JERUSALEM — The neat lines and red rectangular sketches look like any architectural design. But the handwritten initials H.H. — belonging to the infamous Nazi SS chief Heinrich Himmler — indicate what the drawings represent: wooden barracks, gas chambers and crematoria.
Just ahead of the 65th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, Israel's Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem is displaying the blueprints of the notorious camp in Nazi-occupied Poland that has become a symbol of the Nazi genocide of European Jewry. It is the first time the plans will be on display for a wide audience.
Auschwitz was the largest of the Nazi camps where millions of Jews and other minorities were forced to work as slaves. Many died of starvation or exposure. Also, many Jews were herded into gas chambers, the bodies burned in crematoria and their ashes buried in pits. In all, about 6 million Jews were killed by the Nazis and their collaborators.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was expected to attend the exhibition's opening today before flying to Poland to participate in the official commemorations at Auschwitz, where 1.1 million Jews were murdered.