The Auschwitz Exhibit is an emotional experience and reminds you that this is happening around the globe right now.
Not long ago…Not far away
*Auschwitz Exhibit: Union Station, Kansas City, Missouri
*June 1-2021-January 31, 2022
*A traveling Exhibit to inform about the Holocaust and, Auschwitz, the largest prison camp of Nazi Germany during WWII.
The Auschwitz Exhibit began in Europe and then to New York City. It was thought that was the end of the run, but Union Station, Kansas City, Mo. a newly renovated railroad station with its own historical background, including gang wars in the 1930’s, came to the forefront and offered its facilities. The Exhibit has been a success from Day One. Where the Exhibit goes next is not known, but if it happens to come to your part of the world, don’t miss it. In Kansas City, during Pandemic time, masks were required throughout your time in the Exhibit. A guided tour was provided via a device similar to a cell phone that included ear pieces. Each person had a new set and the used pieces were sanitized and recycled.
My neighbors had a relative who disappeared in Germany during WWII and has never been found. He had been helping people to escape and presumably was caught and sent to a prison camp, perhaps, even Auschwitz. I don’t know. There is so much to absorb emotionally, benches are provided for reflection.
There are over 20 rooms in the Exhibit, and each shows a different section of what a prison camp was and how people arrived there, were separated from families and sent either to work detail, medical experimentation or the gas chambers, which then had bodies taken to the crematoriums.
Auschwitz was one of a group of German prison camps in the 1940s. It is also called, Auschwitz-Birkenau, as it was near a forest and a Polish town called “Oswiecim” It was a large camp and divided into sections, of Extermination, Forced Labor or Medical Experimentation. The last became intertwined with the name of “The Angel of Death,” Dr. Josef Mengele, who conducted medical experiments on prisoners. There are only estimates of how many people died at this particular prison camp, an historical estimate is that in the five years before the end of WWII, over 1.3 million people died here. That is an astronomical number compared to cities around the globe. That number of people just ceased to exist.
I took my time going through the Exhibit and talking to people. There were no backpacks or purses allowed, or even baby carriages, but children were there, carried by their parents. To see the expression on the parents faces as they entered the room that showed children being taken from their parents and sent to who-knows-where. This actually happened, and as the sign at the Exhibit states, “… not long ago…not far away…”
The groups of people were as groups of people are, talkative at the beginning and at the end, stone cold silent. Stunned would be an appropriate word. What you saw in photos enlarged as for a movie theater screen were piles of bodies ready for the crematorium, piles of clothing that once were worn by people, perhaps 24 hours earlier, ribs-showing starving people in a holding building, three wooden bunks set in the middle of a room from a slave dormitory, a gigantic set of railroad wheels from one of the trains that transported people to the Camp, a braided whip that looked as though it could cut through steel, but was used to beat prisoners, a bowl for eating and each person received a slice of bread and half a cup of soup each day as a meal. What was a jolt to your senses was the display of a steel medical exam table and the special medical instruments used for who knows what?
Another jolt to the mind was the section that showed what the prison guards and officers did on weekends. Auschwitz was near a palatial estate and this was the “weekend resort” for relaxation from duties at the camp. Photos showed people sun bathing and drinking beverages. Meanwhile, back at the Camp, the killings continued. One wonders at the psychological mindset of people here. Not only that, but the neighborhood villages were close enough to have the stench from the crematoriums in the air and yet no one “…knew what was going on there.”
Several rooms at the Exhibit had 3–5-minute films of interviews from people who survived Auschwitz. The Camp was liberated by Allied troops and these people were alive to talk about what happened there. Time after time, you hear the statement of “she held my hand and was gone” or “he went out to work and never came back.”
The Auschwitz Exhibit is an emotional experience and reminds you that this is happening around the globe right now. The word “extermination” is still in our vocabulary.
Copyright 2021 Marie Asner
The Auschwitz Remembered Exhibit at Union Station, Kansas City, Missouri, has been extended through March 2022.