Poland – Zubrowkatini

Lest We Forget

While we prefer to take a light-hearted look at virtually everything we cover here at The Sip Advisor, it would be criminal to not touch on the Auschwitz Concentration and Extermination Camp in Poland, as we make our way through the country. So, let’s trudge through this major blemish on human existence and I promise we’ll have a drink together when it’s all over:

There were actually three Auschwitz camps built during the Nazi occupation of Poland. The first camp held Polish political prisoners with the first exterminations taking place in September 1941. Auschwitz II–Birkenau is where most of the execution of Jewish prisoners took place, as the Nazi’s enacted their ‘Final Solution’ plans. Finally, Auschwitz III–Monowitz was a labour industrial camp which served the Nazi war effort.

Auschwitz_Birkenau

A minimum of 1.1 million prisoners were killed at Auschwitz with approximately 90% of them being Jewish. Other victims included the Polish, Romans, and Soviets, although the Nazi’s weren’t exactly picky. The gas chambers were host to mass executions, using the pesticide Zyklon B. Others died as a result of the deplorable conditions, which led to starvation, diseases, and medical experiments.

When entering Auschwitz, prisoners were told that if they worked hard, they would be freed. There was even a banner overhead, en route to the camp that said: “Work Makes One Free” or “Work Brings Freedom,” depending on which translation you find. The sign was stolen in 2009, but found two days later in northern Poland, cut into three pieces, with the believed intention that the sign was to be sold to a Nazi memorabilia collector.

Ironically, 300 Jewish workers were brought in by the Germans to lay the foundation for what became the Auschwitz camp. Sounding like a professional wrestling gimmick match, the camp was surrounded by two rings of electrified barbed wire fences, as well as watchtowers. Auschwitz was the only Nazi camp to tattoo numbers on the left forearm of their prisoners.

Auschwitz Sign

Only 15% of the up to 7,000 Nazi SS members who worked at the camp were later convicted of committing war crimes. Camp Commandant Rudolf Höss and others were executed for their roles in the atrocities. Höss was even executed at Auschwitz, which is like being forced to return to the scene of the crime. In all, the Auschwitz Trials led to 23 death sentences, seven life sentences, and nine other sentences of varying lengths. Only one acquittal occurred, with SS doctor Hans Münch being released when a number of survivors testified on his behalf. Others involved in the operation of Auschwitz were tried in later hearings.

Infamous German doctor Josef Mengele (aka the ‘Angel of Death’… shouldn’t he be known as the ‘Devil of Death’!?) was based out of Auschwitz, where he performed a number of appalling tests on men, women, and children and had a fascination with twins, using them in many of his experiments. He would go so far as to infect one twin with a disease and then kill the other when the sick twin died to perform autopsies on both. He also preferred using dwarfs in his research.

Of an estimated 802 attempted escapes, 144 prisoners successfully fled Auschwitz during its reign of terror. There was also an unsuccessful uprising on October 7, 1944, led by prisoners (known as Sonderkommandos) working at the gas chambers, using explosives smuggled into the camp by women working outside its walls to destroy one of the crematoriums and the gas chamber connected to it. Unfortunately, the revolt was dealt with quickly by the Nazi SS, who only lost three men in the fighting.

Auschwitz Workshops

One famed successful escape involved four prisoners stealing SS uniforms, weapons, and a vehicle, and driving straight through the camp’s main gate without issue. Another couple tried a similar plot two years later, but were captured, tortured, and executed.

The Allies failure to bomb the Auschwitz camp or the train lines leading so many to their deaths has always been a controversial topic. While some argue the Americans and British should have and could have done more, others experts point out that an accurate and precise attack on the site wasn’t possible without great losses.

The Auschwitz camps were finally liberated on January 27, 1945, a day which has since become International Holocaust Remembrance Day. In 1979, on his first tour of his home country, Pope John Paul II performed mass on the train tracks leading to Auschwitz.

Pope at Auschwitz

Anne Frank is perhaps Auschwitz’s most famous prisoner, thanks to the release of her diary years later. Sadly, she actually survived the camp, but died in March 1945 from typhus at the Bergen-Belsen camp. Her father lived until 1980, as he too was left behind when the German’s abandoned Auschwitz. Other well-known survivors include writers Primo Levi, Viktor Frankl, Elie Wiesel (who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986 for his work condemning ethnic violence), and Simone Veil, who became President of the European Parliament from 1979-82. The oldest known Auschwitz survivor, Antoni Dobrowolski, died in October 2012, at the age of 108.

Today, Auschwitz is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to a museum, with exhibits that include prisoner pictures, their belongings, canisters of the Zyklon B pesticide pellets, and more. The location is visited by more than a million people each year.

Poland: Zubrowkatini

Zubrowkatini Cocktail

Mrs. Sip has been to Auschwitz with her sister, while the two of us visited the Mauthausen Camp in Germany in 2007. It was an eye-opening and humbling experience. To finish our travels through Poland on an upswing, here’s a link to a collection of Polish jokes.

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (3.5 Sips out of 5):
It seems nearly every recipe involving Zubrowka Bison Grass Vodka incorporates Apple Juice into the ingredients… until I found this drink. Every time I see Crème de Menthe or Peppermint Schnapps in cocktail recipes, I’m skeptical about how well it will work out. This rendition wasn’t that bad at all. It gives me hope for future experimentation!

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Poland – Warsaw Cooler

Da Freakin’ Pope

Poland has a ton of famous folks to offer as fodder for this Around the World project. Sure, the country can lay claim to dignitaries such as director Roman Polanski, astronomer Nicholas Copernicus, scientist Marie Curie, and musician Frederic Chopin, but the man born Karol Józef Wojtyła in Wadowice, Poland tops them all. That’s because he’s better known as Pope John Paul II… which, I’m led to believe is a pretty big deal. From this point forward, as we learn about the Pontiff, I will refer to his as JP2, his rapping name:

Despite considering a career in theatre as a young man, JP2 became an ordained priest in 1946. 32 years later, at the age of 58, he ascended to the position of Pope, becoming the first Polish Pope ever, as well as the first non-Italian Holy Father since 1522. In between all that, he was appointed Archbishop of Krakow and made a Cardinal (and here I never knew he played baseball (St. Louis) or football (Arizona)).

pope ready to rock

JP2’s reign as Pope lasted more than 26 years, ranking him second all-time for longest tenure as the head of the church. He certainly lasted longer than John Paul I (aka ‘the smiling pope’), who died one month after being appointed. At 58 years old when elected, Wojtyla became one of the youngest Popes in history.

When JP2 made his first trip back to Poland, after becoming the Pope, in 1979, 300,000 people came out to see their famous countryman. At one point during his visit, the crowd applauded for 14 minutes straight. I’m lucky to generate my own slow-clap whenever I serve a drink and nobody seems willing to join in with the ovation.

JP2 was an avid writer and averaged 3,000 penned pages per year during his years at the very top of the church. Combined, his works would equal 20 bibles in length. JP2 can also speak eight different languages. As you little sippers have seen over the years, I struggle with one language and it’s my native tongue! Another random tidbit: JP2 created World Youth Day in 1986 and it has since been celebrated around the world. As someone who is no longer a youth, it kind of sucks to be excluded from this party.

Pope with Bush

In 1981, JP2 was shot in the stomach, right arm and left hand by Mehmet Ali Agca (from Turkey), as his procession entered St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican City. Doctors needed over five hours of surgery to repair damaged done by the attack and the Pope remained in hospital recovering for two and a half months. The assassination attempt occurred on the feast day for Our Lady of Fatima and after he survived, JP2 placed one of the bullets used in his attempted murder in the crown of the Lady of Fatima statue. Shortly after being released from the hospital, the Pope decided to meet with his attacker, although their discussion was kept confidential.

The Popemobile already existed before this attack in various forms, but following the assassination attempt, the vehicle was outfitted with bulletproof glass. Oddly, the site of the murder plot, St. Peter’s Square, often hosts events where the Pope’s vehicle is open air.

popemobile

In 1994, JP2 was named Time Magazine’s ‘Man of the Year.’ This is an honour I’m still holding my breath for, although I’m starting to feel a little light-headed. Of the Pontiff, Time wrote: “His power rests in the word, not the sword… He is an army of one, and his empire is both as ethereal and as ubiquitous as the soul.”

Pope John Paul’s career was filled with apologies to groups harmed by the Catholic Church. In total, he delivered more than 100 public admissions of guilt involving subjects including the African slave trade, Protestant Reformation and burning people at the stake, crimes against women and women’s rights, inactivity during the Holocaust, and, of course, Catholic sex abuse victims. The only time I ever apologize is when I don’t have time to scarf some potato chips and I leave my potato bros hanging.

Making Mrs. Sip furiously jealous, JP2 travelled more than any other Pope in the history of Popedom. If you added up all the miles (775,000) he traversed over his career, you would have been able to travel to the moon and back three times. He appeared in 129 countries and was even the first Pope to enter a mosque.

Pope Computer

A fan of sport and the outdoors all his life, JP2 didn’t give up skiing until he was 73 years old. Can you imagine a dude roaring down the mountain dressed in all white and with that extravagant hat on his head!? Better yet, do you think they converted any of the chairlifts into a bulletproof, Popemobile style transporter!?

JP2 passed away on April 2, 2005 from heart failure, cardio-circulatory collapse, and septic shock. He had also waged a long battle with Parkinson’s disease and was 84 at the time of his death.

Poland: Warsaw Cooler

Warsaw Cooler Cocktail

  • 1 oz Zubrowka Bison Grass Vodka
  • 0.5 oz Spiced Rum
  • 0.5 oz Triple Sec
  • Top with Apple Juice
  • Splash of Lemon Juice
  • Dash of Simple Syrup
  • Drips of Honey
  • Garnish with an Apple Slice

Pope John Paul II sure led a controversial life, but he was easy to cover than Roman Polanski would have been. Something about that long standing sexual assault case would have been too glaring to not spend a fair bit of time and words on. To the Popemobile, my little sippers!

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (4 Sips out of 5):
I’ve wanted to try the Zubrowka Bison Grass Vodka for some time and here the opportunity finally presented itself. The Vodka is very interesting and I’ve already gone ahead and enjoyed it in various cocktails, particularly Caesars! This recipe was pretty damn good. It was a touch sweet, but nothing too dramatic. Them bison’s make some good booze!