(Note: the piece below is written by my fellow front-liner and Catholic Media Coalition colleague, Jim Fritz)
What was Auschwitz? Built by the Nazis as both a concentration camp (prison) and death camp, Auschwitz was the largest of the Nazi camps and the most streamlined mass killing center ever created. It was at Auschwitz that 1.1 million people were murdered. The majority of the people killed in the Holocaust were Jews; however many Catholics and Catholic priests were also killed. The most famous Catholic priest was Maximilian Kolbe, a Polish priest who died as prisoner 16770 in Auschwitz on August 14, 1941. After a prisoner had escaped from the camp, another prisoner was scheduled for execution – a prisoner with a wife and children. Kolbe volunteered to take his place.
The concentration camp was actually opened in May 1940 and operated until January 1945, shortly before the war ended. Auschwitz, only 37 miles from Krakow, Poland, was the largest camp, but only one of many and included 45 sub-camps. It was the scene of medical experiments, and the home of Block 11 (a place of severe torture) and the Black Wall (a place of execution).
Auschwitz II was built approximately two miles away from Auschwitz I and was the primary killing center of the Auschwitz death camp. Auschwitz III was built as "housing" for the slave laborers at a synthetic rubber factory. The 45 other sub-camps also housed prisoners used for forced labor.
Jews, gypsies, homosexuals, anti-socials, criminals and prisoners of war were rounded up, stuffed into railroad cattle cars and sent to Auschwitz. When the trains stopped at Auschwitz ll, the newly arrived were told to and get off the train, leaving all their belongings on board, and gather on the railway platform known as "the ramp." Families who had disembarked together were quickly and brutally separated as an SS officer, usually a Nazi doctor, ordered each individual into one of two lines. Most women, children, older men, and those who looked unfit or unhealthy were ordered to the left; while most young men and others who looked strong enough to perform hard labor were sent to the right. Unbeknownst to the people in the two lines, the left line led to immediate death in the gas chambers, and people in the right line were imprisoned in the camp.
Once the selection process concluded, a select group of Auschwitz prisoners gathered up all the belongings, and these items (including clothing, eyeglasses, medicine, shoes, books, pictures, jewelry and prayer shawls) would periodically be bundled and shipped back to Germany (the spoils of war).
The people sent to the left line were never told they had been chosen for death. They were told that they were going to be sent to work but first must shower and be disinfected. The victims were ushered into an anteroom and told to remove all their clothing. Totally naked, these men, women and children were ushered into a large room which resembled a large shower room. After the doors closed, a Nazi would pour Zyklon-B pellets which turned into poison gas upon contact with air. The gas killed quickly.
Once everyone in the room was dead, special prisoners would air out the room and remove the bodies. The bodies were searched for gold and placed in the crematoria. Auschwitz ll had four main gas chambers, each with its own crematorium. Each gas chamber could incinerate about 6,000 people a day.
When the Allies overtook Germany and the war ended, I was a teenager. I would view newsreels showing these death camps before each movie. I saw pictures of the gas chambers and naked bodies stacked like piles of wood; the crematoriums and the tall smoke stacks. I saw the gold and other items extracted from the bodies before cremation. One soldier had a small lamp shade made from the tattooed skin of a victim. All of us who viewed these scenes wondered how a society could tolerate this.
The German population denied knowledge of this holocaust and to some extent, this may have been true as Jews and other victims boxed into traincars did not envision being gassed and cremated. However, the Germans were aware of the treatment of Jews and others. The Germans knew of the incarceration and evacuation of Jews in boxcars to labor camps, yet most did nothing to intervene.
There is an excellent pro-life flyer called “Sing a Little Louder” which recalls the holocaust and the reaction of the German people. It contains a story of an old man who approached pro-life activist Penny Lea after a speech. He told her he had lived in Germany during this time. He was a Christian and every week attended Sunday services. Like most people, he had heard what was happening to the Jews, but like most people he tried to distance himself from reality.
Railroad trains passed behind his small church, and each Sunday morning the parishioners could hear the whistle from a distance followed by the clacking of the train’s wheels as it passed by. The parishioners grimly realized the train was carrying Jews as cattle in those cars. They dreaded hearing the whistle and wheels because they knew the Jews would begin to cry out as they passed the church. It was terribly disturbing to them, but they felt there was nothing they could do to help these poor, miserable people.
They knew exactly what time the train would come by the church, at the same time they would be singing hymns. When they heard the whistle they sang as loudly as possible to drown out the screams.
The old man ended his story by confessing he still hears the train whistle and screams in his sleep. He asks God to forgive all of those who called themselves Christians yet did nothing to intervene.
How many Christians today are doing the same thing in regard to the Abortion Holocaust? The old man said, “It is happening all over again in America with abortion.” More babies are killed in one year in America than were killed in the entire history of Auschwitz.
Another similarity of abortion to Auschwitz is the recent disclosure of 15,000 aborted babies who were incinerated by a British hospital as a heating source. This report of babies burned to heat UK hospitals is a shocking wake up to how callous people are toward abortion It is comparable to the way the Nazi regime treated human life.
Now, I am no longer a teenager, but an old man myself and I engage in sidewalk counseling at an abortion facility in Hagerstown, Maryland. I often plead for people to come and witness in front of the facility. I ask them to do this by holding a sign, or praying or counseling. I see those from local churches walk by and look away. I see those who walk on the other side of the street to avoid us. At most, we get an answer such as, “I will pray for you.”
I think, “Yes, they will pray for us from the comfort of their pews or living rooms while the prayer warriors and counselors are out there for hour after hour in the bitter cold of winter, rain in spring and heat in summer.” Those who say, “I will pray for you” are ignoring the unheard cries of the babies being killed less than a block from their churches. They are ignoring the likelihood these woman going through the abortion will suffer from this for the rest of their lives through depression, breast cancer and even suicide. They will ignore the fact that two thirds of these women are forced into the abortion by boyfriends, husbands, parents or others. I wonder how they manage to distance themselves from reality. I sometimes wonder if they also sing a little louder.