After breakfast I was given a tour of the camp. The camp is actually
divided into two different components — Auschwitz, which is the larger
and older part of the camp, and Birkenau, the newer section.
The main gate at the camp is of solid design and well-made, and
relatively devoid of ornament. In style it seemed to echo the railroad
motif present in that part of the camp. I particularly liked the used
brick employed in it. The sign over the camp is made of metal and is
very crudely made. It looks like it was manufactured by unskilled labor.
I will have to mention that to the Furher when I get back to Berlin.
The fences around the camp are primarily functional, but nevertheless
seem to have an air of grace about them. The dormitories are all large
and made of the same used brick as the main gate — a pleasant echo of
architectural elements that I found very pleasing to the eye. The
lavatories are large and spacious and have almost an aesthetic charm to
them that one would not normally find in large communal facilities. The
bunks in the dormitories are well-made of local wood, and the windows
in the units let in a pleasant amount of light when sun is out, giving
the spaces an airy, bright appearance.
As I was being led through the compound through a group of relocatees
I noticed that the soil was very wet. It was obvious to me that no
hydrogeologist had been employed prior to locating the camp. Wet soil
may often cause later engineering problems. Yet another issue I will
have to mention on my return to Berlin.
Following lunch with the camp Commandant, which was accompanied by
some very good brandy, we set out to visit the new disposal buildings
at Birkenau. The first thing I noticed was the different quality of brick
employed in this newer section. I was informed that all the used brick
from demolished buildings in the area had been used in the first phase
of the camp, and that as a consequence newer and lesser quality brick
had been culled from cities and towns farther away. In spite of the
newer brick the new buildings had a functional, almost Bauhaus look to
them that was quite modern, emphasising the fusion of artistic design
and functionality. The chimneys on the buildings were tall and thick,
and obviously fully capable of handling the emission volume that came
from them without any back-up. The disposal buildings are two story
structures, with the lower story built half underground. The lower
story of the buildings is devoted to the disposal units, while the upper
stories serve in the more supportive role of handling overflows of
subsidiary products gathered from the relocatees.
All in all I found the architecture to be much more well-designed and
aesthetically pleasing than I would have thought possible of a death-
camp. It was fully worthy of a day-long visit.