The citizens of Oświęcim passed by this building every day, not knowing how important it was in the history of their town. It is not a surprise though; the tannery was there forever, it melted within the surrounding area and was not being used for years. Just another empty building in Oświęcim. It was only in the year 2000, when the world reminded itself of the tannery. It was noticed again. This was one of the most important parts of Auschwitz, where prisoners worked and died. However, it was not included in the UNESCO buffer and protection zone, and that is why nobody paid any attention until the owner of the land decided to open a discothèque there. In this essay, I will describe the history of the tannery in Oświęcim to highlight another example of incredibly important areas of Auschwitz have been forgotten and ignored.
'In 'The Truce' Primo Levi remembers what Mordo Nahum, his 'super Greek' from Salonika, told him about the importance of having shoes.1 The 2 were facing their labyrinthic journey back home, after being liberated from Auschwitz. Mordo was respected by Levi as a wise, resourceful helper, who shared with him his skills and abilities, and whose superiority was undoubted.
Dr. Iris Groschek of the Neuengamme Memorial, the site of the former Nazi concentration camp of Hamburg in Germany speaks with the Auschwitz Study Group about preserving the memorial for future generations and how Holocaust Memorials are evolving to suit the needs of modern education.
Due to the huge success of the film ‘Son of Saul’, a lot has been said about the history of the Sonderkommando in Auschwitz. The Sonderkommando was a group of prisoners, mostly Jewish, who were forced to work at the gas chambers and crematorium by the SS. Only a few survived. Their stories tell about one of the darkest chapters in the history of Auschwitz. We invited Auschwitz Study Group members to ask their questions and then Paweł Sawicki, of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum Press Office, kindly delivered them do Igor Bartosik. He is the historian working in the Research Centre of the Museum and he is a dedicated Sonderkommando researcher.
Neil Kaplan, a collector of old passports and documents has turned his passion into a mission to collect and save as many samples he can to learn about the stories behind each item. The subtle markings engraved in passports over time can reveal so much about a person, where they have travelled, the route taken to a destination and even political markings of the country passed through. An understanding of the history surrounding stamped dates can almost paint an entire picture of the person at the given moment in time. Some of the most astonishing stories of World War II relate to the survival of individuals. During the very dark and cold moments of that horrific war that spanned for 6 years people fought to stay alive, to survive and continue living. That eternal burning flame, the flame of life, drove a few to fight against all odds and not give up. Be it in the camps, ghettos or in hiding, there are those who managed to come out of the ashes in Europe and tell their story. This can be in the form of verbal recordings or in the form of preserved documents. In this article, Neil spoke with Michael Challoner, the head editor of ‘Reflections’ about 2 women caught up in occupied Poland and their subsequent journey to freedom and how their documents provide invaluable information.