Auschwitz was not a hell-hole at all.
When I was there for three days in 1988, I was stunned by how beautiful many parts of it actually were–especially in comparison with everything else I saw in Poland at that time. The large reception building at the main camp is still used as a reception building, but for tourists–and I am sure the reason is simply that there is nothing better. It is a beautiful building by any standards as far as I am concerned. Most of the buildings at the main camp had been used by the Nazis as hospital wards for a large variety of illnesses and injuries–and the respective buildings still had their markings on the outside to show the various illnesses treated therein.
In 1988 several of these buildings were clearly used as garden apartments by Polish families. Anyone could walk in and stumble their way through tricycles and a variety of children’s toys and household junk. From the outside, most of the windows had curtains showing that they were inhabited.
These buildings generally had masonry floors, flush toilets and terrazzo staircases and were structurally as good as what one could find in most American high schools. Hardly any kind of hellhole at all.
At Birkenau, the barracks were standard, German military barrack construction with well-insulated walls, good heating, probably flush toilets, day rooms–and a lockable locker for each and every inmate. Crowding at times could certainly have been a problem–but Thies Christophersen who was there as a German officer throughout 1944 assured me that prisoners were routinely issued fresh clean straw for their bunks just as every German soldier was given in any standard German military barrack. The spacing of the barracks clearly shows large, open grassy areas between the barracks–hardly needed for an intended hellhole. Christophersen’s point to me was that the treatment of these prisoners was nearly identical to that of German military recuits. In east Germany, after the fall of the wall in 1990 one could actually see many of the same standard, German wartime military barracks still being used for residential housing with one major difference–the addition of TV antennas on the roofs.
Even Jean-Claude Pressac admitted that the crematorium buildings at Birkenau were built and designed with great care–with attention to aesthetics as well to the sensitive nature of any such structures.
Auschwitz/ Birkenau was no hell-hole at all and that, I am sure, was among the many reasons for why people like Elie Wiesel and countless others including Schindler’s 1,000 Jews CHOSE FREELY to retreat to the west with the Nazis, their supposed exterminators, rather then be “liberated” by America’s great ally the Soviet Union.