Only 8km from Oświęcim sits an unassuming town in Poland, one equally as rich in community and tradition as you’d come to expect of any here. It is conveniently equidistant from several larger industrial towns making it an attractive proposition for those who desire a more rural landscape to retreat to. The town is Chełmek and was first mentioned in the 15th century; with today’s population hovering around the 13,000 mark. Benefiting economically from passing trade as a mid-town in its own right, or from the coal mines of localities such as Libiaz, Brzeszcze, or even the refineries in Monowice or Trzebinia – They all have something in common. They all became sub-camps of the infamous mother camp in Oświęcim, Auschwitz.
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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.