Compiling these photographs from the hundreds that were taken has been a monumental task BigB
London , UK Apr 13, 2011 Wed 9 : 15 PM
Compiling these photographs from the hundreds that were taken has been a monumental task. But at least I have found some semblance of balance in reproducing them. May I also warn those that visit this page, that some of the visuals may be depressing and horrifying in content. Do visit them with care. If you do not wish to see them or read about them, you should shut the page !
The view from my window in Krakow. The great castle in front where the Kings lived and ruled from. Subsequently due to the numerous invasions that took place to gain control of the city, the castle served as their head quarters. It also houses most of the royal dead buried within the large walls, as also some of the prominent citizens that excelled themselves in various fields ~
Auschwitz ! And within the halls where dormitories existed of the prisoners or those that were about to be gas chambered are now kept some of the remains of those that were exterminated. Here hundreds of suitcases. The owners wrote their names and date of birth on the boxes as dictated by the Commandent of the camps. Notice the prominence of Jewish names and dates of birth. Some of them a few years old - children ! Women were the first to be exterminated. But because they refused to go without their children, they too went into the gas chambers !
In a corner of a street in Krakow, a symbolic cross and candles in the shape of the cross placed in memory of the President of Poland, who as you know died unfortunately last year around the same time, in an air crash near Moscow …
A street store on the road corner in the Jewish sector of the city !
My hand prints for the plaque to be placed on the pavement that runs along the great castle. Michael Jackson there too. A pink liquid preparation is mixed and put into that little square depth and hands asked to be put into it without moving. After some time that pink thick liquid starts to turn white in color and that is when they tell you to remove the hands …. the imprint remains !
The Mayor, the palace of his office and the ‘key to the city of Krakow’. A moment of great pride. Not for me but for who’s son I was and which nation I came from .. Many ask what special privileges come along with the key. I was once decorated similarly by the administration in New Jersey by the senator in charge and I asked him the same question. What are the specialities of having the key to the city. And he replied - ‘If you were to be pulled up for speeding on any highway in the state, then the officer would make sure that you were escorted to the nearest police station with utmost dignity !!!
At the Salt Mines … they put up our national flag in honor of my visit. Heart warming and filling myself up with pride for my country !!
The lift that takes you down into the various levels of the mines via a shaft. We went down to almost 40 m and then further to 100 m and finally to 140 meters !! It moves softly and without any semblance of panic to its passengers. The lift moves in blocks of lift boxes placed one above the other at separate levels. So I could be on level 1, the other box will be at level 2 above me and so on to a train of boxes of 3-4 in number. Then all doors of all the lift boxes are simultaneously shut and on one command, a hand operated manual bell, the entire train moves down and when it stops, it stops simultaneously at separate levels too.
Its 300 kilometres of salt mine. Spread out in these large galleries under the city. It took us half a day to traverse just 3 kilometres of the mine. That is Mark the celebrated guide. A marvelous gentleman, smiling all along and giving us vivid narrations of the operations in progress. At times when the ceiling became low, he would warn us in Hindi with ~ ‘Sar sambhal ke’ …. ‘mind your head’ … He informed us that he knew 140 ways to say this line in almost all the languages of the world !! made a lot of sense ! ha …
The most remarkable feature of the mines was that as they worked along, the laborers started carving through the salt rocks and started making objects and architectural images of so many different people ~ mostly tourists. Here now is an image of Copernicus, a philosopher and guide to many intelligentsia of the times.
Gnomes !! Considered to be lucky for the miners were carved at various places and revered. The carving I hope you will understand is just salt rock and nothing else. The women particularly liked the gnomes, and one particular gnome was singled out as being fortunate for the ladies. The belief being that if the ladies kissed him they would get a good husband ! The kiss was meant to be given on his mustache and since he was placed and carved out at a rather difficult spot to reach the ladies found it tough to get there. The philosophy being obviously that without a struggle you would not be able to get a good husband. However many ladies struggled, climbed and reached out to this gnome precariously parked on the edge of a steep precipice, planting a kiss on his moustache. All objects being made of the rock salt, in time the gnome lost one side of his mustache. The moustache in Polish culture being of great importance in a man. The guide Mark, very generously kept reminding the ladies in our entourage that his moustache was in perfect form and existence, in case a substitute was needed !!
The piece de resistance of the mine visit - an entire Chapel built within the mine … and all in salt !! The floor, the alter, the images of Christ and his story. An entire replica of any Church on land. And on particular days services are held here, where the miners and their families congregate to pray !! Even the chandeliers are made of salt. The electricity is of course the only exception. Unbelievable !!! This view is from a balcony as we walked towards it within the miles of salt shafts, streets, corridors and galleries. As we stood looking down at this amazing feature, the lights dimmed, a silence descended and then … gentle strains of Chopin broke out from the system around the entire facility. Inside this large cauldron, this excavated space through salt, this almost 30 metres of height and breadth, as the music drifted by one just could not control the burst of emotion that arose within. The goose bumps erupted and the tears welled up as we all stood there in uncontrollable wonder and amazement !! What a moment ! It has to be seen and experienced to believe it.
Carvings on the sides of the chapel depicting stories and events from the Bible …
The Mother Mary standing inside a carved salt enclosure, but made of white salt. The light behind giving it that feeling of divinity and also declaring that the material is indeed a translucent salt.
In front of the alter. All placements and positions just like in a chapel … but carved in salt. Even the flooring is not blocks of cement .. it is carved salt !!
In one end of the walls, the Last Supper … the dimensions are not great - just a few centimeters of depth, but they look as though a large portion of the mine wall was dug out to give this effect ..
At the University to unveil the portrait of my Father … in Krakow !
A metallic head lying distraught in the middle of their main square .. Shweta took this picture as did she most of the others. She asked me get inside the head and push my face out from one of its eyes - it is possible to do that - but I desisted. I gave her an alternative - could I pick his nose at she clicked - she shouted me out on that and this sedate posture was finally approved ..
And Shweta … in a lovely flowing ghaghara ! Looking stunning and attracting all the crowds in the square !!
The barracks at Auschwitz …
The entrance gate with those words on it which I think said ‘through labor will you gain’ … a decoy to mislead all those that were being brought here to be exterminated. They were given to understand that they were being brought here to do labor. The fit and healthy were indeed put to such task, the ill and weak were gassed. Ironically, the fit and healthy were used to pick up the dead and either bury them in mass graves or assist in incinerating them. The barracks were actually not especially built for concentration camps. They had housed Polish soldiers during the war. When the Germans invaded, they removed the soldiers and made this into what later came to be known as extermination camps. They got them free of cost ! Many that were brought her never entered the barracks ever. They were taken straight from the trains that came in bearing them and marched into the gas chambers, stripped of all clothing naked in front of their families and strangers it was the humiliation and embarrassment of the moment. They were told that they were being subjected to a process of disinfection to make sure no disease was being carried in, but in fact were brutally killed.
Tons of human hair of the prisoners kept in a glass enclosure from the shavings of all those that came to the camp. The hair was used to make clothing material by the Nazi’s ..
Remains of little children that were exterminated …
The wall of death … where the inmates of the camp were brought in large numbers and shot dead in a courtyard in the barracks. We enter with a prayer and stand in silence in their memory !!
The dreaded gas chamber ! Now greened and made to look presentable .. and by its side in front of it within 50 feet this …
….. at the far end, the house of the Commandant of the camp. Not more than 50 feet in front of the gas chamber … living there quite normally in his domesticity, with his wife and 5 children. Did they not ever feel the horrific atrocity that was being enacted in front of them every day - in front of their house - with women and children ! What did these people do to exist in such circumstances. What were they made of. Surely they were not humans !! But this particular Commandant was caught after the loss of Germany and tried and found guilty and hung in front of the gas chamber as you see now ~ on the gallows below !
The chamber … almost 700 to 800 hundred of them were pushed into one chamber and the gas released from the roof. When they realized what was going to happen to them they started praying and began singing. Within minutes they were all gone !!
The final moment …being incinerated in these large fire intense facilities, after the gas right next door. All systematically worked out in great detail .. the ashes either thrown away and not even given to the victims relatives or friends. Thrown away in the Vistula River that flows alongside the city and the camp…
Need I say anymore ….