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Krakow R: I think its on a slide show so it might go too fast M: I guess you can stop it and go one by one R: Yeah, right ah M: These are incredible pieces of kit aren’t they?

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Second Interview: Martin Honey, Post-Auschwitz, 26th April 2005
R: Ok so if you could tell me a bit about the pictures.

M: Right Jewish Quarter Krakow

R: I think its on a slide show so it might go too fast

M: I guess you can stop it and go one by one

R: Yeah, right ah

M: These are incredible pieces of kit aren’t they?

R: They are (laughs) right, apart from when they break

(Pause for sorting out the computer slide show)

Martin: Ah there you go

(more sorting out irrelevant)

M: Ok this one and the previous one

town square Jewish Quarter,

this is the Jewish area of Krakow,

that’s a Jewish museum, bookshop, restaurant,

a Jewish café there,

Synagogue here,

we’re just catching a flavour of,

this is an area that was cleaned out by the Nazi’s,

a Jewish Ghetto really and it really

really hasn’t changed that much, not much rebuilding really.
Ria: So have they kind of reclaimed it then?
Martin: Um sure
Ria: OK, That’s good ok;

do you want to press the button

so you can go through them?
M: Yeah um
R: That’s there we are, so you just have to press the thing at the top
Martin: That’s this one
R: Yeah

Main square Krakow just sightseeing

here’s a market with all sorts of wonderful things in,

very inexpensive chess set for ten pounds

in red and white wood beautiful

uh yeah a pleasant way to spend an afternoon

that’s in the centre of the city

same square,

that looks like me there standing pathetically

or maybe it’s not

um I don’t know who the statue is off the top of my head

but that’s the lace market area behind,

so that’s the sort of tourist centre of Krakow,

(p) that’s a sort of old building that looked very impressive in the square

in this main square,

it must be a church I think,

I just liked the architecture and the vivid blue sky

you know terracotta and blue,

uh local musicians on a Saturday afternoon in the square,

no really reason to take it other than to capture a flavour of some traditional dress that they are wearing

and the market hall just behind,

town square again, with a digi camera you can just,

R: (unrecognised)

M: yeah this was a big, big square

and you know with hundreds of photographs on a digi camera you can just

R: Um I love them

M: Uh yes this is just a view of a tram

there are trams everywhere,

rattling and creaking and.

Ria: Nearly running you over (laughs)

Martin: Yeah,

public transport very very cheap

ok (p) Auschwitz first visit,

um it’s come out, (surprise)

we were trying to get the writing,

trying to catch a flavour of you know,

all through the place,

they say there is no bird song, but they didn’t tell me (p)

somebody didn’t tell me that until I was on the way home

and I can’t remember whether I heard bird song or not (laughs)

Ria: It’s one of the like cliché, if you like things that they say,

That everybody says that they go there and there’s no birds singing

Martin: Yeah,

it might be because there is a hawk around or something (laughs),

um again snapshoting just taking snap shots

just to try and pick up a visual image of the place um,

this last sentence you know it’s pretty

sums it up quite well

(points to last sentence on board).

The lucky ones appear to be the ones that were gassed when they arrived,

gate you know dodo,

We’ve got some better pictures through here of the gate,

you know ‘freedom through work’

which is you know the biggest lie they could have told them,

that’s the main way in.

I don’t think the camp was flattened (p)

so it’s sensitive restoration of what was there,

I think Belsen was flattened by the British uh,

just over 60 years ago to the week

and um there’s not much left in terms of buildings,

but I don’t think this was destroyed, the Russians took it

and I think it was more or less kept intacked

and then tidied up over the years really.

Ria: Do you get that as you go through?

Martin: Um you get the feeling that it’s (p) um

for the most part original

but tidied up you know the barbed wire that would have rusted has been replaced

and um its pretty authentic

it feels pretty authentic,

um I can’t see, I can’t find anything written on (p) it being destroyed and rebuilt

and that sort of thing so (p)


Ria: Yes, I was looking at the guide that you gave me

and the only thing that I could find in there was

that they’d rebuilt one of the gas chambers,

but the other place, Auschwitz II isn’t, that has been quite blow up and things.

Martin: Yes Birkenhau,

oh sure when you, we can talk about that,

that comes in latter in the slide show and is a different baby anyway

you know,

it’s bigger and it has a slightly different function

but I think was wreaked by the Nazi’s as they knew

as the Russians were coming they tried to destroy chunks of it

and succeeded to some extent,

so more of that is recreated

and that’s a couple of minutes away,

Birkenau I think it’s called,

it’s really quite close to Auschwitz,

which isn’t Auschwitz in Polish it has actually got another name.

Ria: Um, it begins with an O doesn’t it…?

Martin: Yeah, yeah some sort of Slavic unpronounceable,

so these are just the blocks in Auschwitz,

which are quite solid really

and in them in a lot of them there are exhibitions,

you know things like piles of human hair

and the canisters with the cyclone gas in

and piles of glasses and piles of shoes

and in some of them they’ve left the sort of sanitary arrangements

and the sort of bathrooms if you can call them that

uh and in each block are sort of cells

where people were herded in on you know sort of four high sleeping arrangements,

I mean actually quite comfortable from the outside you know,

sorry in it

Ria: Yes from the outside they look like halls of residence,

M: They do don’t they yeah

R: The sun is shining

Martin: Yeah,

this is sort of in one of the main avenues of the camp, uh

the guide in English is very good

you know I think has become practiced over time

and she was um (p) some of the things that she said were pretty horrific

you know she knew how to wind up the crowd, if you like (laughs)

there were a group of us in a party that were shown around by (p) by this lady

and she was very informative you know

and the things she said were pretty awful (p)

yeah so (thoughtful)

Ria: Why do you think she told you the awful things?

Martin: There’s a degree of creating sensation,

sensationalism a little bit going on

I mean when I think back to what she said,

I mean it was probably what happened

but I think it’s almost a script you know,

it’s been scripted

and um it gathers pace in its horror (laughs)

as you come through the camp.

There are parties here of Jewish pilgrims as you can see carrying the flag,

I mean they’re weeping and whaling all over the place,

it was really very crowded, at the bottom of,

ah yeah this is a post in the main avenue where these poor souls were lined up for hours on end,

twenty-four hours often with no food or water,

just for you know a row, a head count or whatever and

so they were saying.

Ria: Did you find that there were lots of pilgrims there?

Martin: Oh absolutely yes,

lots of Jewish people and people in our party,

elderly people who I didn’t know why they were there but

for some reason and they were very upset and

there was a lot of emotion around the place

and some of the Jewish people you know they were desperately upset

we were watching the groups,

we’ll come back to that I think in a minute,

so these are the canisters that contained the gas so they tell us,

with the tops ripped off, and they were chucked in through the roof (p),

that’s actually piles of human hair

behind a glass screen.

Ria: That must be very old.

Martin: Yes and it looks it

I had minor problems with the camera

(Interruption: someone knocking at door)

Martin: watchtower, taken through a cell window

which had had the bars removed,

And all around the camp

there is this double line of barbed wire which was electrified

and beyond that were these watchtowers at fifty meter intervals or less,

um and apparently the inmates often committed suicide by just jumping onto the fence

or were thrown on the fence or whatever,

I mean it looks as if the,

from what we are told

the guards created conflict between the prisoners,

who attacked each other and did terrible things you know,

everything to humiliate and destroy these people’s mental make-up was going on really,

it was absolutely horrific

I mean you kept thinking that the lucky ones were gassed as they arrived.

Ria: That’s a crazy concept

M: Yeah

R: that you are better off dead.

Martin: Yeah, I mean I

one of the saddest things was the

that when they were herded out of wherever they’d come from,

from a Jewish Quarter in some city in Europe somewhere,

um they were told to take enough food for five days

and their precious possessions in one suitcase,

so they arrive at the camp and step of the train

and are told to put their bags down,

they can collect them after they’ve been showered and sanitised and all the rest of it and of course they never see those cases again,

they’re either led away to be killed straight away

or brutalised for months in the camp

but they never see their cases again and you know all sorts of valuables are still there in piles and archives

that were you know were taken from the suitcases

and huge piles of suitcases too,

sort of 1940’s leather with addresses on

and I think that’s terribly sad,

to trick them out of their possessions

and herd them away to be killed and uh ,

yeah so and all through the visit which took a couple of hours

and there’s some addresses on

and you know there were these huge mounds of many hundreds of cases,

Which are obviously authentic, no-one could sort of recreate them.

Ria: No

I think that is the really upsetting thing

that they had no idea and they think that they were just

going somewhere else,

it makes it even worse.

Martin: Um

That’s right,

this is a spot between two blocks,

which is where many many thousands of people were shot

and there’s a sort of layer in front of the brick that absorbs the bullets

and it’s a memorial for people to come and put their flowers and stuff,

um just stand there in this courtyard (p)

was pretty evocative and um

yeah for all sorts of minor misdemeanours they were tortured and shot

and in the block this way there were um

holding cells where these people were cooped up and intimidated for days

until they were actually stood there and shot.

So that’s again Jewish people were weeping and wailing around this area

and you know it had particular significance for those who were pilgrims,

um yes so it was sunshine now

and that looks quite nice really as a block doesn’t it?

Ria: It’s not the typical media image that you see is it?

Martin: No it isn’t

sort of half decent accommodation (laughs),

solidly built.

Ria: But it was different in the insides?

Martin: In the inside are cell blocks,

are rooms really with beds in some of them,

so you could squeeze many many hundreds of people into each area,

grossly overcrowded and herded in really insanitary conditions,

um so the thing that probably made it horrific

was the sheer volume of people that were squeezed in,

uh in a room for a few people you know,

there were literally dozens and dozens apparently,

uh just sort of views of the blocks,

that was a tower where again

you know people who had done some minor misdemeanour were hung up and left to die

and that was at the point were the work parties passed night and morning

and an example to anyone you know,

um sort of the perpetration of cruelty of the worst kind on people

and they were displayed there often still alive and um

yeah one can only guess what that must have done to the other prisoners and um

yeah, (p)

a point where people were made to assemble

and stand for twenty-four hours and all that sort of jiggery-pokery.

That was the gallows were they hung the governor

or whatever he’s called the man in charge of the came

Rudolph something, (P)

R: Hiess?

M: Something this like that Rudolph Hiss, it’s not Rudolph Hess

but just beyond that way is a beautiful large house where he and his wife and loads of children lived.

Ria: Is it still there, the house?

Martin: Yeah it is actually yeah

Um but he,

you know they had sort of everything done for them by the prisoners

and after the war he was tried and sentenced to death

and that was the gallows constructed to hang him

because he could hang and look down at the camp as he was being executed,

that’s why they did it,

you know he was the man in charge of all that death

and finally they court up with him,

I guess 1945-1947,

Actually the 16th of April 1947

so that’s on the fringe of the camp and just around here there are the gas chambers. This is actually in the crematoria,

you know they take you into the gas chambers

and shut the doors and frighten you and (laughs)

and turn the lights out.

Ria: Do they, do they do that gosh?

Martin: Yeah and there are things in the roof which open um

the gas was dropped in, they don’t actually go that far but for an instant they (p)

yeah and I think they were mildly damaged but reconstructed very soon after

so they’re as close to authentic as they can be.

Those are again Jewish wreaths in memorial,

They were the trolleys that the bodies were put on and pushed into crematoria

where they were burnt at massive heat,

um that’s a particular site for pilgrimage,

that’s the crematoria (P)


Ria: How did that feel when they did that? (p)

Martin: When they shut the door?

Ria: Yes

Martin: Upsetting,

by the time you get to that bit of the tour you are pretty sombre (laughs),

you’re pretty um (p) serious

and um when there are people in the party

who are desperately upset as well,

you know you’re feeling

you’re not far away from being upset yourself,

you know distressed

and so that’s

it isn’t, it’s done pretty gently you know,

and maybe not with all parties

maybe somebody had said

can you shut the door and we’ll see what it feels like

and so they did,

and I would have thought that not all visitors get that,

because this was a specialist tour perhaps,

I would have thought that generally people wandering around

They’re not generally not, they don’t generally shut the door and

And tell them that the shower things are still in the ceiling

In the ceiling

where the gas came out of

and um, they tell you about the procedure

that you know that took place

where they were conned really (p)

and they all have to leave their clothes on

and each is given a hook

and several hundred people were gassed at the same time

and they were given a hook in the changing room,

the auntie room to the chamber,

and they all have to hang their clothes up and be naked

which is really quite a dreadful humiliation for people who are

you know in that point of time

elderly, middle aged men and women all mixed together,

having to strip naked um all sorts of other issues,

and then leave their clothes

they go in for a shower

and then they can come back and reclaim then

and of course they never do

and for some reason they stockpiled the clothes

and other personal items like glasses and stuff

I mean god knows why and much of it found it’s way back to Germany


or some of it found it’s way back to Germany

uh then lead into the so called shower block,

where you know instead of a shower the doors were closed and

and um and the gas comes in

and there were images in another book I had which I have to bring in,

of after the gassing takes place the doors are opened

and there’s a pill of bodies

always in the same order

with the weakest and children at the bottom

and the strongest men at the top

as if they’re clawing their way to try and get out

you know in the moments before they all suffocate

um and there’s sort of images in this book

of um

the fairly standard piles of bodies that were a result

from that form of execution

and I think other prisoners,

other Jewish inmates

were employed to um

you know to get them into the crematoria really

and they lived slightly longer

because they were the labourers who burnt the bodies of their country men or whatever,

pretty horrific stuff (laughs).

I mean this is a this is a,

on the way out this path way towards the exit

and outside of the camp proper

I mean this is an illustration of the electric fencing

with its two layers of electric barbed wire,

which makes it virtually impossible to escape.

Ria: It’s just strange that it’s all still there,

like seeing the pictures of that.

Martin: I mean the guide says that the pillars are original,

That that the pillars

and most of the and most of the insulators are,

they’re obviously replaced the wiring

and it’s not plugged in anymore (ironic laughter)

I think at night this all lights up with the lamps,

which makes it even more eerie and um (p)

ok, we’ve actually left Auschwitz and we’re in Birkenhau


which is a much bigger camp,

this is the rail line in through the gate,

this is the main gate.

Ria: The famous rail line

Martin: Yeah

and inside there’s a,

there it is again the gate,

and you’re allowed to go up to the top of the watchtower which sits on top of that

and gives you a view of the camp,

yeah this is just a view of the exterior looking in,

to give you some idea of the scale of it,

its huge and there wooden blocks rather than um stone built like Auschwitz

much more temporary

much more flimsy

much colder and um

part of the camp that was never reconstructed

was flattened and left flat

um these are the sort of foundations for blocks

which have not been you know they haven’t replaced them of course,

they’ve just left the foundations um

and again looking way down into this huge

and looking way down into this area,

central area with the rail line which um

which comes into the middle

and a huge train would stop

and they could all disembark into the middle of this camp.


these are the wooden (p) the wooden um the wooden huts,

outside again

this is interior of wooden hut,

not a very good picture

but you can just about see the sort of benching where they were all herded into sleep and there might have a thousand people in a hut

all on top of each other with no space.

R: That’s unbelievable

M: Um conditions of the most awful kind,

no lavatories

um just all pushed in for x hours every night

most of them ill with dysentery or diarrhoea

and you know

it must have been absolutely unbearable,

you know four layers of bedding

and in the winter

you know for six months the climate is awful,

you know it’s cold and below freezing in the night,

and um (p)

there is some form of primitive heating here,

which is like a

um some sort of,

some sort of what’s the word

some sort of fire would be lit somewhere

and it would send hot air

but you know often it wasn’t working

or there was no fuel.

a toilet block which is partly reconstructed,

um part of the desperate degradation that went on

through this sort of system,

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