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Birds at Auschwitz ? (1 Viewer)

deborah4

Well-known member
Hi Moose

I visited Auschwitz just after the Berlin Wall came down (can't remember exact date - however, after some great birding in the forests of Zackopane, a trip to the Camp turned deathly silent once we entered through the gates. To be honest, I can't remember seeing any at all, I was just so struck by the silence and everything else of course.
 

moose1991

Alces alces
So is it a case of the human brain not registering the birds there or the actual absence of them?
I was meant to go there in 1993 but it never happened.
 

Grousemore

Senior Member
I remember visiting there in 1998 and (as a birder) the first thing that registered for me was the lack of bird sounds.

The rest of the experience made one forget birds completely.
 

Hanno

Ho Ho Ho
So is it a case of the human brain not registering the birds there or the actual absence of them?
I'd say it is the former. There is absolutely no reason why there shouldn't be a any birds there.
 

Lisa W

Moderator
Staff member
Supporter
Haven't been to Auschwitz, but will say that when I visited Dachau in the 70's and 80's it was silent both times - no birds at all, didn't see any and definitely didn't hear any.
 
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Vectis Birder

Itchy feet
I know someone who was stationed near Belsen in the sixties - he says there were no animals, no birds there at all. He also said that no birds flew over and animals would take a detour round the site than cross it. How true this is or whether he was telling a ghost story I don't know, however this guy isn't one given to hyperbole.
 
I know someone who was stationed near Belsen in the sixties - he says there were no animals, no birds there at all. He also said that no birds flew over and animals would take a detour round the site than cross it. How true this is or whether he was telling a ghost story I don't know, however this guy isn't one given to hyperbole.

It seems believable to me that that kind of horror could leave an echo that animals could sense - even if all they are picking up on is the reaction of the people who go there. I bet everyone who goes to Auschwitz is chilled by it and I can't see why animals wouldn't be able to pick up on human fear (from scent, body language, movement patterns etc) and react accordingly?
 

deborah4

Well-known member
I bet everyone who goes to Auschwitz is chilled by it and I can't see why animals wouldn't be able to pick up on human fear (from scent, body language, movement patterns etc) and react accordingly?

It's hard to put into words the 'feeling' of a place like Auschwitz but moose could have a point about 'mental' blockage, even if you're normally aware as a birder of birdlife around you when you visit various places. On entering the Camp, the first thing visitors do is enter the 'museum/lecture' room and watch a horrific realtime b&w documentary of what went on there. Up to entering, I'd been scanning skies/horizons for raptors etc and was pretty keyed up, but then it's like a complete paradigm shift in perception - birds become the last thing you are aware of other than the very strong realisation that none are singing as you start to walk to the 'huts' and the confirmation that the old adage is true. The gas chambers are also the first building visible from the car park. Bizarrely, there's no reason why there shouldn't be a good population of birds there, the Camp itself has many surrounding trees and the gas chambers are set against a backdrop of healthy woodland. The great wrought iron writing carved into the overhead entrance arch: 'Arbeit macht Frei' (sp?) stops you in your tracks though and the idea of birdwatching not only dissipates completely but belongs to another era - from then on, it's piles of shoes and false teeth and weeping Jewish pilgrims that dominates the conscience. Perhaps a return visit, with the primary objective of focussing on birds and an effort to deliberately 'de-sensitise' yourself with your surroundings may prove birds dwell 'happily' there, abeit silently!
 

paulwfromtheden

Well-known member
It's hard to put into words the 'feeling' of a place like Auschwitz but moose could have a point about 'mental' blockage, even if you're normally aware as a birder of birdlife around you when you visit various places. On entering the Camp, the first thing visitors do is enter the 'museum/lecture' room and watch a horrific realtime b&w documentary of what went on there. Up to entering, I'd been scanning skies/horizons for raptors etc and was pretty keyed up, but then it's like a complete paradigm shift in perception - birds become the last thing you are aware of other than the very strong realisation that none are singing as you start to walk to the 'huts' and the confirmation that the old adage is true. The gas chambers are also the first building visible from the car park. Bizarrely, there's no reason why there shouldn't be a good population of birds there, the Camp itself has many surrounding trees and the gas chambers are set against a backdrop of healthy woodland. The great wrought iron writing carved into the overhead entrance arch: 'Arbeit macht Frei' (sp?) stops you in your tracks though and the idea of birdwatching not only dissipates completely but belongs to another era - from then on, it's piles of shoes and false teeth and weeping Jewish pilgrims that dominates the conscience. Perhaps a return visit, with the primary objective of focussing on birds and an effort to deliberately 'de-sensitise' yourself with your surroundings may prove birds dwell 'happily' there, abeit silently!


I went to Paschaendale last year, my Grandad fought there and speaking to a Belgian ornithologist he said that there is a wierd absence of birds and wildlife generally along the whole of the Ypres salient.
No-one has ever been able to explain it scientifically.
 

Merlin

Well-known member
Auschwitz and Dachau were spookily quiet and another little known camp in a forest near Lake Nieusdle in Austria was downright scary.
On another note, in the small graveyard near Arras where Edward Thomas the poet and naturalist is buried. The birds were amazing with over twenty five species including three types of woodpecker???
Merlin
 

moose1991

Alces alces
Thanks for adding to the thread, it's very interesting reading your views especially from forum-members who have been there.
 

john gardiner

Well-known member
Went there a couple of years ago at New Year when there was several feet of snow onthe ground. I had heard the rumours of there being no bird sound but there was birds (seen and heard) around ( Great Tit, GSW, Cormorants, Corvids) including old House Martin nests on the barracks there. Even saw a group of Roe Deer at Birkenau
 

moose1991

Alces alces
Thanks John.
I see no reason why there would not be wildlife there, that's why I'm glad people like you , who've been there can dispel this myth that won't go away.
 

rozinante

Anarchism is order
Though skeptical of these subjective stories, I haven’t visited these places so can't add anything from my own experience and wouldn't argue with the experiences of others.

I would think though that if there is a noticeable and strong absence of bird and/or other life at these sites, wouldn't someone have done a proper study and confirmed this by now? International renown and perhaps a Nobel prize for being the first with demonstrable scientific evidence for a totally new to science phenomena. It would even be interesting to see if the usual paranormal reluctance to scientific enquiry were to be displayed. That would mean a sudden and unaccountable increase in wildlife occurring I suppose.

No doubt it's a very poignant and somehow apt story, but I can't see how, if such a phenomena as is being implied were genuine, it would not have been confirmed and had a deep impact on all our lives.
 
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matt green

Norfolkman gone walkabout
I wonder if a comparison could be made with the chernobyl site, although with very different histories both sites share a common sense of trauma in a now derelict man made environment.

Though as has been pointed out on this forum the wildlife seems to be thriving at the site of the chernobyl disaster...

Matt
 
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stonechat1

New member
I was about five or six time in Auschwitz in the past time, in different seasons. And I remember that I saw different tits, chaffinches, different sp. of corvides and buntings.
 

Sancho

Well-known member
I was about five or six time in Auschwitz in the past time, in different seasons. And I remember that I saw different tits, chaffinches, different sp. of corvides and buntings.
I know it sounds pretty obvious, but aren´t birds pretty silent everywhere for much of the year? I mean, if you visit the woodland near my house in Spring, you can´t hear yourself think for the birdsong. But if you visit in November, it´s deathly quiet. I´m not trying to support or dispel a belief, just stating the obvious, with apologies.
 

Jos Stratford

Eastern Exile
Europe
Prior to WW2, Vilnius was one of the most important Jewish cities in Eastern Europe - 100,000 Jews in the city (45% of the city's population) with a further 140,000 in neighbouring areas. Only 24,000 survived the war.

Just outside Vilnius, there is the nearest equivalent that Lithuania has to Auschwitz. At this single spot, set in pine forests, about 100,000 Jews were shot and burned. The pits where the executions and burnings took place are still visible. However, though peaceful enough the place is, go there in the spring and it is as alive with birds as any other bit of forest. Only been there perhaps twice, but I remember Golden Oriole, Pied Flycatcher and Wood Warbler.
 
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