I’m reminded by this article that today is the 62nd anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz by Soviet troops advancing west towards Germany:
OSWIECIM, Poland — As they do on every anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz by Soviet troops, witnesses to the Holocaust will gather Saturday — growing older, frailer and fewer each year. After 62 years, the camp itself is also showing signs of aging under the pressures of tourism and time.
Its new director is searching for ways to preserve vital evidence of Nazi crimes and update the exhibits without chipping away at Auschwitz’s authenticity — or giving fodder for Holocaust deniers.
“The biggest dilemma of this place is preserving what is authentic while also keeping it possible for people to see and to touch,” said Piotr Cywinski, a 34-year-old historian who took over in September.
“This wasn’t built as a medieval castle with strong materials to last for all time,” Cywinski told The Associated Press in an interview in his office in one of the Auschwitz barracks. “It was a Nazi camp built to last a short time.”
Most sensitive, perhaps, is what to do about the remains of gas chambers which are slowly sinking into the ground, the result of weather, erosion and gravity.
The Nazis themselves blew up the gas chambers and crematoria toward the end of World War II as the Soviet army approached. Today, they are mostly in ruins as the Nazis left them, evidence of both the original crimes and the German attempt to cover them up.
Any decay at all poses a problem given the camp’s role today as evidence of the atrocities inflicted on Jews, Gypsies, Polish political prisoners, homosexuals and others. Still visible are the railroad tracks along which inmates were brought in, the barracks where they lived in inhumane conditions, the gas chambers where they were murdered, and the crematoria where their bodies were burned.
For all that to crumble would deprive future generations of priceless historical evidence of Nazi atrocities — a further concern in light of Holocaust denial. The site provides a clear picture of how the camp operated — while many other former Nazi death camps, including Treblinka and Belzec, were dismantled and are marked today only by monuments.
Indeed. Holocaust deniers already make claims insinuating that any renovations to the camp are “evidence” that the gas chambers didn’t exist or that the gas chambers were built after the war to frame the Nazis. As the camp crumbles from the elements, this will accelerate:
But any tampering with the gas chambers is problematic because Holocaust deniers could seize on that — and photographs of repair work — to try to argue that the whole thing was fabricated, according to Jonathan Webber, a professor of Jewish studies at the University of Birmingham and a member of the International Auschwitz Council, a board that advises Auschwitz administrators.
Webber noted that the barbed wire at Auschwitz has already been replaced more than once since the war, because the original was so rusted. But “fiddling with the gas chambers” is different.
“Anyone tampering with gas chambers is tampering with the heart and soul of what Auschwitz represents,” said Webber, who has urged the council to seek the advice of engineering experts before starting any work.
A tough problem.
Also, on this anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, let me direct you to one of my earliest posts on the Holocaust originally published two years ago today on my old blog. It should help you to understand how I became involved with countering the lies of Holocaust deniers in the first place.