In preparing to write about the commandant of Auschwitz, I traveled to Berlin to see the house at Wannsee where Reinhard Heydrich and Adolf Eichmann met with other high-ranking Nazi officials to discuss Hitler's Final Solution, I visited the Warsaw ghetto and Treblinka where more than 750,000 men, women, and children were killed over a 15-month period, and I drove to Kaunas and Vilnius, Lithuania to the sites where thousands of Jews were murdered by the Einsatzgruppen.
At Auschwitz I, near Krakow, Poland, I walked through the original camp where Höss supervised the murder of thousands of Polish inmates in the courtyard of Block 11, and I saw the barracks where infamous Nazi doctors, like Joseph Mengele, performed barbaric experiments on male and female prisoners. At Auschwitz-Birkenau, I knelt by the railroad tracks that carried hundreds of thousands of Jews to their deaths in the gas chambers, and I walked inside the barracks where prisoners were housed under inhuman conditions.
I thought about what transpired there - - how only time separated me from those events and the horrors perpetrated on so many people. I could not conceive the full extent of the horrors. I wish everyone, especially the young, could visit the hallowed ground of Auschwitz.