tips:

Too be honest photography is difficult in block 11 due to the amount of visitors, lack of light and flash restrictions. If I remember rightly most of the block prohibits photography, likely to these issues and also the historical nature of the building. I suggest putting the camera down and just absorbing the awful atmosphere as its important to feel the emotion in this block.

 

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