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Auschwitz - Birkenau

consentration and

extermination camp.

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Auschwitz-Birkenau was the largest of the German Nazi concentration and extermination camps. Located in occupied by Germany southern Poland, it took its name from the nearby town of Oświęcim (Auschwitz in German), situated about 50 kilometers west of Krakw. The complex consisted of three main camps: Auschwitz I, the administrative center; Auschwitz II (Birkenau), an extermination camp, and Auschwitz III (Monowitz), a work camp. The first two of them have been on the World Heritage List since 1979. There were also around 40 satellite camps, some of them tens of kilometers from the main camps, with prisoner populations ranging from several dozen to several thousand.

The camp commandant, Rudolf H, testifed at the Nuremberg Trials that 3 million people had died at Auschwitz during his stay as a commandant. The death toll given by the Soviets and accepted by many was 4 million. Museum revised this figure in 1990, and new calculations place the figure at 1.1 million about 90 percent of them Jews from almost every country in Europe. Most of the dead were killed in gas chambers using Zyklon B; other deaths were caused by systematic starvation, forced labour, lack of disease control, individual executions, and medical experiments.
More information about this historical place here and here.

Arbeit macht Frei

Camp gate bearing the legend "Arbeit macht frei" or "work makes (one) free. Here, thousands of prisoners went out each day to long hours of arduous labor. In the evening, they returned exhausted, carrying the corpses of those who had died. Here, the camp orchestra played marches intended to facilitate the passage of prisoners on their way to work and returning to the camp.

Auschwitz I

At any time, the Auschwitz I camp held between 13,000 and 16,000 inmates; in 1942 the number reached 20,000.

Auschwitz I

232 000 children

Personal effects collected before they were sent to their death in the gas chambers.

Auschwitz I

Section of fence with watchtower.

SS watchtower

Block 10 Experiments

The German physicians who ran SS and Wehrmacht medical institutions, along with medical personnel at lower levels, participated actively in carrying out Nazi extermination plans. They conducted criminal medical experiments on prisoners and committed other acts that violated medical ethics. Having furthered the extermination program in the concentration camps, they have gone down in history as medical criminals.

Execution Wall

From 1941-1943, the SS shot several thousand people at the Death Wall in the courtyard between Blocks No. 10 and 11. Those who died here were mostly Polish political prisoners, and above all leaders and members of the underground organization, people involved in planning escapes and aiding escapers, and those maintaining contacts with the outside world. Men, women, and even children died here. The SS administered floggings in the courtyard, as well as the punishment known as "the post," in which prisoners were hung by their wrists, which were twisted behind their backs.

Block 11 The death block

Block No. 11 is known as "the death block." It served several functions, of which the most important was that of central camp jail. Here, the SS placed male and female prisoners from all over the camp who were suspected by the camp Gestapo of belonging to the underground, planning escapes or mutinies, or maintaining contact with the outside world. They were subjected to brutal interrogation that usually ended in a sentence of death by being shot or hanged.

Standing Cells in Block 11

The SS incarcerated prisoners guilty of violating the camp regulations in the punishment cells located in the basement. Prisoners sentenced to death by starvation were also placed here in 1941.

Gas Chamber in Auschwitz I

Crematorium and Gas Chamber I in Auschwitz 1 operated from August 15, 1940 until July 1943. According to calculations by the German authorities, 340 corpses could be burned every 24 hours after the installation of the three furnaces. The SS used Zyklon B to kill thousands of Jews upon arrival, as well as several groups of Soviet prisoners of war. Prisoners selected in the hospital as unlikely to recover their health quickly were also killed in the gas chamber.

Gas Chamber in Auschwitz I

Crematorium in Auschwitz I

Furnaces where bodies were burnt in crematorium 1.

Section of fence.

Death Gate - Birkenau

The entrance gate in Birkenau that prisoners called the "Gate of Death" was located in the main SS guardhouse building. Trains carrying deportees entered here on the railroad spur that extended into the camp.

Railroad - Birkenau

Immediately after disembarking from the train, the Jews had to form two columns: women and children in one, and men in the other. SS physicians and male nurses then conducted a selection on the ramp. They divided the strong and healthy from the elderly, the ill, pregnant women, and children. Those classified as fit for work were placed in the camp. The others, usually 70-75% of the transport, were sent to their death in the gas chambers.



Gas Chambers in Birkenau

There where total 5 gas chambers and crematoriums in Birkenau. The Crematorium II and II buildings (ruins of one of them showed on this photo) contained a gas chamber and furnaces for burning corpses. Several hundred thousand Jewish men, women and children were murdered here with poison gas, and their bodies burned. According to calculations by the German authorities, 1,440 corpses could be burned in each of this crematorium every 24 hours. According to the testimony of former prisoners, the figure was higher. At the end of the war, in connection with the operation intended to remove the evidence of their crimes, the camp authorities ordered the demolition of the furnaces and crematorium building in November 1944. On January 20, 1945, the SS blew up whatever had not been removed.

Gas Chambers in Birkenau

Drawing of the gas chamber. Click on the images and zoom in for details.

Inside a brick barrack


Toilet barrack

Really bad sanitary conditions.

Wooden stable-barracks

Wooden stable-barracks was the second type of accommodation for prisoners at Birkenau. The interiors, designed to hold 52 horses, were partitioned into stalls. The stalls contained three-tier wooden bunks. Several hundred prisoners lived in each such barrack. Dampness, leaky roofs, and the fouling of straw and straw mattresses by prisoners suffering from diarrhea made difficult living conditions worse. The barracks swarmed with various sorts of vermin and rats. A constant shortage of water for washing, and the lack of suitable sanitary facilities, aggravated the situation.

Wooden stable-barracks


Brick chimneys belonging to wooden barracks.


Birkenau - watchtower

Let us never forget!

Warning sign in front of the electrified fence.

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