Thursday, February 7, 2013



The concentration and death-camp complex at Auschwitz-Birkenau was the largest killing centre in the entire Nazi universe; the very heart of their system. Of the many sub-camps affiliated with Auschwitz, Birkenau, or Auschwitz II, was by far the largest. The main camp, Auschwitz I was on the outskirts of the Polish city Oswiecim. Birkenau was in a suburb named Zasole.
The Polish government has maintained the site as a memorial for all those who perished there during World War II. Unlike the main camp at Auschwitz, Birkenau is not a museum, research archive, or publishing house. It is preserved more or less in the state it was found at liberation in January 1945. However, only a few of the wooden barracks remain and are now being restored. The brick barracks and other structures in the women's camp still stand. All four Birkenau crematoria were dynamited by the retreating SS, however their ruins can still be seen.
This photographic exhibit shows the camp as it exists today, empty and quiet. Many hundreds of thousands of people visit here from all over the world each year. Every day one can observe, in addition to people of many lands, numerous bus-loads of Polish students walking the camp with their teachers and guides. These days, thanks to a new treaty and better relations between Israel and Poland, one can observe many Israeli youth with their teachers, visiting the camp.
This is not a pleasant site, not one that will distract from the pressures of everyday existence. But Birkenau, the largest and most lethal of the Auschwitz camps, is as much a part of the world as any aspiration for freedom and peace. In this sense, the authors and publishers of this exhibition feel we need to constantly explore this place and the ideas that created it, in the hope that eventually we will understand why people do such terrible things to other human beings, and why some were able, despite the tremendous role luck played, to find the strength to survive it. The search for this kind of meaning has, as paradoxical as it may sound, enriched our lives.
Since the handover of the site in Auschwitz did not commence until April 1940, the Silesian authorities brought numerous detainees prior to the attack on Western Europe temporarily into the camp of Sosnowiec. Most were deported from there to concentration camps to Germany. On 8 April 1940, the Army released the grounds of Auschwitz. A few days later, Commander Glücks sent a commission headed by the Schutzlagerführer of Sachsenhausen, Rudolf Hoess (Höß), to assess the location, who presumably also put the slogan "Arbeit Macht Frei" promptly on the camp gate. On May 20, the first 30 German "criminal" prisoners arrived from the Sachsenhausen concentration camp in Auschwitz, guarded by 15 members of an SS cavalry unit. They received the prisoner numbers 1 to 30 and were used as "trusties." 300 Jews from Oswiecim had to do the cleaning and clearing and several local Poles performed repairs on the premises. 39 Polish prisoners from Dachau were moved in late May under the direction of SS Unterscharführer Beck to Auschwitz in order to fence off the site, temporarily only.

View of the entrance to the main camp of Auschwitz (Auschwitz I). The gate bears the motto "Arbeit Macht Frei" (Work makes one free"). 
The 14 June 1940, on this date the first transport arrived with 728 Polish prisoners from Tarnow in Auschwitz, thus it is regarded as the official founding day of the Auschwitz concentration camp. Most of these political prisoners were arrested while trying to cross the border from Poland to Slovakia. Since the former barracks had yet to be prepared to accept detainees, they were accommodated temporarily in a building of the former Polish Tobacco-Monopoly. From the beginning of July 1940, the first prisoners were housed in their own established blocks. In August and September a total of 1,666 and later larger shipments which held 1,705 prisoners arrived from Warsaw. The concept of a quarantine camp, or a transit station (Durchgangslager) for prisoners on their way into the Reich was now provisionally revised. Auschwitz concentration camp was a durable detention and torture centre for Poles and expanded during the summer 1940 over the then entire complex. Worse was still to come.
On 10 July 1940, the first satellite camp of Auschwitz at Gleiwitz-Öhringen was established, about 30 prisoners pulled down there a former prisoner of war camp. The thus obtained barbed wire fence was used at Auschwitz. Most of the prisoners were employed as forced labourers in the construction of a new camp. Until October 1941 Sergeant August Schlachter served as head of the SS New Construction Office at Auschwitz (Chef der SS-Neubauleitung KL Auschwitz) The prisoners levelled the former horse riding arena, removed the old plaster on the outside walls of the barracks, and built a prison kitchen, (up till then a field kitchen between Units 1 and 2 had been used by the prisoners). Crematorium I and a shack at the entrance for the block leader was completed, the former stable buildings became workshops. By the end of 1940 the wooden fence posts had been replaced with concrete posts, and some prisoner work details started to build additional blocks that usually which usually had only one level.

View of the kitchen barracks, the electrified fence, and the gate at the main camp of Auschwitz (Auschwitz I). In the foreground is the sign "Arbeit Macht Frei" (1945)
The establishment and expansion of the "SS-interest area" around Auschwitz had security and economic reasons. On June 19, 1940 for the first time, Poles who lived in the shanty colony at the railway side of the Polish Tobako-momopol-building were evacuated in order to put a depot there for building materials. One part of the inhabitants was taken to the camp at Sosnowiec and later moved from there to Auschwitz. About 250 were taken into the German Reich and used as forced labourers there. As the Higher SS and Police Leader Erich von dem Bach-Zalewski visited the concentration camp, after the first successful escape of a prisoner on July 6, 1940, he ordered to expel the Polish population from the area within a five miles radius of the camp. The responsible branch of Katowice re-settlement central office moved on 8 July 1940 and on 1 April 1941, the residents of the district Zasole of Oswiecim. In some of the vacated houses SS leaders and their families moved in. 

Erich von Bach-Zelweski
[Von dem Bach-Zelewski was born into a Kashubian family (of Slavic origin) to Otto Jan Józefat von Zelewski, a Roman Catholic, and his Lutheran wife Elzbieta Ewelina Szymanska (written in German legal documents as Schimansky). Born Erich Julius Eberhard von Zelewski, he legally added "von dem Bach" to the family name late in 1933. He went on to have the Polish sounding "Zelewski" officially removed from his name in November 1941
After the war, Bach-Zelewski went into hiding and tried to leave the country. However, US military police arrested him on 1 August 1945. In exchange for his testimony against his former superiors at the Nuremberg Trials, Bach-Zelewski never faced trial for any war crimes. Similarly, he never faced extradition to Poland or to the USSR. He left prison in 1949.
In 1951, Bach-Zelewski claimed that he had helped Hermann Göring commit suicide in 1946. As evidence, he produced cyanide capsules to the authorities with serial numbers not far removed from the one used by Göring. The authorities never verified von dem Bach-Zelewski's claim, however, and did not charge him with aiding Göring's death. Most modern historians dismiss Bach-Zalewski's claim and agree that a U.S. Army contact within the Palace of Justice's prison at Nuremberg most likely aided Göring in his suicide.
Also in 1951, Bach-Zelewski was sentenced to 10 years in a labour camp for the murder of political opponents in the early 1930s; however, he did not serve time until 1958, when he was convicted of killing Anton von Hohberg und Buchwald, an Sturmabteilung officer, during the Night of the Long Knives, and was sentenced to four and a half years imprisonment. In 1961, he was sentenced to an additional 10 years in home detention for the murder of 10 German Communists in the early 1930s. None of the sentences referred to his role in Poland, in the East, or his participation in the Holocaust, although he openly denounced himself as a mass murderer. He died in a Munich prison on 8 March 1972. sic]

After the visit to Auschwitz on March 1, 1941 Heinrich Himmler ordered to set up in the area around the Concentration Camp, production facilities and farms. On March 8 the villagers of Plawy had to leave their homes, from 7 to 12 April, the residents of Babice, Brszkoeice, Brezzinka (Birkenau), Budy, Harmęże (Harmense) and Rasko followed. They were either deported to the General Government or quartered with family groups in houses vacated by the Jewish inhabitants in Oswicim. Only Poles, which were required by the German occupiers as labourers in coal mines, on the railways and in the newly established German companies were allowed to remain.
With the resettlement of the population the 'Area of Interest' extended over about 40 square Kilometers and was from the north, from the east and from the west partly enclosed by the Vistula and respectively by the Sola river. South-west, it reached back to the village and Brzeszcze to the south the village of Bielany. At the same time new factory type Barrack-workshops had been developed since 1942 and 1943, the prisoners were producing mainly for the Auschwitz Central Construction Company, windows, doors, parts for the gas chambers and crematoria, furniture for the accommodation of the prisoners and the SS, as well as windows and furniture, for makeshift homes (Behelfsheime) for those that had been bombed out in the Reich. Since 1942, the Army ordered from the DAC facility Auschwitz, ammunition boxes, wagons for transporting ammunition and skis, since January 1943 there was a maintenance shop for military vehicles. In October 1943, the DAW built and managed in Auschwitz a factory for dismantling downed aircraft's. The German SS own Food GmbH maintained in the "Area of ​​Interest" a slaughterhouse, a bakery, a grain mill, a dairy farm and operated the canteens. By 1944 they employed 300 to 500 inmates.

Factory I.G. Farben factory at Auschwitz" 
The interest group Farben Industrie AG, based in Frankfurt, had emerged in 1925 from the merger of Germany's leading companies in the chemical industry, namely BASF, Bayer-Leverkusen, Agfa, and Hoechst. The chemical group was the largest German company in general, linked with the Dynamite Nobel AG and Rheinisch-Westfälische Sprengstoff AG and was involved in many foreign companies. In the German armaments industry, IG Farben had a supporting role, not least because of the production of fuel and synthetic Kautschuk- Buna. [Kautschuk-Buna or Buna are the German expression for synthetic rubber, there is no translation, sic]. In agreement with state authorities, IG Farben established production for Buna in Schlopau at Leuna in eastern Germany (Buna I, 1937) and in the Ruhr area (Buna II, Construction, 1938, production from October 1940). The construction of a third plant at Rattwitz in Upper Silesia, begun in early 1940, was discontinued in July 1940. Instead Buna III was built at Ludwigshafen, strategically for the company a better site. From a business criteria point of view the production over natural rubber was twice as expensive at these production sites, however, for the market in times of conflict it was more than justified and a necessity under war condition, [Used tyres for agriculture were normally reconditioned, sic]. Germany had no access to natural rubber.
Dosing of a plant for the production of synthetic rubber Buna"
With the course of the war, when, after the Battle of Britain, a long conflict was probably anticipated, the state control planning of the economy dominated the final business plans of the Group, supporting a market strategy and sales opportunities played the major role in this decision. I.G.Farben's own planning committee asked for an expansion in Hüls as a fourth Bunawerk which would give them superfluous capacity, but the Group could not prevail against the urging of the Reich Economics Ministry, that Buna IV should be located in eastern Silesia, secured against air-strikes as this was now directed on the territory of the German Reich.
In December 1940, during discussions, Auschwitz was selected as a location, in February 1941, the preliminary decision were confirmed, only one problem remained, after the infrastructure issues were clarified- and was still open for question: Would enough workers be available? The staff responsible for the site selection, board member of I.G. Farben, Otto Ambros had made ​​very disparaging comments about the "folk composition" that was available, because the expected performance of Poles and the ethnic Germans was low and usually sloppy. Basically, the management of the chemical company was compliant with the Ideologue and policies of National Socialism, which was planning the evacuation of the indigenous Poles and the deportation of the Jewish population out of the formerly Polish territory to have it Germanized ("einzudeutschen".)
On February 6, 1941 the Executive Board of I.G. Farben decided to build the plant Buna IV at Auschwitz. The meeting, was attended by the directors Ambros, ter Meer and Karl Krauch, and ended with the declaration of intent, to make contact "because of settlement of German labour in Auschwitz with Reichsführer SS Himmler". Open remained the opinion of the "Reichs Commissioner for the Consolidation of German Nationhood": or that of the gentleman for concentration camps meant, whether I.G. Farben had to wait for the colonisation policy of German population or use slave labour. Historical research has been working for some time with the interdependence of a population policy, economic interests and the development of the concentration camp system, which culminated in a concentration- and extermination camp at Auschwitz, depending on the location of the political priorities in choosing the location for enterprises - ideology or market strategy- were seen differently by participating parties.
After Göring approved as head of the Four Year Plan the project, the Reichsführer of the SS decreed on 26 February 1941, that the Jewish population of the town of Auschwitz was to be "relocated" immediately to free up housing for construction workers of the Buna plant, but the Polish workers suitable for the construction work should not be expelled from the area and that the project should be supported "by the prisoners from the concentration camp to every possible extent."
Picture taken during the visit of Heinrich Himmler at the I.G. Farben factory in 1942"
The decisive factors for the choice of location of Auschwitz, for IG Farben were the convenient transport connections, sufficient raw material and water supply and the working potential of the concentration camp. Himmler visited for the first time the Auschwitz concentration camp a few days after he had instructed all SS agencies to support the project Buna IV, (even without knowledge of structure, size and requirements of the proposed plant), the camp should be built for a capacity of 30,000 prisoners, a third of which would be provided as slave labour to the Buna plant.
The plans changed in the spring of 1941, insofar as the I.G. Farben from the Reich Office of Economic Department received the additional order, the establish at the site of Auschwitz a fuel plant (which was originally intended to be built by the Silesia-Petrol Company). The first person responsible for the Buna plant was engineer Walther Dürrfeld who was appointed a few months later as leader for the entire project. As a partner to the concentration camp commandant, he negotiated the economic framework of the prisoner's remuneration (contingent of labour, accommodation, payment etc). For skilled workers four RM (Reichsmark) had been agreed as the standard wages, for unskilled workers three RM (Reichsmark) to be paid in favour of the SS. [It is not clear the amount an individual prisoner received, it must have been in some form of script money as they were able to purchase items from their own canteen, and pay for a visit for a duration of fifteen minutes to the brothel at Block 24, sic] The entire part of these negotiations was based on the illusory health and physical condition of the prisoners with a performance of 75 percent compared to ordinary German workers. Not taken into account was the missing motivation of slave labour. As a tool to enhance productivity strict discipline and punishment in the consensus between industry and KZ were agreed. Supervisors, foremen and other company employees ( as the numerous contractors and subcontractors of IG Farben ) were there beside SS guards as authority over the prisoners.

The Auschwitz Brothel
Mid-April 1941 began the land development. The construction period should have been two years. The project was generously funded by government subsidies and tax breaks, for a total cost of about 600 million Reichsmark, it was one of the largest industrial projects of the "Third Reich" during World War II. The intention of the German colonisation of the East was linked to the site of Auschwitz with the transfer of modern technology as a prestige object, and should show the National Socialist racial ideology practised [as superior,sic] against Poles and Jews alike as well as terror and repression towards opponents and known enemies of the state. The building of I.G. Farben was like the concentration camp, part of the realisation of the "model city"(Musterstadt) Auschwitz. Although disadvantages were accepted as to the unfavourable soil conditions, only with special efforts a foundation for the factory building was overcome, (This was one of the reason that between late April and late July 1941, the project was again seriously threatened).
As a "construction commando" about 100 prisoners worked there initially who had to cover the six to seven-Kilometre walk to work and the way back to the main camp on foot. These partly skeleton individuals walked through the centre of the city and was noticed by many. As of July 29, 1941, they were transported in a freight train - yet the job performance was not increased due to the long waiting time during roll calls, but it saved on security guards. In December 1941, almost 1.000 prisoners were used for the construction detachment at Buna, but during the winter, the deployment of prisoners was reduced to 80 to 100 men. In May 1942, progress had to be made again and 1.600 prisoners were employed on the construction site.

'Forced labour at the construction of a Krupp's factory in Auchwitz'
Due to a typhus epidemic in the main camp (Stammlager) and Birkenau from July 21, 1942 prisoners could no longer be used for I.G. Farben. Other problems had to be fixed in the camp with the help of I.G. Farben. In March 1942, the company provided for the expansion of the camp desperately needed construction materials worth two million Reichsmark from their own budget. The collaboration was positive in a number of ways not only for the industrial group. Director Ambros had written soon after the first meeting of company representatives with Commandant Höß (Hoes) on 27 March 1941 to his colleagues ter Meer and Struss, it has results that our friendship with the SS is beneficial'. The agreement was amicable and was practised at all levels, during a Christmas party of the SS at the concentration camp which was attended by city officials and employees of the I.G. Farben, and vice versa, men and officers from the camp celebrated with the management team and other members of the emerging factory.
During summer 1942, I.G. Farben made the proposal for the accommodation on their own premises for concentration camp prisoners working in their factory, at "Residential Camp IV" Dorfrand", which was previously built for civilian workers, and was not used. The construction program for other accommodation although partly completed was crowded, so an abundance of capacity was available at camp IV. The SS agreed, but the lack of barbed wire delayed the planned start to October 15, 1942 for the completion of the camp. A transport of prisoners from Buchenwald, 405 Jews, had to be redirected to the main camp, ten days later, another transport with 499 prisoners from Buchenwald were sent for the Buna-works to Auschwitz. The completion of the "residential camp IV"was then delayed again because the concentration camp commandant demanded the construction of a prison, a morgue (for 30 to 40 bodies) and a dissecting room within the camp proper first. That for the company was an indication of the condition prevailing for prisoners that worked in their Buna factory. 
On 30 October 1942, a total of 2,100 prisoners were during a roll call selected from the main camp to be transferred to the new satellite camp, (Außenlager) and on 31 October transported there. These were mainly German Jews who had been deported to Auschwitz shortly before. As prisoners functionaries German "criminal" inmates were selected. With the arrival of the prisoners in "Residential Camp IV" begins the story of the sub-camp Monowitz.

The I.G. Farben Trial, Source:

Only in the case of Auschwitz, where I.G. Farben had constructed a plant next to the concentration camp with the clear intent to use inmates as slave workers, did the tribunal consider the evidence sufficient to prove that I.G. Farben acted on its own initiative. The tribunal concluded that the defendants could be held responsible only for this one case.
Otto Ambros Head of the chemical warfare committee at the war ministry, production chief for Buna and Auschwitz, received: 8 years including time already served; died 1990
Fritz ter Meer Head of department II, which was in charge of the chemical plant in Buna near Auschwitz, received: 7 years, including time already served; died 1967
Walter Dürrfeld Head of construction at Auschwitz plant; head of construction at Monowitz (Auschwitz III), received: 8 years including time already served; died 1967
In World War II, an I.G. Farben subsidiary, Degesch, manufactured Zyklon B, the poison gas used at the extermination camps (the other supplier of the gas was the firm Tesch & Stabenow). IG Farben also developed processes for synthesizing gasoline and rubber from coal, and thereby contributed much to Germany's ability to wage a war despite having been cut off from all major oil fields. The charges consequently centred on preparing to wage an aggressive war, but also on slave labour and plundering.
Of the 24 defendants arraigned, 13 were found guilty on one or the other counts of the indictment and sentenced to prison terms ranging from one and one half to eight years, including time already served; ten defendants were acquitted of all charges.
The defendants in the dock on the first day of the  trial".


When the war began, Oswiecim was renamed within weeks after the German occupation back to"Auschwitz", a small town of about 14.000 Polish inhabitants, 60 percent of whom were Jews. There was not a significant German minority. The population composition was characteristic of a racially inferior mix within the 'Eastern Part of Upper Silesia',( Ost-streifen Oberschlesiens),which had during the Nazi Germanization therefore a subordinate priority. Initially, it even served as a reception centre for deportees, considered as a racially undesirable population from western areas during the local Germanization. Due to the influx of deported Silesian Jews in 1940 to Auschwitz, the Jewish community had grown even further and from November, separated by police that guarded the city limits from the rest of the centre of Auschwitz had become de facto a ghetto. Around the vicinity of the railway station of Zasole at that time was the better part of the city were the Germans and ethnic Germans (Volksdeutsche) lived, but the Poles occupied the poorer houses. A third element affecting the city was the concentration camp built in 1940, and summer of 1940 the SS settlement was added that soon changed the characteristics of a district and housed thousands of SS men with their families, yet it offered other residents many other welcomed amenities.
With the establishment of the I.G. Farben plant in spring 1941 and of the massively accelerated Germanization, Auschwitz became the town in a very short time the 'Model of Eastern Settlement'. It relied upon the brutal expulsion of Jews and Poles, and the new arrival of Reich- and ethnic Germans, coupled with the measures taken with the significance of the I.G. Farben project which was given the highest priority, it showed the required results. Back in April 1941, much earlier than in other parts of the "Eastern Strip", where the deportation of Jews from the city and the resettlement of resident Poles were carried out into less attractive neighbourhoods was part of it. Through tax and wage privileges, entrepreneurs, farmers and businesses from the Reich were also motivated to settle. In reshaping the city as a Showcase Settlement and of a German Bulwark in the East, not only the company of IG Farben, but others benefiting of a racial population policy through the possibility of exploiting slave labour played a central role in this.
After the deportation of the Jews from the city in early April 1941, the non-Jewish Poles in the city were subjected since March 1941, into the racial-ethnic classification of the German People's List, which decided by citizenship, ancestry and racial criterias about the wider social, economic and political status and categorised the population into four groups.
However, the daily life in the settlement was difficult, because despite the large-scale urban planning program not even basic municipal functions, such as the provision of drinking water and sewage disposal were sufficient, and because of the many unfinished I.G. temporary settlements that had been built too far away. Typhus and dysentery were rife. Apart from the substantial tax benefits, salary incentives, training and family allowances for newcomers, but also the ideological conviction of many, Protagonists claiming to spread German culture into the Eastern Settlements, (the Ostsiedlung), was one of the main reasons that still drew German nationals to Auschwitz, and the fact that the region was long spared from air raids. Auschwitz had of all the cities in the district of Bielsko the highest increase of settlers from the Reichsland. The immediate neighbourhood of the concentration- and extermination camp, the smell occasionally of burned flesh and bodies found along the railway tracks leading to the camp became noticeable and otherwise could hardly be ignored but obviously bothered no one, newcomers were seeking their own carrier and perused their own daily life's. Although the population became aware of rumours and speculations about the horrific events in the camp, it did not come to any type of protest. Eastern settlements for racial quality and the mass destruction facility for residents of the racially inferior, were part of their coexistence and the functional interdependence of the two sides which were of the same coin, both in the ideology of Germanization of the East and cultural superiority was in most cases the individual perception of many German residents in Auschwitz arriving from the Reich.

Auschwitz Orchestra'.Prisoners' orchestra during a Sunday concert for the SS-men in Auschwitz. 
The orchestra was probably conducted by the inmate Franciszek Nierychlo
In the model city of Auschwitz there was an active cultural life. The camaraderie of the Waffen SS was home to ​​guest actors and musicians such as Dieter Borsche, who was then head of the city performing arts in Breslau and after 1945 became famous as a film actor. Borsche reported that he had played in the winter of 1943 in the Auschwitz death camp in front of the local SS guards. The actor had been generously hosted and served by prisoners. The cultural events were organised by SS Sergeant Knittel, which he had joined there in October 1941 responsible for troop entertainment and indoctrination and schooling in 'Politische Weltanschauung'. The programs were adapted to the taste and the comprehension of the audience, which gladly offered Pot-puris, Colourful evenings or Operettas. On February 15, 1943 members of the Saxon State Theatre Dresden were heard with "Goethe seriously and cheerful", given by the city theatre of the Moravian Ostrava city theater,(with musical director Joseph Keilberth and state actor Paul Hoerbiger) the municipal stages of Katowice performed drama and operetta productions and came regularly to Auschwitz, the Viennese Burgtheatre and the Vienna State Opera, as well as ensembles from Berlin went there as well. The Katowice theatre also gave regular performances for the SS and soloists of the State Theatre of Bytom (Beuthen) finished the Christmas party for the concentration camp personnel on 11 December 1943 by an artistic performance. [In other words: ["Das war das Leben eines Herrenvolkes, there were a number of of other stage performances by different groups which I have omitted, sic]

On 1 March, Himmler visited Auschwitz and ordered the following expansion of the camp for up to 30,000 prisoners, the establishment of a POW camp for 100,000 prisoners in Brzezinka (Birkenau), and the provision of 10,000 prisoners for the construction of the I. G. Farben plant in Monowitz. The conceived development plan of June 1941, projected the increase in the barracks complex of 33 two-storey blocks, the construction of 32 buildings in the north of its protective custody extension, a new headquarters and a SS  settlement. Between the barracks complex and the prison camp expansion, space for 30,000 inmates as a roll call area (Appellplatz) was planned. After a design of February 1942 on the grounds of the protective custody extension further 18 buildings should arise. The construction of an additional crematorium was also projected, but was, after the establishment of Auschwitz II Birkenau in fact at that stage, not pursued.
In May 1941, the construction of eight other blocks had begun, the completion lasted until 1942. The numbering of the blocks was changed in August 1941. The completion of the camp took significantly longer to accomplished than planned and did not stand up to the demands of the growing number of incoming prisoners. The Master Plan by the end of 1942 finally saw the establishment of a total of 78 two-story buildings, a roll call square, a new Headquarters, an SS settlement and an SS barracks. Eventually it was realised to increase the construction of single storey barracks and the construction of eight new buildings, which included the reception building on the former military site, 20 buildings on the site of the prison camp which served as SS accommodation, living quarters for prisoners, and magazines which were all completed in early 1944, but for some reasons on October 1, 1944 this sector was set up as a women's camp.
The first commander appointed to the Auschwitz concentration camp on 4 May 1940 to 11 November 1943 was SS-Obersturmbannführer Rudolf Hoess (Höß), who was later transferred as Head to the D I-Central Office in the SS- Economic-WVAH Department. Due to the rising prison populations and the expansion of the Auschwitz concentration camp complex, it was restructured on 22 November 1943 into three formally independent main camps with its own administration: Auschwitz I, the main camp, Auschwitz II-Birkenau and Auschwitz III-Monowitz as a sub- camp. Birkenau and Auschwitz III had their own commanders and their independent Camp Security Sections. The subsidiary (sub) camps, which were previously partially run on their own was now assigned to the main camp (Stammlager) Auschwitz III, only the agricultural enterprises, Rajsko, the farmyards, Budy and Birkenau, Harmense, Bablitz and Plawy belonged administratively to Auschwitz II-Birkenau.
On 25 November 1944, the Auschwitz complex was again reorganised: Auschwitz II-Birkenau was in turn subordinate to the main camp and renamed Auschwitz III-Monowitz. All sub-camps were now administrated by them. Josef Kramer was assigned as commander of the concentration camp of Bergen-Belsen. Richard Bauer since May 11, 1944 was the last commander of the main camp (Stammlager), and since 29 July 1944, appointed as Site-Elder of Auschwitz. Camp commandant of Auschwitz III-Monowitz was since the re-organisation in November 1943 until its evacuation SS-Hauptsturmführer Heinrich Schwarz.
The hierarchical organisation of the SS was made up of six departments in Auschwitz and followed the guide lines as used in all other concentration camps: Commandant Rudolf Hoess (Höß) had unlimited powers over all sections.
Department I, "commander", managed by the adjutant and reported to the commandant, who acted also as deputy commander. This included the welfare of SS staff, official correspondence and the supply of the troops with weapons. Overall, from 1940 to 1945 a total of seven adjutants had been engaged there.
Department II of the "political department", was an agency of the Secret Police and Gestapo within the concentration camp. They kept the personnel records of all prisoners and conducted police interrogations. In  Auschwitz, the Head of the Political Section imposed countless death sentences on both prisoners and against civilians as well. Until December 1, 1943, this was SS-Sturmbannführer and Criminal Secretary Maximilian Graber, who was notorious for its brutality. Following him until the dissolution of the camp was SS-lieutenant and Detective Secretary Schulz.
Department III was subordinate to the officer in charge of Camp security (Schutzhaftlagerführer), who was a deputy commander and supervisor of the SS commando and labour service, responsible as Rapport and Block Leader for the work input of the prisoners. Officer in charge for camp security until 1 February, 1942,  was SS-Hauptsturmführer Karl Fritsch, followed by SS-Hauptsturmführer Hans Aumeier, who later became commander of the concentration camp Vaivara in Estonia, who was replaced on 16 August 1943 by SS-Hauptsturmführer Heinrich Schwarz. He was appointed on 22 November 1943 after the reorganisation as commandant of Auschwitz III, followed by SS-Hauptsturmführer Franz Johann Hofmann as Schutzhaftlagerführer in the main camp. As Hofmann was transferred in May 1944 to the Natzweiler concentration camp holding the same position, he was replaced by SS-Hauptsturmführer Franz Hoessler (Hössler). The Labor Input Section was later on until August 1943 in charge of Heinrich Schwarz, then headed by SS-Obersturmbannführer Max Sell.
Department IV was the administration. This was led from 1 June 1940 to October 1940 by SS lieutenant Max Myer followed by SS-Hauptsturmführer Rudolf Wagner, who was replaced on July 15, 1942 by SS-Sturmbannführer Wilhelm Burger, who later became Chief of Section (Amt) D IV in the SS Economic WVHA. The last Director of Administration was SS Lieutenant General Karl Ernst Moeckel (Möckel).
Department V was the SS garrison physician, who was responsible for the prisoner and the medical staff. Chief of this department up to October 1941 was SS Hauptsturmführer Max Popiersch, there were frequent changes from 2 May 1942, it was SS-Obbersturmführer Oskar Dienstbach until May 10, 1942, then Siegfried Schwela, to 16 August 1942 then came SS First Lieutenant Franz Freiherr von Bodmann, until September 1942, who wa followed by SS-Hauptsturmführer Kurt Uhlenbrook and finally the longest lasting was SS Sturmmbannführer Eduard Wirths.
Department VI governed the troop care, welfare and education of members of the SS.[Very complicated and confusing,sic]The camp commander was responsible for the supervision of all the SS guard units, [some of them had been foreign nationals,sic.] In March 1941 there were about 700 SS guards deployed, in June 1942, 2000, in April 1944 2950, in August 3342 and finally on January 15, 1945 4481 SS men and 71 women guards(Aufseherinnen)

A Physician and a Little Girl in Trzebinia, a Sub-Camp of Auschwitz"
The prisoners were initially sleeping crowded on the floor, and there was virtually no sanitation. It led to permanent lack of sleep, which accelerated the physical exhaustion. Even after the three-story bed-building frames had been built, the accommodations were crowded. Until the very end several prisoners had to share one bed. Awaken tat 4 o'clock in the morning, bed-making and trying to wash despite the lack of sanitation in a tearing hurry a little, Get Coffee, standing roll call, forming of the work details, march, accompanied by the playing of the camp orchestra. The working time was eleven hours, often had to be carried at a run. With  "quick, quick," the prisoners were driven incessantly. The SS dogs rushed to the defenseless and shot and killed at random prisoners. In the evening return to the camp had to be dead or seriously injured along. Prior to the issue of food often many hours protracted evening roll call was to survive, of the came to an end only when the number of all registered prisoners coincided with the presence. Was an escaped prisoner, a criminal was scheduled roll call, which, as at July 6, 1940 after the flight of Polish prisoners Tadeusz Wiejowski could take 19 hours. "It was a terrible night," recalled the survivor Henryk Krol, "in the morning were all shaking from the cold. The rays of the rising sun brought only for a short time relief. Soon it was blazing hot and the pain increasing. One after another fell. the powerless were doused with water. "
At night, the prisoners were not allowed to leave the accommodation. The food was from the beginning completely inadequate and resulted in a few weeks to complete exhaustion. Hunger-related diseases such as diarrhoea and typhoid were the result. Bread was equated with life, and stealing bread was the worst crime that was often punished by death. From the autumn of 1942 food parcels from relatives were allowed to be received. Red Cross parcel as from 1943 arrived at Auschwitz. Jews and Soviet prisoners were excluded. Unlike other concentration camps, where food parcels helped many prisoners to supplement their starvation rations, the theft at Auschwitz by the SS and corrupt functionary prisoners was so great that parcels brought no real improvement in the food situation. Only those who at work assignments or through illegal exchanges could 'organise' additional food and had a chance not to fall victim to hunger. 

Interior of a barrack type 260/9-Pferdestallebaracke (stable barracks). (After January 1945)"
The prisoners, except for "Night and Fog",(Nacht und Nebel) and Jewish prisoners and Soviet prisoners were allowed to receive mail twice a month from their families and write two letters in return . All letters had to be written in German and were strictly censored, 'I'm healthy and I feel fine', was the standard set for the family, at least a sign that the detainee was still alive. This was the only contact that was allowed to the outside world. Through contacts with civilians, mainly Polish prisoners succeeded to convey uncensored letters and messages to their loved ones outside.
Besides food, the workplace was the most important factor of which the preservation of health and vitality of a prisoner depended. The department in de 'labour input' department maintained a prisoners daily work schedule for the work details in which the exact number of skilled and unskilled workers was recorded for an  individual site. In four card files, name, prisoner number, occupation, and work details were recorded of each prisoners and brought up to date every day.
In the early phase of the main camp, the majority of prisoners were used in the expansion of the camp. First, the Main Camp (Stammlager) should have taken 10.000 prisoners, however, in the spring of 1941, the number was increased to 30,000. The prisoners constructed barracks and topped up the former Garrison (Kaserne). They built solid brick constructions for a kitchen, laundry, and the Political Department, as well as workshops, guard towers, several kilometers of roads and fencing. They often had to work without technical aids with primitive tools, serious accidents occurred , fatalities were commonplace.

Camp kitchen
Prior to the time of commissioning the Auschwitz camp, prisoners worked primarily in all concentration camps in the SS-owned enterprises. In the main camp in 1941 began the construction of a DAW complex of  workshops (Deutsche Ausrüstungswerke),[German Armament Factories,sic] which began production in August 1941. From about mid-March, 600 prisoners worked there in two shifts. Until the end of 1944, the number had increased to 4000. The expansion was delayed again and again, until at the end of 1943 the scheduled six factories were completed. Among them included a joinery and carpentry workshop and a locksmith (Schlosserei) workshop. As early as 1940 prisoners of Auschwitz were sent to work in agriculture. Until 1941, in the vicinity of the camp six farms were established in which one had the possibility to take additional food, on the other hand it was here that a very strict control was exercised. In addition, work at the outside area was severe and debilitating. The prisoners worked for the supply of the camp kitchens, latrines, in the infirmary, as pallbearers, in the administration and in the offices of the SS. In general terms a job under the roof was preferred rather then a commando in the open. The prisoners, who were working directly in the service of the SS had better clothes and the ability to keep themselves clean. The SS men were afraid of contagious diseases and made certain prisoners came up to their required standards. At the same time the prisoners that went there, were direct witness's of the organisation of crimes that were committed and easily in danger of being liquidated.

Forced labour in a locksmith shop in Auschwitz, 1942-43."
Although all prisoners had to work, yet the number of prisoners who were sent to work in fact was considerably less than the total number of detainees held. During the fall of 1940 from a total of 5000 prisoners only about 80% were able to work, this figure fell in the following years to less than 60%. The rest of the prisoners were in quarantine, or in detention of the prison jail. There were prisoners who were awaiting transfer to another camp and others who had been singled out for execution and awaiting their death. The introduction of a penal company formed in August 1940 which meant certain death by hard labour and torture that went from ice cold showers through to forced suicide by hanging. The preferred prisoner functionaries in the penal company were those which had already distinguished themselves by their brutality and arbitrary killing of fellow inmates. While trying to escape, some 400 prisoners from the penal company in July 1942, only nine prisoners were never caught the others were killed. Members of the Disciplinary Unit had to assist the SS and provide services at their hangings. From May existed for about four months other than the penalty unit an 'Education Company', which was originally housed in Block 10 and then in the dreaded block 11. Since June 1942 at Budy near Birkenau in the women's camp a Disciplinary Unit for women, which had been established as a result of the first escape of a woman (Janina Nowak) from Auschwitz. The women were mainly used in often deadly heavy work that had to be done under the incessant terror of the guards and the female prisoner functionaries including the cleaning of fish-ponds and clearing of demolition debris, and levelling during road construction work. In October 1942, about 90 French Jewesses in the woman Disciplinary Unit, German female guards and prisoner functionaries killed them with axes and sticks, allegedly because they had revolted.
Also in most cases, equal to a death sentence, was the commandant's arrest, the detention in the cells of Block 11 (bunker). Countless detainees were held here on suspicion of involvement in the secret underground resistance movement in the camp and those prisoners were shot at the "Wall of Death" in the courtyard, provided they had survived the torture in the interrogation section of the political department. Minor "offences" such as an improperly closed knob which had been noticed during the camp roll call, as in the case of Ryszard Kordek, lasted for days or weeks in the arrest, in the dark- or the particular infamous, locked into unventilated only about one square meter-sized, standing cells. Even the women had to endure such conditions to the point of suffocation and the physical exertion during such arrest, plus the fear (Angst) of death due to the significant audible noise from the shooting at the death wall had an impact on the mental condition of prisoners.
What befell the vast majority of prisoners in Auschwitz and was a constant presence, was the anticipation of death. There was an atmosphere of a continuous threat, and the prisoners were daily witnesses of abuse, torture and murder. Each prisoner knew he could be the victim of mass or individual, directly or indirectly killing. Until the last breath, they were humiliated, abused, tortured and threatened. Exposed to humiliation and terror, they were put into constant fear, robbing them of the power to survive and suppress all thoughts of rebellion. In countless situations, it was not even the intervention of the murderer. Hunger and cold, the continued lack of adequate food, of sufficient sleep, to warm clothing, to hygienic facilities and medical care led to exhaustion and starvation. Disease and mass death were the results.[Saint Maximilian Kolbe, a martyred Polish friar, offered his life to save another inmate who had a family that had been sentenced to death in the Auschwitz concentration camp along with nine other prisoners because a prisoner had escaped. He was starved, along with another nine inmates. After two weeks of starvation, only Kolbe and three other inmates were still alive, and they were then executed with injections of phenol.sic]

A wash-room in Block 11--the "Death Block." Here condemned prisoners were made to undress before being shot"
About 20,000 prisoners, most of them sorted out over a period by hospital attendants were killed by a phenol injection that was thrust into the heart [there is no explanation given as to the reason and a rather high figure.sic] Also, thousands of people were at the Black Wall in the courtyard of Block 11 killed by a shot to the neck [I doubt this statement as to the vague figure published, the execution were stopped as the procedure had a devastating mental effect on the SS, they received counselling as a number of marriages broke up.sic] Others were hanged on the gallows, suffocated in the gas chambers, tortured in medical experiments to death, slain during roll call, drowned at work sites. In the overall balance of the victims of Auschwitz, it seems almost absurd that under Action '14f13 ', the mentally sick as from all other concentration camps, in July 1941 in Auschwitz a total of 575 prisoners were selected for elimination with poison gas and transported to the 'asylum' of Sonnenstein in Saxony.


The establishment of Birkenau had began with the construction of the camp section B Ib. From March 1942 to July 1943 this was where the men's camp was located. On March 1, 1942 the SS transferred 945 Soviet prisoners of war and some Polish prisoners into the provisionally secured stone barracks (Steinbarracken), up till this time, the Department of the Inmate Work Brigades had marched them daily from the main camp to Birkenau. From the beginning, Birkenau was a place of death and destruction (...) Most of the prisoners from the infirmary (Häftlingskrankenbau) sent to Birkenau died in the following weeks from cold or hunger others froze to death or were tortured to death. Since the end of March 1942, the SS directed all arriving prison transports directly to Birkenau into the B Ib section. One of the first Transports brought 1112 Jews from Compiegne [France,sic] to Auschwitz, as the admission formalities were still held and maintained in the main camp. Jews who were selected by the SS on their arrival and considered as 'workable', were as of July 1942 also admitted to this part of the camp. These prisoners were first held in the Reception Block, (number 22) and registered and assigned to a work detail. The others were held in a quarantine block where SS guards and trusties taught many newcomers their method of internment. (Sie wurden zu Grunde geschlagen) [literally translated:'beaten into the ground,sic] 
Jewish Police in Westerbork The Ordendienst, or Jewish police in Westerbork, were universally detested by camp inmates for their cruelty and role in collaborating with the Nazis. Composed of Jews from Holland and other European countries, members of the OD were responsible for guarding the punishment block and generally maintaining order in the camp. The  OD consisting of 20 men in mid-1942, grew to a peak of 182 men in April 1943 and stood at 67 in February 1944. Wearing the "OD" badge on the left breast was decreed in Camp Order No. 27 of 23 April 1943.' 
Most of the prisoners in the spring and summer of 1942, stationed in Birkenau were divided into numerous forced labour commandos for the completion of the camp sections B and the construction of Ia Ib, and B and the building of a Crematorium. About 1200 prisoners were members of the levelling commando with the simplest tools they had to level and then pave the vast terrain. Sewerage and melioration commandos laid in the drainage ditches. With the transfer of the the penal company in May 1942 to Section B Ib from the main camp, they began excavating the main drainage ditch 'Königsgraben' which essentially provided the overflow of water and sewage to be discharged into the Vistula (Weichsel) River. The murderous conditions were the reason for the attempted escape from the penal company on 10 June 1942, but only nine prisoners managed to escape. As a retaliation, the SS shot more than 350 prisoners. Due to the difficult working conditions and the road construction, the unloading, and the pulling of trolleys these were the most feared and avoided work assignments. In March 1942, in the camp section B Ib a total of 1387 prisoners died, in April 1381, in May 2028, in June 2675 and between the 1st and 19th August 1942 further 2529 inmates perished. 20 prisoners managed between March 1942 and July 1943 to escape from the men's camp.
At the camp Section B Ib, 27 residential barracks were being built during 1942, 15 of them in brick, and twelve wooden barracks, latrines and wash rooms, a kitchen, a bathroom and a store for clothes were included. SS 1st Lieutenant (Obersturmführer) Johann Schwarzhuber led the men's camp. The barracks number 7 and 8 described the SS since the summer of 1942 as a prison hospital (Häftlingskrankenbau), although the detainees initially had no medical care available to them. Barrack number 7 served as a collection point for the exhausted and sick, the dying if not already dead on site, were taken to the gas chambers to be eliminated. In barrack 8 the SS doctors selected prisoners for the gas chambers or killed them by phenol injections while they were there.[It is not indicated how and who took the dead for cremation, sic] Some prisoner functionaries tried, however, to set up in barrack number 8 some sort of medical care. In late 1942 the prison hospital was extended and included barrack number 12.

SS-Obersturmführer Johann Schwarzhuber

SCHWARZHUBER, Johann SS-Obersturmführer
Survivors described Schwarzhuber in very different ways. He could send thousands to their death without any show of emotion, yet at the same time do anything to save a few. So, for example, during the liquidation of the “Theresienstädter Familienlager” (the Family Camp for Jews from Terezin /Theresienstadt) when it is said of him that he saved about 78 children from a certain death by simply placing them in the Men’s Camp. Witnesses often saw Schwarzhuber drunk at selections and they also mention his love of music. The camp orchestra once arranged a small concert for him on his birthday. His wife and their two children attended the concert.
In November 1944, he was again sent to the KZ Dachau and made responsible for certain sub-camps. On 12 January 1945, he was transferred to the KZ Ravensbrück as Schutzhaftlagerführer. Here he was directly responsible for the gassings that took place during the last months of this camp. Immediately after the liberation of the camp on 29 April 1945, Schwarzhuber was arrested. In the Ravensbrück-process he was sentenced to death and hanged on 3 May 1947.

The camp section B Ib served until July 1943 as a men's camp. then female prisoners were housed there as well. The new men's camp was in the camp section B IId, which held 40 wooden barracks (including 38 stables), in which the prisoners were sent since 10 July 1943. The inmates of the hospital were moved to the camp section B IIf. Camp commander was still 1st Lieutenant Johann Scwarzhuber. At this time in the men's camp lived about 11,000 mostly political, Jewish and non-Jewish prisoners. Records of camp section B IId for 1943/44 still show Polish political, but especially Jewish prisoners selected as 'fit for work' from all over Europe. On April 20th, 1944 in the men's camp were 7,985 prisoners, on August 28th, 10,747, on the 3rd October 9,387 and mid-January 1945 about 2,000 prisoners detained. The Jewish prisoners lived in constant fear of falling victim to a selection. During the first selection in the men's camp B IId on 29th August 1943 the SS categorised about 4,000 Jews as unable to work and had them murdered in the gas chambers. Some of the prisoners were employed as from spring 1944 for demolition and clearing work in Birkenau. Others dismantled Allied aircrafts that had been shot down in the plants of the German armament factories (DAW) or were recruited for the Sonderkommando at the crematoria. The men's camp was evacuated on 18 January 1945.

CONCENTRATION CAMP OF BIRKENAU - map". Each one of the red rectangles is a hot spot - clicking on it will take you to a photograph of that location and a brief description of the site. You can return to this map from each of the photographic pages by clicking on the MAP tab at the bottom of the page or by  clicking the BACK button on your browser.


With an order of the RSHA dated July 10, 1942, the jurisdiction of the Ravensbrück concentration camp for the women's section ended as a sub-camp with the establishment of the Auschwitz Women's Division. Since the completion of the camp on 26 March 1942 to 10 July 1942 there were 8,512 women prisoners registered, mostly Slovak Jewesses, female prisoners from Ravensbrück and a group-transport of Polish women from the prisons of the Generalgouvernment who had been arrested for activities in the resistance movement. In addition, approximately 300 to 640 Yugoslavs, and Belgium females were imprisoned in the women's section of the main camp. Until the transfer of the women's camp at Birkenau on 6 August 1942, within one month further 8.000 were admitted, including about 4.300 Jewesses from French camps and 1.939 Jewesses from the Dutch transit camp of Westerbork. All arriving since July 2, 1942 on RSHA transports which were subject to Selections. Pregnant women and mothers with children were destined for the gas chambers.
If the pregnancy was only noticed after admission, the SS killed the infants usually immediately after birth or they died because of the inhumane living conditions. Some women succeeded indeed in a few cases to keep a baby until liberation. The relocation of the women's camp from the main camp to Birkenau in the front of section B Ia at the left gate took several days. On 10 August 1942, the clearing of the women's division began from the main camp. First, the work details were re-located. What was left behind in the main camp, were those not scheduled to work, women and the sick and convalescing in the SS Schonungsbarracke (Rehabilitation-Barrack) that underwent the largest ever selection destined for extermination. About 13,000 women were taken out and "driven" into the Birkenau part. By year-end, a further 10.000 women prisoners among them 366 women and girls displaced [refugies,sic] from the region of Zamosc, they became registered victims that did not qualify under the policy of 'Germanisation'. On 1 December 1942 of the 26,286 registered women only 8,232 were still alive. Jewish women were especially frequent victims during Selections at Birkenau. Others died of typhus, mistreatment or of exhaustion, hunger and thirst. [It only takes ten days, although still provided with one pint of watery soup with potato peels dried onions etc. in them,perhaps about 300 calories, to reach the last stage of a starvation level, sic]
The camp section B Ia in Birkenau and the extension through the adjacent, previously cleared men's quarters at B Ib in July 1943, served until November 1943 as a women's section in the Auschwitz concentration camp complex. In the camp Section B Ia were initially 15 brick- and 15 wooden barracks to house the women. Later, five latrines and wash basins were installed, replacing the previously [open,sic] latrine trenches. After merging with B Ib most wooden buildings of Section B Ia were used as sick bays (Krankenhaus). Disabled and already selected Jewesses in barrack number 25 which was surrounded by a wall, were crammed into this so-called death block and then later taken and killed in gas chambers.

Women fit for work after the delousing process. The disinfection of those not selected for the gas chambers, and the shaving of their heads, was all part of the "registration" process at the camp. After they finished, they were given the prison uniforms seen in the picture."
In the remaining barracks, women lived there who were employed outside the camp, together with the not working women and the quarantined female inmates. In the camp Section B Ib, there were another 30 barracks. Here lived mostly able-bodied women, working mainly outside the camp. Females of the Penal Company were housed in separate barracks of section B Ib. The inmates of the women's section were used as a rule in three areas of forced labor: about half of them in supply operation facilities and services of the SS and the farms of the SS near Auschwitz, the others for construction work on camp extensions and a few in the 'internal command' as prisoner Orchestra Musicians. From October 1943 onwards, women worked in the Armament Factory 'Weichsel-Union-Metallwerke' to assemble and complete fuses for the use on artillery projectiles. On October 1, 1944, one and a half months before the closure of the women's camp in Biurkenau, these women were transferred to the newly established women's camp of Auschwitz after the expansion programme was completed there. As part of the resolution of the concentration camp complex, the majority of women and men were transferred on November 17 into the camp section B II.


By September 1944, Auschwitz-Birkenau was the only remaining Nazi killing center still in operation. The Operation Reinhardt camps -- Treblinka, Sobibór, and Belzec -- had been closed down. Chelmno, originally closed in 1943, reopened for a brief period in spring-summer 1944. At the end of July 1944, Majdanek was  liberated by Soviet troops. For the prisoners at Auschwitz, liberation seemed close at hand. The Soviet army had moved deep into German-occupied Poland, and U.S. planes had begun bombing the I.G. Farben synthetic oil and rubber factory located near Auschwitz III, less than five miles from Birkenau. In Warsaw, the Polish Home Army had risen up in revolt against German occupation forces. Within the Auschwitz complex, the resistance movement -- composed of Jews and non-Jews alike -- made plans to launch its own uprising.
For months, young Jewish women, like Ester Wajcblum, Ella Gärtner, and Regina Safirsztain, had been smuggling small amounts of gunpowder (Schwarzpulver) from the Weichsel-Union-Metallwerke, a munitions factory within the Auschwitz complex, to men and women in the camp’s resistance movement, like Róza Robota, a young Jewish woman who worked in the clothing detail at Birkenau. Under constant guard, the women in the factory took small amounts of the gunpowder, wrapped it in bits of cloth or paper, hid it on their bodies, and then passed it along the smuggling chain. Once she received the gunpowder, Róza Robota then passed it to her co-conspirators in the Sonderkommando, the special squad of prisoners forced to work in the camp’s crematoria. Using this gunpowder, the leaders of the Sonderkommando planned to destroy the gas chambers and crematoria, and launch the uprising. On October 7, 1944, having learned that the SS was going to liquidate much of the squad, the members of the Sonderkommando at Crematorium IV rose in revolt. Setting fire to the crematorium, they attacked the SS guards with hammers, axes, and stones. Seeing the flames rising over the building as a signal for the camp uprising, those of the Sonderkommando at Crematorium II went into action, killing a Kapo and several SS men. Several hundred prisoners escaped from Birkenau, almost all of whom were caught and killed by the SS. Later that day, an additional 200 prisoners who took part in the revolt were executed. In their investigation of the incident, the SS traced the gunpowder to the “Union” factory and arrested Ester Wajcblum, Ella Gärtner, and Regina Safirsztain. Róza Robota was arrested shortly thereafter. Though brutally tortured, the four women refused to name their comrades. On January 6, 1945, they were hanged in front of the assembled prisoners from the munitions factory.
Prior to their deaths, Ester Wajcblum and Róza Robota smuggled messages to their comrades in the underground. To a friend, Ester Wajcblum wrote: “I know what is in store for me, but I go readily to the gallows. I only ask you to take care of my sister Hanka. Please don’t leave her, so that I may die easier.” Róza Robota’s final message to her comrades in the underground was, “Hazak v’ematz,” “Be strong and have courage.”


Theresienstadt in northern Bohemia served since 24 November 1941 as a collection and transit camp for Jewish inhabitants from the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. Since July it acted as the 'old-age ghetto' with a deportation goal of 42,921 older, prominent, and decorated war veterans [the First World War, sic] Jews and 'Geltungsjuden'[of mixed marriages,sic] from Germany and Austria. Indeed, Theresienstadt was a for this group only one stop on the way to destruction. Despite the terrible living conditions and the constant threat of deportation, Theresienstadt had a highly developed cultural life. Outstanding Jewish artists, mainly from Czechoslovakia, Austria, and Germany, created drawings and paintings, some of them clandestine depictions of the ghetto's harsh reality. Writers, professors, musicians, and actors gave lectures, concerts, and theater performances. The ghetto maintained a lending library of 60,000 volumes. Fifteen thousand children passed through Theresienstadt. Although forbidden to do so, they attended school. They painted pictures, wrote poetry, and otherwise tried to maintain a vestige of normalcy. Approximately 90 percent of these children perished in death camps. The Theresienstadt "camp-ghetto" existed for three and a half years, between November 24, 1941 and May 9, 1945. During its existence, Theresienstadt served three purposes:

German Jews, wearing identification tags, before deportation to Theresienstadt. Wiesbaden, Germany, August 1942
First, Theresienstadt served as a transit camp for Czech Jews whom the Germans deported to killing centres,  concentration camps, and forced-labour camps in German-occupied Poland, Belorussia, and the Baltic States.
Second, it was a ghetto-labour camp to which the SS deported and then incarcerated certain categories of German, Austrian, and Czech Jews, based on their age, disability as a result of past military service, or domestic celebrity in the arts and other cultural life. To mislead about or conceal the physical annihilation of the Jews deported from the Greater German Reich, the Nazi regime employed the general fiction, primarily inside Germany, that the deported Jews would be deployed at productive labour in the East. Since it seemed implausible that elderly Jews could be used for forced labour, the Nazis used Theresienstadt to hide the nature of the deportations.

Departure of a train of German Jews being deported to Theresienstadt. Hanau, Germany, May 30, 1942.'
Third, Theresienstadt served as a holding pen for Jews in the above-mentioned groups. It was expected that that poor conditions there would hasten the deaths of many deportees, until the SS and police could deport the survivors to killing centres in the East. Neither a "ghetto" as such nor strictly a concentration camp, Theresienstadt served as a “settlement,” an assembly camp, and a concentration camp, and thus had recognisable features of both ghettos and concentration camps. In its function as a tool of deception, Theresienstadt was a unique facility. 

Women prepare food outdoors in the Theresienstadt ghetto. Theresienstadt, Czechoslovakia, between 1941 and 1945.'


Theresienstadt served an important propaganda function for the Germans. The publicly stated purpose for the deportation of the Jews from Germany was their "resettlement to the east," where they would be compelled to perform forced labor. Since it seemed implausible that elderly Jews could be used for forced labor, the Nazis used the Theresienstadt ghetto to hide the nature of the deportations. In Nazi propaganda, Theresienstadt was cynically described as a "spa town" where elderly German Jews could "retire" in safety. The deportations to Theresienstadt were, however, part of the Nazi strategy of deception. The ghetto was in reality a collection center for deportations to ghettos and killing centers in Nazi-occupied eastern Europe. Succumbing to pressure following the deportation of Danish Jews to Theresienstadt, the Germans permitted the International Red Cross to visit in June 1944. It was all an elaborate hoax. The Germans intensified deportations from the ghetto shortly before the visit, and the ghetto itself was "beautified." Gardens were planted, houses painted, and barracks renovated. The Nazis staged social and cultural events for the visiting dignitaries. Once the visit was over, the Germans resumed deportations from Theresienstadt, which did not end until October 1944.
Why the Red Cross delegate, Maurice Rossel, did not demand to proceed to Birkenau after the visit to Theresienstadt is not clear. He was told by his SS hosts that the Czech ghetto was the 'final camp', yet Rossel could hardly have believed, in June 1944, that Theresienstadt was all there was to see regarding the deportation of the Jews of Europe. Be that as it may, on July 1, the ICRC representative sent an effusive thank-you note to Thadden, the senior official at the Wilhelmsstraße he dealt with. He even enclosed photos taken by the delegation during the visit of the camp as momentos of the pleasent excursion, and asked Thadden to forward a set to his colleagues in Prague. After expressing his gratitude, also in the name of the ICRC, for all the help extended to the delegation during its visit, Rossel added: "The trip to Prague will remain an excellent memory for us and it pleases us to assure you, once again, that the report about our visit to Theresienstadt will be reassuring for many, as the living conditions [in the camp,sic] are satisfactory. Later there was some progress, the Swiss Federal Councillor Jean-Marie Musy, aiming at the release of tens of thousands of Jews as an opening negotiations with Western Powers. The first train carrying 1,200 Jews from Theresienstadt arrived in Switzerland in January 1945. Informed of the deal, Hitler put an immediate end to it.


Beginning in 1942, SS authorities deported Jews from Theresienstadt to other ghettos, concentration camps, and extermination camps in Nazi-occupied eastern Europe. German authorities either murdered the Jews upon their arrival in the ghettos of Riga, Warsaw, Lodz, Minsk, and Bialystok, or deported them further to extermination camps. Transports also left Theresienstadt directly for the extermination camps of Auschwitz, Majdanek, and Treblinka. In the ghetto itself, tens of thousands of people died, mostly from disease or starvation. In 1942, the death rate within the ghetto was so high that the Germans built--to the south of the ghetto--a crematorium capable of handling almost 200 bodies a day. Of the approximately 140,000 Jews transferred to Theresienstadt, nearly 90,000 were deported to points further east and almost certain death. Roughly 33,000 died in Theresienstadt itself. 

View of the "Family camp" where the Jews from Theresienstadt were held'
Jacob Edelstein had been arrested in the fall of 1943 for having helped some inmates to escape from Theresianstadt by manipulating numbers and names on the registration lists of the camp. He was sent to Auschwitz with his wife, Miriam, his son Aryeh, and old Mrs. Olliner, Miriam's mother. While Edelstein was kept in block 11 of the main camp, his family members were detained in the 'Family Camp' in Birkenau. On June 20, 1944, they were all reunited in front of Crematorium III and shot. Jacob was shot last, after he had to witness the killing of his son, his wife and his mother-in-law.
On September 27, 1944, Paul Eppstein was arrested on the trumped-up charge of attempting escape. He was brought to the small fortress and executed. The inmates of Theresienstadt were now led by the last of the three elders, the Viennese Murmelstein: He remained a controversial figure, norwithstanding his postwar judicial rehabilitation. When he died in Rome in1989, the chief rabbi of the city did not allow his burial next to his wife, but only at the outer limit of the Jewish graveyard, a symbolic rejection. In the camp Murmelstein's German protagonist was the ex-curator of the Prague Jewish museum, SS commandant Karl Rahm.

Women prisoners lie on thin mattresses on the floor of a barracks in the women's camp in the Theresienstadt ghetto. Czechoslovakia, between 1941 and 1945.'
The family camp was liquidated between March and July 1944 in two stages. On the night of 8 to 9 March 3791 men, women and children were killed in the gas chambers. The previous day, the prisoners were made to believe that they had been assigned to a work camp at Heydebreck (Kazierzyn). In July 1944, about 3,500 prisoners of the family camp were sent to other concentration camps. The approximately 6,500 remaining were murdered during the nights of 11 and 12 July 1944 in the gas chambers. Of the total of 17,571 prisoners of the Theresienstadt family camp, 1167 were liberated. During September and October 1944 Polish women from the transit camp of Pruszkow were deported and housed in the former family camp, as from November 1944 they were classified as employable women of camp Section B Ib.


On 26 February 1943, the first transport arrived with Gypsies from the Reichsland into the still unfinished gypsy camp of Section B IIe of Auschwitz-Birkenau. After the newcomers were tattooed with their own serial number, starting with "Z"[Gypsy in German is 'Zigeuner' and thus received the prefix "Z",sic] and registered, they had to finish building the huts. They built 32 wooden barracks of type 260/9 'decomposable' and displaceable horse stables', which in the coming months, housed up to 1,000 people. Along the camp road there were 16 barracks on each side, on the left side it differentiated from right side with even- on the other side with odd block numbers. In addition there were two kitchens completed, plus the storage area for clothing, the block-leader's office was already outside of the electric fence which went first from July 1943 through a limited part of that camp section. At the other end of the barracks a series of washrooms were installed, a latrine and in the late summer of 1943 a "sauna" was operational with showers and a room for disinfecting clothing. Improvement of sanitary conditions in the camp, however, provided in these buildings although available did not improve the hygiene conditions. The latrines were emptied only irregularly, and the water-pipes that ran through provided only yellow, germ-contaminated water, and had been postponed until months later to be installed. Units 1, 2, 3 and 8 housed camp offices, the political section, a closet, a food store and a canteen. There, inmates could purchase for Reichsmarks, cigarettes, food and soap. For most prisoners all of these things, were prohibitively priced, so that they were dependent on the allocated food rations. Five prisoners divided daily one loaf of Komissbrot (army bread), In addition, every adult received a spoonful of jam, half a kilo of turnips (Steckrüben) and occasionally a bit of sausage and margarine.

Marzahn, the first internment camp for Roma (Gypsies) in the Third Reich. Germany, date uncertain
Of the remaining barracks initially all were used as windowless apartment blocks, whose roofs were often leaking, and the floor consisted mostly of clay, which was later covered with concrete or bricks. Every family, regardless of the number of people in a group were allocated one plank bed (Pritsche) with two blankets. As a result of the crowded barracks, inadequate sanitation and poor nutrition diseases were spread in epidemic-like proportion. The most common findings were scabies, measles, tuberculosis, stomach-typhus, smallpox and as far as the children were concerned primarily Noma (Water cancer) and Wangenbrand (cheeks on fire). To separate at least the healthy from the sick, two barracks were used as a hospital, which were overcrowded in no time. This necessitated in the autumn of 1943, to convert the former apartment blocks 22, 24, 26, 28, 30 and 32 into hospital buildings, whose structure despite its different use hardly changed. Per block 400 to 600 patients were housed. In the back of each block there were a toilet, a laundry room, a provisional kitchen and a morgue, which had to take an average of 30 corpses a day. Although in April 1943, 30 inmate doctors and 60 assistants took care of the sick, the mortality rate did not fall at all, there was a lack of clean water, bandages and medicines.

Huts at Birkenau
Inside the huts at Birkenau'
The special privileges of the gypsy camp was not only the accommodation together within the family, but also permission to keep civilian clothes and let the hair grow again after shaving them upon arrival of a transport. Pregnant women and children under six years of age should receive at the request of Himmler from 15 April 1943 supplementary rations, such as milk, butter and white bread, meat and sometimes even chocolate. In practice, these supplementary rations were soon abolished by the SS or prison functionaries who had them removed for their own use and thus been omitted. From work details outside the camp, Gypsies were excluded at the beginning, they were instead put at hard labour in other internal camp developments for storage and drainage and used on improvements of the 'ramp' . Even children were not spared from this type of work assignments: 'The older children from ten years on had to carry stones for the road constructions'.
On March 23, 1943 1.700 Gypsies came from Bialystok to Birkenau. They were suspected typhus carriers and isolated without registration or detailed study of the disease in blocks 20 and 22, and subsequently as a group suffocated with gas. About 16,000 Gypsies were deported by the end of May 1943 into the crowded gypsy camp, upon an order of the Reich Criminal Police Office which came into force on May 15, 1943, the admissions to B IIe due to the risk of disease among the remaining inmates will cease 'until further notice'. Meanwhile, the camp authorities tried to limit the typhus epidemic by more murders, so on May 25, 1943 507 men and 528 women, who were considered suspect typhoid carries were killed. At the end of 1943 70% of the inmates. were no longer alive. The remaining Gypsies were now transferred into the right side of camp street into the vacant blocks, while on the left about 1,000 Hungarian Jews were accommodated up to their murder early July 1944.

Unloading of rail transports at Auschwitz'
On May 15, 1944 the camp command decided the liquidation of the Gypsy camp. The next night, the SS surrounded the camp section and ordered all inmates to leave the blocks. Only a fraction of the Sinti and Roma obeyed the command and was transported to the crematoria. The majority had heard of the intention of the SS and had barricaded themselves with 'weapons', crowbars, spades, knives and stones in the barracks. Since the SS had not expected resistance, they broke off the action. Eight days later, on May 23, 1944, former members of the Wehrmacht with their families were caught off-guards in the adjutant office and together with other 'able-bodied' prisoners from the gypsy camp were moved into the blocks 10 and 11 of the main camp, where they were to be deported to other concentration camps . Also a part of the Polish male nurses were taken from the hospital and moved to other parts of the camp complex.[No actual reason are given for these movements, sic]

View of the walled entrance to the gas chamber in the main camp of Auschwitz (Auschwitz I). This gas chamber was in use for only a short time before being converted into a bomb shelter. In the background is a building used by the Gestapo as a regional headquarters'. 
On August 1, there was a final selection. The 'labour-capable' men should report to work. 1.408 prisoners arrived after the call, 2897 Gypsies were left behind. The next day the SS imposed after the evening roll call, a camp curfew throughout Birkenau and block lock-out over the gypsy camp. The barracks were surrounded and the prisoners forcibly removed. Also this time the Gypsies were trying to defend themselves. 'They were in an uproar and shouting with all their might. But the SS men brought them out separately from their accommodation. Those who resisted were kicked or beaten'. All people found were murdered on the night of 2 to 3 August 1944 in crematoria II and V. The next morning the evacuated Gypsy camp was again searched for survivors and they were also killed. More than 23,000 Gypsies from at least eleven countries, including 13.100 from Germany and Austria were deported between 26 February 1943 and August 1, 1944 into the gypsy camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau. Only a fraction survived: about 5.600 were suffocated with gas and more than 13.600 died from the 'living conditions' in the camp.


The capacity at Auschwitz despite numerous relocations and changes physically as well as administratively by the SS in the summer of 1944, was inadequate for the scheduled arrival of Hungarian Jews to select them immediately after their arrival. The camp sections B IIc and B III (Mexico) in Birkenau served in this context as the interim state in which the Jews had to wait initially for one of their further transport journeys either to an internal German concentration camp and, secondly, its transfer into the gas chambers. Not used for work, they were housed in appalling conditions: Without any sewerage, water supply and lighting, the women had to endure sleeping on bare ground. The uncompleted construction section B III was called in the language of the camp 'Mexico' because here, the prisoners were only given blankets from the 'Kanada' magazines as clothing, which they wore around their bodies, and so (according to Hermann Langbein), a colorful, reminiscent of a Mexican image was created. During the evacuation of 'Mexico' in early October 1944 17,000 women were transferred into camp section B IIc , the barracks were dismantled and taken to the concentration camp Groß-Rosen. The total capacity in section B III 'Mexico and B IIe (the former 'Gypsy' camp, where the men were being held), on average housed 30,000 to 50,000 people.

Female Prisoners Auschwitz-Birkenau'


The office of the 'Division V-Site Physician' (Dienststelle der Abteilung V-Standortarzt) had two very contradictory tasks: on the one hand responsible for the medical care of the Auschwitz SS members stationed there, on the other hand, the extermination of sick, disabled and exhausted prisoners. SS doctors participated in the 'selection' of incoming transports, monitored the progress of the extermination process in the gas chambers and were in charge at executions. [They to establish that death had set in,sic] In the Häftlingskrankenbauten (HKB) (Detainee Hospital Buildings) SS doctors performed criminal experiments on prisoners, killing those with infectious deceases, the sick or weakened prisoners by phenol injections into the heart or they selected prisoners for death in the gas chambers. Creating fictitious documents with false causes of death was also among the tasks of the SS doctors. An actual medical treatment of prisoners by SS doctors and paramedics did not take place, although they were formally charged with it.
Häftlingskrankenbauten (Detainee Hospital Buildings) within the camps by their physical separation, but also by the organisational structure reporting to the senior physician of the concentration camps of the SS Economic Department at Oranienburg (WVAH)-and the ensuing partial autonomy from the camp commandant, had the character of enclaves. The first dispensary was established in June 1940 in a building of the former Polish Tobacco-Monopoly. Later the hospital included in Auschwitz, the blocks 19 (Schonungsblock=convalescent), No. 20 (Division of Infectious Diseases), 21 (Surgery) and 28 (Internal). In a separated site of the main camp existed an area for Soviet prisoners of war and for women. The even bigger Häftlingsbaulager B IIf in Auschwitz II-Birkenau in the main camp, after they were completed, also served as the main body for the prisoners, in which there was, among other things, the working office. for all other sections. In Birkenau, in an individual camp section a prison hospital was built. In July 1943, the area of section B IIb was moved onto this site in Section B IIf and established as a Häftlingskrankenbaulager. It initially consisted of total of 15, and in early 1944, of 18 barracks, where an average of 1.500 to 2, 000 were admitted and registered. [There is no indication as to treatments received,sic]
During the first months of the existence of the concentration camp, the first sick ward in the main camp for a short time, despite miserable medical equipment and catastrophic hygienic conditions was a place where the sick found slightly better conditions, than before in the rest of the camp, even though from the beginning no real medical care took place. Due to the extremely limited capacity, only a few prisoners are taken in. From winter 1940/41, the death rate increased rapidly in the Häftlingskrankenbauten, Detainee Hospital Buildings) a further increase took place in the spring of 1941 during a typhus epidemic and the latest about mid-1941, the selections in the infirmary and the killings began by phenol injections when the Häftlingskrankenbauten became a place that seriously ill patients were to avoid at all costs because they developed into central stations of the extermination process. In Auschwitz, there was almost every day until April 1943 killings of several, to several dozen detainees by phenol injections, which took place mostly in the 'treatment room' block 20. From 1942 the 'selected' patients were murdered in the gas chambers.

The mass executions of convicts took place by the police-court- (Standgericht) daily up to 200 prisoners. ['Standgericht' is difficult to explain, it was done rather often by the Military during war-times only, literally means a Trial by Standing, within minutes, the verdict (death) is read out and immediate execution by the bullet or hanging takes place, a defence did not exist, sic] The gas chamber at Auschwitz was only a year in operation, it served, after the construction of the gas chambers at Birkenau only as a Reserve, this also applied for the incinerator as from July 1943, with the commissioning of the large crematoria in Birkenau as early as 1942. The killings took place successively by poison gas in the new camp at Birkenau, initially in two provisional gas chambers 'bunkers' in converted farmhouses, which were shielded by trees from sight. The transports of the inmates came about 2.5 kilometres from the freight depot Oswiecim and were taken on foot or by truck to the bunkers where they were forced to undress before entering the gas chambers, the Bunker number 1 had a capacity of 800 and Bunker 2, 1,200 victims. [Over what duration is not indicated,sic]

"The Walk to the Gas Chamber '

The unaware last walk to the gas chamber at Birkenau.

From spring 1942, the deported Jews were either occasionally or systematically selected from July of that year, according to their ability to work. They had to line up separately by gender, children up to about 14 years, stayed with their mothers. Within a short time from external characteristics an SS camp doctor Mengele or Schumann, among others, the camp doctors performed their duty alternately, chose who was sent as a prisoner into the camp. Old, the weak and children were sent to the left side, where they went directly on foot or by truck to the gas chambers. Prisoner Functionaries of the 'ramp commandos' who were responsible for the unloading of the transport trains tried often, to make clear the importance of this decision to the new arrivals. The Auschwitz SS were most particular during admission of Soviet prisoners of war, in which a high death rate prevailed, they had gone to extreme lengths over the tattooing of prisoners. The dead was then usually laid so that the number was clearly visible on his forearm. During the few cases where small children or infants were registered, the tattoo was on the thigh. After going through this procedure and it was completed, the inmates were admitted to their respective accomondation or quarantine blocks.
After the murder of certain prisoners had been suffocated with gas, inmates of the Sonderkommando, brought the bodies, which had previously been removed of gold teeth and hair, with a narrow gauge field train to the nearby pits where they were buried. These mass graves the SS had between September and November 1942 re-opened again and burned more than 100,000 corpses on piles of wooden stacked pyres  or in earth pits.
The ashes were dumped into the rivers Vistula and Sola. With the completion of the larger crematoria II through to V in the spring and summer of 1943 the two bunkers were taken out of service in early 1943, Bunker 1 was demolished and the burning pits filled in. Bunker 2 was in May 1944, again during the extermination of Hungarian Jews used as a gas chamber, remained until the cessation of killings by poison gas in November 1944 and was then leveled.

Crematorium IV Disposal Pit' One of the largest problems facing was what to do with the bodies. Gassing was no problem, but the system was often overloaded by the sheer number of corpses, thus slowing the entire process. Cremation, rather than burial, was their solution, but even then the ashes had to be disposed of with some care. Large pits, like the one here, were used to dump the last vestiges of many people.
Plans for larger crematoriums, whose location was planned initially for the main camp and then it was decided to be placed at Birkenau existed since 1941. In July 1942, the responsible SS Central Building Department instructed 'Huta', a civil engineering company with the construction of crematoria II in August 1942, at the same time the decision was made for the establishment of three other crematoriums. The contract for the supply and supervision of installation of all necessary equipment went to the firm 'Topf & Sons'. Due to bad weather and supply difficulties the completion of the four new crematoriums were a little late and operational by March to June 1943. According to the letter of the Central Construction Office to the WVHA of 28 June 1943, the capacity of the now ready to use crematoriums when in operation of a period around the clock at crematoria I (which however had been shut down in July 1943) was 340 corpses. In the crematoriums II and III it would be 1,440 corpses and in crematoria IV and V a total of 768 bodies respectively. During the 'Liquidation of Ghettos' and peak times like the extermination of Hungarian Jews, up to 8000 people per day were burned. The crematoriums were built outside the prison camp at Birkenau, and formed one insular place that was by a 'green belt' and high fences made ​​of branches protected from the eyes of the prisoners.

Report on removal of gold teeth' The reports contain: date, prisoner's camp number, sometimes the name, number of removed teeth divided made of gold and other precious metals and a total number of removed teeth. some reports had two copies.
Crematoriums II and III were constructed after almost identical plans as the others and possessed a combustion chamber (Verbrennungsraum) with five furnaces and underground changing rooms witth about 210 square meters large gas chambers equipped with mechanical ventilation and three or four specially constructed in the locksmith shop of KZ Auschwitz throw-in pillars (Einwurfsäulen) for the Zyklon B pellets. In addition, there were two rooms for the storage of hair, glasses and other items that had been removed from the victims and the storage of Zyklon B canisters. Crematoria III had also plant facilities for the smelting of gold teeth. In addition, both crematoriums possessed a small oven ( which on the plans were indicated as 'incinerator' hereinafter) for the elimination of worthless objects removed from the dead, which was also used by the SS during the resolution phase of the camps to burn documents pertaining the mass murder. Crematoria IV and V, which had a low capacity, differed significantly structurally from II and III. The gas chambers and undressing rooms were not underground, but at ground level.
The man who, more than anyone else, orchestrated the transformation of Auschwitz into the central extermination camp of the Nazi system by overseeing the building of the new gassing installations in Birkenau was Pohl's construction chief, Hans Kammler. In Kammler technological competence and extreme Nazi fanaticism coexisted [...] For his intensity, his mastery of engineering, his organizational genius, and his passion for National Socialism SS men esteemed Kammler as a paragon. In Albert Sperr's words "nobody would have dreamed that some day he would be one of Himmler's brutal and most ruthless henchmen. The Kammlers of the Third Reich were the technological managers of the "Final Solution" during its mid- and late phases, their ideological fanaticism was essential to keep the system working in spite of increasing difficulties.
There are different accounts of Kammler's death:
That he committed suicide with a cyanide capsule on 7 May 1945.
That he shot himself on 9 May 1945.
That he asked his aide Zeuner to shoot him.
That he was shot by his aide-de-camp in Prague.
That the Soviets executed Kammler along with 200 other SS soldiers
That he escaped to the USA where he died many years after the war.
On 9 July 1945 Kammler's widow petitioned to have him declared dead as of 9 May 1945, adducing a sworn statement by Kammler's driver, Kurt Preuk, according to which Preuk had personally seen "the corpse of Kammler and been present at his burial" on 9 May 1945. The District Court of Berlin-Charlottenburg ruled on 7 September 1948 that his death was officially established as 9 May 1945. 

Tracks to the Ovens at Birkenau':This small-gauge track was one of fifteen leading to five furnaces consisting of three retorts each. At first small metal trolleys containing the bodies of gassed victims were pushed by prisoners to the mouth of each opening. The bodies of these people were then thrust inside. Other, more efficient means of loading the ovens were soon employed, each team of workers developing its own method. In the upper portion of this photo is the ceiling, collapsed after the SS, in the face of the advancing Soviet armies, had dismantled and removed the furnaces and dynamited the structure in an effort to hide their crimes.
The sequence of the extermination process was very similar in all four crematoriums. At the Unloading Ramp, people selected to be eliminated were either walking out to the crematoria or driven there in trucks. The victims were instructed, announcing that the disinfection and shower would take place, leaving them in the belief that they would be out for cleaning and delousing by partially handing out soap and towels. After the gas chambers were filled, mostly women and children were first and then the men were ushered or pushed in. After that the SS men would be leaving the rooms and locked the doors. The so called 'Disinfector' then poured under the supervision of the attending SS doctor Zyklon B bound with diatomaceous powder (Kieselgur) into the opening devices down the chutes. The death occurred within a maximum of twenty minutes, depending on factors like temperature and humidity, and depending on the number of victims in the gas chamber. After the death occurred, the ventilation system was switched on, and prisoners of the Sonderkommando entered with gas masks the chambers and began with the removal of the corpses who had removed in the undressing rooms and in the combustion chambers their eyeglasses, dentures and prostheses, still hidden jewellery and gold teeth were torn out after death and hair was cut respectively. The evacuation of a gas chamber took about four hours, the cremation of three corpses in an oven for about 20 minutes. The ashes were collected in pits and later transported and dumped into surrounding waters, or for the production of fertiliser or used as fertiliser on the agricultural plots of the camp.

Entrance to Birkenau Extermination Area'. This is the entrance to one of the two large extermination areas in Birkenau. During the time of the camp, a fence made of branches surrounded it, blocking the view of the waiting victims. To the right and left of the road is the little wood. If one continues down this road , he will find Krematorium IV to the left, and K-V to the right.
To the rear, the road runs between B II and B III-Mexico.
From January 1943, the effects taken from late Polish and Soviet prisoners were started. On arrival at the ramp, the SS took the Jews first to get the luggage. Clothing that had to be removed before the gas chambers was scanned for valuables. Even the body orifices of the dead had yet to be examined by prisoners of the Sonderkommando for hidden valuable items. 
Administratively for the collection of stolen goods [there can be no other expression,sic] actually was the responsibility of the Division IV-Administration. The effects were collected in magazines both in the main camp and Birkenau and prepared for shipping. The Effect Camp I ('Canada I') was in the vicinity of the main camp, 'Canada II' was housed since 1943 in Birkenau (building-phase B IIg). 'Canada', was given apparently by the prisoners themselves as the name of the country as a symbol of wealth, and was a relatively coveted job among inmates, as to what was available to them here, it was a rare opportunity to 'organize' extra food, clothing, etc.
Female prisoners in the Aufräumungskommando (order commandos) sort the confiscated property of a transport of Jews from Subcarpathian Rus at a warehouse in Auschwitz-Birkenau.
On the other hand this work confronted them with the enormity and the extent of murder in Auschwitz. Halina Birenbaum as a child imprisoned in Auschwitz, while working at 'Canada II', reported: "To me Canada was much more depressing than to the adults as I had been even closer to the mass destruction what I saw. I could not hide the fact by telling myself repeatedly that such a thing was still possible. Gradually I lost faith in the ability to ever escape this hell". Between 1,000 and 1,600 prisoners worked in 1942 and 1943 as day and night shifts in 'Canada' . in 'Canada II', in July 1944 it were 590 male prisoners.

Canada".Jews were told to bring their essential belongings on the transport to "Relocation". Immediately on unloading, these were taken away and sorted in large warehouses in a section of Birkenau nicknamed "Canada" because it was a place of abundance. After unloading their human victims, trains would be loaded with the possessions of earlier victims and sent back to Germany. These objects are often all that is left of their owners. They passed each other in opposite directions. As late as 1980, many such objects were to be found in Berlin curio and antique shops, being the only passengers with a round trip ticket. The objects shown here were left behind when the Germans burned Canada to the ground, lest its contents fall into the hands of the advancing Soviets


[Requirement for acts of resistance was, that the prisoners involved were mentally and physically still strong and their work and food situation had allowed this to develop, and only possible through existential self-preservation activities and beyond. This was only available for a minority of inmates in Auschwitz. Although oppositional actions to improve the situation of prisoners to a greater extent and, if at all, only able to save a few lifes, they had an important function, the courage and the mental and moral strength not only of the immediate people involved, but also to strengthen the will to live of passive witnesses. In an environment where the intended destruction of human life, acts that were somehow aimed directly against the SS system, like sabotage, espionage, escape or insurrection, and resistance, but any actions of the biological survival did serve the preservation of human dignity. Moreover, the documentation of NS crimes for the period after the liberation should be understood and read in the spirit of resistance.sic]
In the years up to 1942, when the detainees still for the most part were Poles, the Polish prisoners built up especially their own various underground organisations, which eventually combined with the Armia Krajowa (Home Army AK). The name, identical to that of Poland's Acting Government in Exile became the largest opposition organisations in the camp, illustrates the Polish-national orientation of this important state-wide group at Auschwitz. In addition to the Home Army existed communist and other left-wing Polish groups which later emerged as organizations that were supported by the different nationalities in the camp and mostly left-orientated. A group of Jews and non-Jews were represented from many European countries and the former was dominated by the Spanish Civil War Veterans and was after 1941, under the leadership of the Austrian Ernst Burger. In most groups, Jews were members, they also established an explicitly Jewish underground movement. Most of the Polish and international groups after 1943 were united into the 'Kampfgruppe Auschwitz' under the command of two Polish and two Austrian prisoners.
Among the acts of organised resistance the most vulnerable prisoners in particular were those from the 'Canada' section with stolen goods and the ones in Partnership acting with the outside camp resistance when smuggling food and medicines into the camp.. The decisive factor was the appointment of relevant posts in accommodation, writing rooms, food warehouses and Häftlingskrankenbauten (which were the major sites of resistance) by members of the underground. Only in this way was it possible to divide the elderly, young or sick to lighter work details to prevent selections or enable escapes. So could Hermann Langbein, a central figure in the resistance and leading member of the 'Kampfgruppe Auschwitz' in his capacity as secretary to the Surgeon Edward Withs become active in the welfare of prisoners. Another important task was to identify and eliminate the spies and informers among the prisoners who collaborated with the political department, or brutal Kapos and Block Leaders of prisoners working in German industrial firms sabotaging their equipment. The German armament works was in such disorder of production and the actions of prisoners so effective that productivity declined by 50 percent in a few months.
Even individuals resisted, by providing their food rations despite hunger and left it to the needy, such as the French Communist Georges Varennes, or refusing to carry out certain work for ethical reasons, as the French doctor Adelaide Hautval refusing on ethical grounds during assistance in the sterilisation experiments by SS doctor Carl Clauberg. Several Polish prisoners defended themselves while awaiting the death sentence of Henryk Suchniki and Leon Kukielka on 28 October 1942 against their execution, turning against the SS with wooden chairs. They were shot during the fight.
From 1942, the AK (Home Army) considered an armed uprising of all inmates. However, this was only feasible with support from outside, the Polish Resistance Movement. 1944, with the advance of the Soviet troops and in connection with a plan for a Poland-wide uprising against the retreating German troops, the AK and the jointly appointed Military Council dealt with plans for a general uprising of the Kampfgruppe in Auschwitz, but it was never proceeded with. However, there were minor revolts by inmate groups, usually when in immediate danger of death, and with the goal of escape, such as on 10 June 1942, in Birkenau within the Polish penal company, which failed, and the consequence was that the SS shot about 300 Poles from this company, or a group of Soviet POWs on November 6, 1942, also in Birkenau, in the course of events only a few managed to escape.
The most significant of the Jewish revolt was undoubtedly the 'Sonderkommandos' in the crematoria of Auschwitz-Birkenau. After members of the Sonderkommando had urged the camp resistance to the rapid onset of a riot, this was postponed again and again, there was an isolated action of the Sonderkommando, the members in the face of mortal danger in which they, as a direct witness of the extermination process by the news of the advance of the Red army, there was no time to lose. On October 7, 1944, the Sonderkommando received a report from the Kampfgruppe Auschwitz, from that it appeared that the elimination of 300 men employed of the Sonderkommando-Cematoria was imminent. This was the trigger for the revolt taking place the same day. Prisoners struck crematorium IV on fire, killing and wounding some SS men. Some managed to escape temporarily, but they were all captured and killed. At Crematory II the prisoners killed a German Kapo known for his cruelty and two SS men. Before the prisoners of crematorium II fled, they cut the barbed wire of the women's camp also imprisoned there to enable their escape. The refugees barricaded themselves in a barn in Rajsko which was lit by the SS, while the prisoners were inside and all perished. Overall, 250 Jews were killed during the uprising, including the organizers Zalmen Gradowski and Josef Deresinski. In retaliation, the SS shot another 200 prisoners from the Sonderkommando and the Jewish women who had used during their work in German munitions factories in order to supply the Sonderkommando with explosives. Two more female prisoners were arrested in the women’s camp of Auschwitz II on the charge of having contact with the Sonderkommando and taking explosives. One of those arrested, the Polish Jewess Roza Robota worked in the personal effects camp, which bordered on the compound of Crematorium IV. Two more female prisoners were arrested in the women’s camp of Auschwitz II on the charge of having contact with the Sonderkommando and transporting explosives. It was established that Roza Robota accepted from one of her fellow prisoners explosive materials stolen by Ella Gartner, in the Weichsel–Union Metallwerke plant and passing it on to Wrobel, who was a member of the Sonderkommando. On the 6 January 1945 in the evening four female prisoners Ella Gartner, Roza Robota, Regina Safir and Ester Wajsblum were hanged in the women’s camp of Auschwitz. The execution took place in two stages, two female prisoners are hanged during the evening roll call, in the presence of the male and female prisoners who worked the night shift at the Weichsel–Union munitions plant. The other two female prisoners are hanged after the return of the squad that works the day shift. SS-Obersturmfuhrer Hossler read out the sentence, and screamed that all traitors will be destroyed in this manner.
Three SS men were killed and twelve wounded. The gas chamber in Crematorium IV could no longer be used to the end the war.

'Crema IV at Birkenau in 1943'

Prerequisite for a planned discussions as to resistance was a lengthy stay in the camp. Those who were deported to Auschwitz for immediate extermination, most of them Jews, had no opportunity to do so. Nevertheless, there were also those people directly intended to go to the gas chamber and in a spontaneous reaction, marked by fearlessness acts of resistance, but these were never successful. In October 1943, deported women from Bergen-Belsen to Auschwitz revolted in the undressing room of crematorium II which was led by a dancer from Warsaw, during the fight one SS man was shot dead and another wounded. The revolt was put down, the women were all killed. How many such acts of self-defense took place shortly before their murder by gas is not known. 
On the initiative of the 'Kampfgruppe Auschwitz' in June 1943 prisoner data were passed to the Polish underground, with instructions to send them to free countries and calling for food parcels, possibly through the International Red Cross. Consequently the incoming packets not only strengthened the prisoners physically but morally. [The receipt and distribution was monitored and inspected by Red Cross Members in various camps, sic]
One aspect of the resistance was the documentation of the crimes in the camp by the underground organisations and individual prisoners. In addition to the writing of reports and messages and the copies or the theft of SS documents which included the smuggling of this information out of the camp. With the aid of conspiratorial contacts outside, operating with the resistance much of this information had been smuggled in partially encrypted secret messages from the camp, the arrival gave the extent of the crime, such as lists of name of victims, photographs of the gas chambers, and a list of names of responsible SS men which reached the Polish resistance movement and could be passed on in part to the Polish government in exile and then to the Allies. The BBC published in 1944 based on such information an 'executioner list' (Henkers Liste) with the names of the SS directly responsible for the elimination processes in the camps. The publicity of 'Moll Plans' and the consequences of it had, that the SS intended to liquidate after the second half of 1944 the camp and kill the prisoners to cover up all traces of the crimes in the face of the advance of the Soviet troops. The governments of Britain and the USA spent time on intervention with the Polish government in exile and issued a statement in which they made the plans public and threatening punishment. The statement was broadcast on 10 October 1944. Probably this was the reason why the 'Moll plan "was not implemented, thus thousands of people, particularly Jews, saved their life's.
Where the opportunity of smuggling was not possible, the documents were buried on the grounds of the camp, in the hope that future generations would learn in this way about the crimes. Between 1945 and 1980 near the crematoria of Auschwitz-Birkenau manuscripts were found of members of the Sonderkommando, reporting on the destruction process and the uprising of the commando.
The escaping from the camp, if it 01succeeded, was the only form of resistance that could actually save lives permanently. Escpee's had to break through the elaborate security system of the camp which consisted of a small and large safety ring, first the electric barbed wire, behind that the 'neutral zone', where shots would be fired without warning at any movement in this zone, which in turn was surrounded by a lighter type of electrical wiring. If a prisoner had overcome these insurmountable obstacles, what lay behind this was the outer security zone, the 40 quadrat kilometre large 'area of ​​interest' of Auschwitz. Once an escape was noticed all police stations were put on alert and an extensive manhunt ensued. 
Until spring 1942 Poles were in the majority of prisoners in Auschwitz. Especially those who possessed some knowledge of the German language, had a chance as assistance Kapo or be 'employed' by a block leader under his protection could thereby improve their chances of survival. The Polish prisoners remained until the end in a strong position within the inmate society. They knew the conditions of the camp best and always found ways to establish secret contacts with the outside world.


Between the spring of 1942 and the evacuation in January 1945, the first German concentration camp on Polish soil developed into the largest killing centre for Jews of Europe and established a vast reservoir of slave-labour for the German war industry. It is estimated that 80 to 90 percent of incoming prisoners including virtually all of the old people and small children, were killed immediately. The remaining prisoners who were 'selected' when they arrived for work, had due to poor living and working conditions in Auschwitz, a life expectancy of a few months. Only when they were sent to work in another camp or were assigned to a function, they had a better chance of survival. With the expansion of Auschwitz and the establishment of satellite camps there was a continuous change in the the composition of the "Prominent Functionaries". The SS was forced, both at Auschwitz II-Birkenau, to entrust in increasing numbers to non-German prisoners with function, as the non-Jewish prisoners becoming the minority among the captives, as in satellite camps, with mostly Jewish prisoners A number of Jewish "Functionaries" had to be appointed. With the continuous expansion of the Auschwitz camp complex the ability of SS to keep an overview of prisoners decreased. At the same time the scope of life expectancy for the working prisoners was extended.
In spring 1942 the Auschwitz women's camp was initially established in a separate area of the main camp before the female prisoners were taken in the fall to Birkenau. The female guards in the SS entourage put women prisoners functionaries in charge, including alongside Poles mainly Slovak Jewesses who had been among the first women prisoners in Auschwitz.
Even the members of the camp orchestra lived in better conditions than the average prisoners. Already in 1941 the first orchestra was formed in the main camp, which was composed largely of Polish professional musicians. It first played mainly martial tunes during roll call and when prisoners were returning and depart to work and in front of the commander's Villa and on festive occasions. From the summer of 1942, there were at Auschwitz II-Birkenau, both an orchestra with male musicians as well as a women's orchestra, under the direction of the famous Viennese musician Alma Rose, who gained the greatest fame. All musicians of the orchestra were prisoners as long as they were able to keep this job, with better food and decent clothing. One of the girls of this orchestra, Anita Lasker-Wallfisch, described the grotesque task: "The orchestra performed every morning at the departure of the work gangs and evening on their return to the camp from their activities. We also had to perform on Sundays before the camp inmates, or even to the SS-personnel who were guarding the camp. in 1944, thousands of Hungarian Jews were brought to the camp and were lined up to be led into the gas chambers, we had to play something for these unfortunate people". 
The fate of the prisoners in the Sonderkommando was unimaginable in the face of daily horrors at Auschwitz. Upon their arrival, young, strong men would be selected and were assigned to bring the victims out of the gas chambers and have them cremated after the removal of hair, the hidden jewellery and removal of gold teeth, dragged them into the crematory ovens or stacked them on pyres. They lived away from the other prisoners and were well fed and cared for, even provided with alcohol, up to the stage, before they were murdered themselves, as they knew too much and replaced by new workers.

Sonderkommando burning corpses'
Thus, the image is composed of the "Privileged" in Auschwitz from many facets. Because in addition to corruption, selfishness and cruelty, there was also this group of prisoners that showed empathy and humanity. The reports of the survivors of Auschwitz runs like a red thread through their internment that they have survived thanks to the help of fellow inmates. What percentage of prisoners existed, who used their pre-eminence for the good and sometimes jeopardising their own lives to save their fellow prisoners can not be determined. Nor can the number of Auschwitz 'celebrity' figures who survived the death camp and the evacuation of Auschwitz and the months until liberation who now live in other countries be counted

The deportation of Hungarian Jews constitutes a point, in their dimension and because of their history a peculiar chapter in the history of the Holocaust and the Auschwitz concentration camp.
The Wehrmacht occupied Hungary on March 19, 1944, On the previous day Horthy had met Hitler at Klessheim. Under the threat of unilateral military action the German leader compelled the Regent to accept the German occupation and set up a pro-German governement. Hitler also demanded that some 100,000 Jews be delivered 'for Labour' in Germany. Horthy submitted. The train that took the Regent back to Budapest carried another prominent passenger: Edmund Veesenmayer, Hitler's special delegate to the new Hungarian government. On that same day, Eichmann also arrived in the Hungarian capital, soon followed by the members of his 'Special Intervention Unit Hungary'(Sondereinsatzkommando Ungarn).
A jewish Council was set up on March 12, additional anti-Sermitic legislation followed, including the indroduction of the yellow Star, on April 7. The appointment of two violently anti-Semitic secretaries of State, Laszlo Endre and Laszlo Baky, gave the Germans all the assistance they needed to round up the Jewish population. On April 7 the roundups started in the Hungarian provinces, with the enthusiastic cooperation of the Hungarian police. Within less than a month, ghettos or camps for hundreds of thousands of Jews sprang up in Carpatho-Ruthenia, in Transylvania, and later in the southern part of the country. 
The furious pace of the German-Hungarian operation ensured the quasi-total success of the concentration phase. One may wonder, however, whether the attitude adopted by the Jewissh Council did not, more than in most other places, add to the passivity and sub-servience of the Jewish masses. The council was well informed, and so were many Hungarian Jews, especially in Budapest. Returning members of the Labour Battalions, Hungarian soldiers back from the Eastern Front, Jewish refugees from Poland and Slovakia spread the information they had gathered about mass extermination of Jews, as did the Hungarian services of the BBC. Moreover, on April 7 two Slovak Jews, Rudolf Vrba and Alfred Wetler, escaped from Auschwitz  and on the twenty-first reached Slovakia. Within days they had written a detailed report about the extermination process in the Upper Selesian camp and delivered it to the 'Working Group' in Bratislava. These 'Auschwitz Protocolls' reached Switzerland and the Allied countries. Large excerpts were soon published in the Swiss and American press. To this day, howevever, it isn't exactly clear how long it took for the report to reach the Jewish Council in Budapest.
Yellow star.
Vrba himself expressed the view that the 'Working Group' did not act rapidly enough and that, once it received the report, the council kept the information to itself, thus the Jews of the Hungarian provinces were not warned against boarding the trains to Auschwitz. Yehuda Bauer has countered Vrba's accusation: The report may have reached Budapest and the council as early as the end of April, but nothing could have been done in any case to stop the masses of Jews in the provinces from following the deportation orders. In fact the Budapest council members admitted after the war to having had precise knowledge of what was happening to the Jews all over occupied Europe and, in that sense, whether they received the 'Protocolls' at the end of April or at a somewhat later date was not of major importance.
The Budapest council, headed by Samu Stern, included representatives of all the major religious and political  groups of the community. It may be assumed that any warning to Jews of the provinces wuld be useless. Possibly for that reason and because the council members were utterly assimilated, law-abiding Magyar citizens, the council made no attemp to inform the heads of communities in the provinces covertly, its announcements were soothing all along, as if the Budapest leaders mainly wanted to avoid panic among the hapless Jewish masses. The councils attatude did not change after two more Jews, Czeslaw Mordowicz and Arnost Rosin, escaped from Auschwitz at the end of April and confirmed the previous information. Some of the councilmembers, such as the Orthodox Fulöp Freudiger, were in close touch with Wiliceny and succeed in saving themselves, members of their family, and some other closely related Orthodox Jews by crossng over to Romania. Others, after being threatened by the Gestapo went into hiding. 

Jewish intellectuals in the internment camp.'
Almost from the outset of the German occupation several thousand Jews, mostly public figures, and the like, were seized and sent to comcentration camps in Austria. Om May 14 the full-scale deportation from Hungarian provinces to Auschwitz started, at the rate of approxemately 12,000 to 14,000 deportees a day. Hungarian trains run to the Slovak border, there the deportees were transferred to German trains that carried them to Auschwitz. The crematoriums of Birkenau could not keep up with the gassing pace, and open-air cremation pits had to be added. All four crematoria operated full blast. However, soon the ovens were burnt out as a result of the continous heavy use and only crematorium No. III was still smoking. The special commando had been increased and worked feverishly to keep emptying the gas chambers. The white "Farmhouse" was brought back into use. it was given the title 'Bunker 5'. The last body had hardly been pulled from the gas chambers and dragged across the yard behind the crematorium, which was covered in corpses, to the burning pit, when the next lot were already undressing in the hall ready for gassing.[...] Höß himself described the cremation in the open pits:'The fires in the pits had to be stoked, the surplus fat drained off and the mountain of burning corpses constantly turned over so that the draught might fan the flames'. 
According to a report by Veesenmayer on June 30, a total of 381,661 Jews had been deported to Auschwitz from Zone I to IV in the Hungarian provinces. 'Concentration in Zone V, Veesenmayer added, 'has started on June 29. Simultaneously small special action in suburbs of Budapest as preparatory measures have been launched. Furthermore a few small special transports with political Jews, intellectual Jews, Jews with many children and specially skilled Jewish workers are stil on the way'. When, on July 9, the deportation from the Hungarian provinces finally stopped, 438,000 Jews had been sent to Auschwitz and approximately 394,000 immediately exterminated. Of those selekted for work, very few were still alive at the end of the war. In Budapest about 250,000 Jews were still awaiting their fate.[...]

Victims of the ghetto (Budapest, 19 January 1945)


A special group of inmates held within the camps formed the prisoner in German captivity of Red Army soldiers. The attack of NS-Germany on the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941 resulted of the massacre of at least 3.3 million Soviet POWs over a certain period. The army (Wehrmacht) had set a criteria of Russian prisoners of war: A decree of 8 September 1941 regulated the treatment of captured Red Army soldiers. They were in the custody of the armed forces, but after negotiations between Himmler and the OKW, (Supreme Command of the Army) were transferred to the sphere of the SS. [The main reason the OKW agreed was more of a retaliatory measure simce Russia had never signed the Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War. Geneva, 27 July 1929, and treated German POW's rather brutally sic]. This (German) act formally introduced and constituted a major change of responsibility, which no longer treated them as prisoner of war, but as civilians. In POW camps they were housed in inhumane conditions and hundreds and thousands died. Up to February 1942 two million Soviet prisoners of war were killed. In the camps, the Einsatzkommandos and SD differentiated between prisoners for political and racist criteria during executions. 'Executions were not to be in public and must be carried out discreetly in the nearest concentration camp'. was the operational order of the Chief of Security Police and SD, from 21 July 1941. Their transfer to be executed in concentration camps was a deliberate extermination program, which took place in almost all the concentration camps if they were kept there.
The first transport of Soviet prisoners arrived in Auschwitz July 1941, however, they were not included in the  statistics of the camp but housed in block 11. The prisoners had to dig a trench in the vicinity of the camp gate. Both the SS and the prison functionaries who were assigned as guards beat, and tortured them to death. Those no longer capable of work were shot. Within days, all prisoners from this transport were either murdered or died of the treatment dished out. Mid-September, nine blocks were in the main camp designated as 'Russian POW labor camp' on the left of the entrance gate from the rest of the camp with barbed wire and isolated. On 7 October, all day starting in the morning the Soviet prisoners in the hundreds were hurried naked through the gate 'Arbeit macht frei' into the internment camp. It was a chilly day, there was snow. [...] I remember that the prisoners were subjected after their arrival to a disinfectant, which took place in the industrial yard, where they had to climb into vats of a liquid solution'. In the course of this type of abuse, many men died.

Heinrich Himmler (left, in glasses), head of the Gestapo and the Waffen-SS, inspects a prisoner-of-war camp in this from 1940-41 in Russia'. 
The registration of the 2000 prisoners of war by the Political Department was performed by inmate interpreters In block 24. The data was recorded on a personal questionnaire, in place of 'Konzentrationslager'-'the abbreviation 'R.Gef.Lager' (Russian Prison Camp) was enterd. Those already deceased had been identified by their, on metal disks recognition mark given number of a previously Stalag (Stammlager) they had passed through. Initially, no numbers were issued at Auschwitz, but it was a short time later that Russian prisoners of war were tattooed on the chest. On 'personnel records' the prison clerks indicated the metal stamped number of prisoners he had received in a previous war camp he had been through before. For each Red Army soldier a four-part form was issued.
In November 1941, resided the 'Special Commission of the Katowice Gestapo' four weeks in the main camp. Their task was to carry out interrogations under torture, which had to peform a breakdown of approximately 9.000 prisoners in different groups as follows: A: 'politically unacceptable', B: 'politically innocuous', C:' suitable for reconstruction 'and' fanatic Communist '. The aim was to filter out Communist Functionary. But the prisoners ran a clever tactic of misinformation, since they often made ​​false statements or gave details only of already deceased men. The classification into group A and 'fanatical communist' meant a certain death sentence. 700 prisoners were in group A, about 8,000 classified in Group B, 30 in group C and 300 as 'fanatical Communists'. And the latter group A were executed in late November / early December 1941 into two groups. About 300 were shot and killed another 300 in January 1942 by poison gas. Prisoners of war were also the ones on whom the first 'test gassing' were conducted in the main camp beginning September 1941. Although this procedure should remain strictly secret, but there were witnesses among the prisoners who spread the information about the new method of murder in the camp.
The conditions of survival of the Soviet prisoners in Auschwitz were extremely poor. With their food supply deliberately targeted to be entirely inadequate: Hard-working men had to make do with half a liter of soup, 330 to 350 grams of bread plus margarine or a piece of sausage. Physical hygiene was hardly possible and prisoners becoming weaker by the day, diseases like typhus or vitamin deficiency added to their demise, which led to the fact that the prison numbers was reduced daily. The traditional card index of Soviet prisoners of war indicates that most died within the first 30 days of their incarceration in Auschwitz. In November 1941, among the Soviet prisoners 3.726 deaths were recorded in December. During winter 1941/42 a total of 1.912 died. They were mainly used for the construction of the new camp complex of Auschwitz-Birkenau. Here they were used as forced labour and exposed in the most brutal manner of tyranny and torture of the camp SS, they were taken to perform in completely exhausted condition subject of the most strenuous physical work. On 4 November 1941 alone, 300 deaths were registered upon the return to the main camp. On 1 May 1942 only 186 men were still alive. Since the crematorium in the main camp had exceeded its capacity due to the increasing numbers of deaths, the bodies were brought to Birkenau, where they were buried in mass graves. They had some time later be exhumed and cremated, as the stench of corpses spread too far around.
Soviet POWs. The Germans killed about 15 000 Soviet POWs in KL Auschwitz. (Auschwitz-Birkenau' 
Until early March 1942 about 10.000 Soviet prisoners were deported to Auschwitz. On the date of dissolution of the prisoners of war department in the main camp, on March 1, 1942, almost 90 percent were killed or fallen victim to the poor living conditions. The 945 surviving prisoners were transferred to the camp section B Ib Birkenau, where they were housed with other prisoners and no longer isolated. As at January 17, 1945, the last roll call was held in Auschwitz, only 96 Soviet POWs were still alive.


As of late 1941, and early 1942 at the latest, Auschwitz functioned not only as a reservoir of labour in the interests of the SS and the German war economy, but as a place of mass extermination of European Jews. By 1941 the number of prisoners in Auschwitz Jews barely exceeded 1,500. The first large transports of Jews that reached Auschwitz came from Poland, France, Slovakia and the German Reich to the spring of 1942. From mid-1942, Jews made up the largest proportion among the prisoners. In June 1942, the first time more than 20,000 people were registered as prisoners, circa 16.000 Poles and more than 4,000 French and more than 1,000 Jews from Slovakia. In July of the same year came the first transports of Jews from the occupied Netherlands. The labour force of Jews gained in importance, while the war progressed, so they would not be, as usual, until the summer of 1942, killed immediately upon arrival, but 'selected' by their ability to work. The first selections were made on July 4, 1942 during a transport of Jews from Slovakia. On average, only 10% of people from these transports entered the camp proper, which means they received a prison number. All the others were murdered upon arrival by the poison gas Zyklon B in gas chambers.
In August and October 1942, about 5,000 Jews from Yugoslavia were taken to Auschwitz, also 532 from Norway. By the end of 1942, more than 197,000 Jews arrived by various means there. In the course of 1942, Auschwitz became thus, as the concentration camps Lublin-Majdanek yet in numerically smaller extent, the character of an extermination camp, similar to the monofunctional murder sites of Chelmno (from Juli1941), Belzec (from March 1942), Sobibor (from May 1942) and Treblinka (from July 1942). At these camps 1.6 to 2 million Jews were killed, more than 90% of them were Poles. After the 'Aktion Erntefest' in the concentration camp Lublin-Majdanek in early November 1943 Auschwitz was the largest remaining concentration camps, all the rest (Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka) were already closed. Only Chelmno was reactivated in June 1944 for about three weeks, when the National Socialists dissolved the ghetto of Lodz (Litzmannstadt).
Approximately 900,000 Jews, according to the calculations of Francszek Piper were immediately killed after their arrival in the gas chambers at Auschwitz, about 205,000 were registered as prisoners and remained alive for the time being. The RSHA had in the summer of 1944 deported 438,000 Jews from Hungary, 300,000 from Poland, 69,000 from France, 60,000 from the Netherlands, 55,000 from Greece, 46.000 from the 'Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia', 27,000 from Slovakia, 25,000 from Belgian, 23.000 Germany 10.000 from Croatia, 6,000 from Italy, 1,600 from Austria, 690 from Norway and about 35,000 from other camps, a total of 1.1 million people went to Auschwitz-Birkenau. Even from the outlying Greek islands of Rhodes, Corfu, the SS deported Jews to Auschwitz. From de Soviet Union no Jews were taken to Auschwitz, the Einsatzgruppen of the Security Police and SD, shot them on location*. 
*Quelle: Feststellungen von Franciszek Piper und andere auf der Grundlage der Angaben über die zahlenmäßigen Zugänge im Häftlingsstand. S. Franciszek Piper, die Zahl der Opfer von Auschwitz Aufgrund der Quellen und der Erträge der Forschung 1945-1990, Oswiecim 1993. Seite 202.sic] 
[Source: Findings from Franciszek Piper and others on the basis of information on the numerical statements and avaiability on the state of internees . 'P. Franciszek Piper, the number of victims of Auschwitz based on the sources from results and research 1945-1990, Oswiecim 1993 page 202'.sic]
Several documents signed by Heydrich in June and July 1941 outlined the measures to be taken against Jews living in the nerwly occupied areas. In a message sent June 29 to the Einsatzgruppen commanders, the RSHA chief referred to the meeting held in Berlin on the seventeenth and emphasised the need for secretly encouraging local pogroms , Heydrich called it "Sebstbereinigung" (self-cleaning). Simultaneously the SS Units were to get ready to take over from the local "avengers". Then, in a July 2 message to Himmler's personal delegates to various countries of major areas, the Higher SS and Police Leaders, Heydrich summed up the instructions previously given to the Einsatzgruppen: All Jewish party and state officials were to be executed and local pogroms had to be encouraged. Finally, on July 17, Heydrich ordered the execution of all Jewish prisoners of war. And so it was. During the first weeks mostly Jewish men were killed, then all Jews without distinction were murdered by the SS Einsatzgruppen and other SS Units, by the much more numerous Order Police Batallions, all of which were assisted from the ouset by local gangs, then by local auxiliary units organised by the Germans, and often by regular Wehrmacht Troops. Contrary to what had long been assumed, Himmler did not give the order for the general extermination of all Jews in Sowjet territory during his August 15 visit to Minsk, when, at his request, he attanded a mass execution of Jews at the ourskirts of the city. The move from selective to mass murder had started earlier, probably as a result of Hitler's remarks during the July 16 conference regarding the possibilities offered by antipartisan operations. All Jews may not have been partisans in German eyes, but why not assume that they would offer assistance to partisans if they could?

'Himmler visits a POW camp in Minsk'
SS – Obergruppenfuhrer Karl Wolff who served as Himmler’s adjutant recalled that during a trip to Minsk on 15 August 1941, that Himmler “asked to see a shooting operation,” and Einsatzgruppe B Commander Nebe arranged such an execution of 100 people, 98 men and 2 women. Wolff was present at this action and he remembered how Himmler, just before the firing was to begin, walked up to a doomed man and put a few questions to him: Are you a Jew? 'Yes' Are both your parents Jews? 'Yes' Do you have any ancestors who were not Jews? 'No 'Then I can’t help you.
Wolff continued: An open grave had been dug and they had to jump into this and lie face downwards. And sometimes when one or two rows had already been shot, they had to lie on top of the people who had already been shot and then they were shot from the edge of the grave. And Himmler had never seen dead people before and in his curiosity he stood right up at the edge of this open grave – a sort of triangular hole – and was looking in.
While he was looking in, Himmler had the deserved bad luck that from one or other of the people who had been shot in the head he got a splash of brains on his coat, and I think it also splashed into his face and he went very green and pale – he wasn’t actually sick, but he was heaving and turned round and swayed and then I had to jump forward and hold him steady and then I led him away from the grave.


At least 232,000 of the 1.3 million, most children and young people deported to Auschwitz were up to an age of 14 to 18 years, among whom were about 216,000 Jews. Who was younger than 14 years, had little chance to be considered during the selection as fit for work and thus to escape the immediate death in the gas chambers. Only about 6,700 Jewish children and adolescents were taken up as prisoners in the camp records. Although most of them were housed in the 'Theresienstadt Family Camp' and the Gypsy Camp. Moreover 11.000 Sinti and Roma prisoners in Auschwitz were younger than 18 years.
Among the prisoners there were at least 3,100 Polish children and adolescents. These came from the Zamosc region, and were deported to Auschwitz in whole family groups. Zamosc about 240 kilometers southeast of Warsaw was to be colonized in the population policy ideas of Heinrich Himmler by German settlers and the local population to be taken elsewhere. The Poles were divided into four groups defined by racial criteria. Able-bodied Poles aged between 14 and 60 years fell into the rating group 4 and should work at Birkenau as forced labourers. At least 119 under 18 years came under this category to Auschwitz, of which about half did not survive the camp's living conditions. After their arrival, the boys lived at first in the men's camp at Birkenau B IIb, and were then transferred to the main camp in Block 20 and killed by phenol injections. Their cause of death was faked and their death certificates falsified. The girls came into the women's camp. Polish children and adolescents were as the result of the suppression of the Warsaw Uprising in August 1944, deported to Auschwitz. Of the over 13,000 from Warsaw to Auschwitz deportees were almost 10% of children and adolescents. Children and pregnant women, the SS put into Block 16 of the women's camp at Birkenau B Ia. Wanda D., pregnant during her ​​admission reported about the appalling living conditions in the barrack: 'Many of the camp's inmates who had been there for some time helped and comforted us at least. They took special care of the children which had arrived with the transport from Warsaw. [...] I'll never forget the women figure of the room senior supervisor [...] that struck the children, even the youngest, if one of them had become wet during their sleep. Those caring for the youngest children, who knew about the beatings, took the youngest out of their beds and put them on a bucket, just so to protect them from the blows [...] The barrack, in which I was staying myself, I found was incredibly full of bedbugs' . In addition, none of the accommodations had any water connections, so that the latrines were not useable, instead the prisoners did relieve themselves sitting on buckets. During the day the children had to keep the barrack clean. After some time, the pregnant women were taken to a separate 'maternity barracks' near the prisoner infirmary.
A Greater chance of survival than any others did male adolescents of the children have because the camp SS used them for various minor work and some prisoner functionaries tried to shield them, by allotting them lighter work details. Himmler had demanded up to the 'Victorious Peace Treaty' the then incipient of Großbauten (Grand Construction), to start a training scheme of a minimum of 5.000 stonemasons and 10,000 bricklayers in the concentration camps. This policy was pursued vigorously by the lack of skilled workers in 1942. Since 1940 there existed a so called 'Mason School' ( Maurerschule) in Auschwitz, first in the main camp, and later in Birkenau and Monowitz. Young prisoners were educated in bricklaying and used on the camp grounds at different jobs, for example in the construction of barracks or digging potato cellars which had to be lined with bricks. At the end of January 1942, a mason school in the main camp was firmly established, its apprentices lived and were taught in Block 7. Among the apprentices were Jewish boys, Poles, Russians, Gypsies and Germans. The boys were taught by teachers in the camp for up to three months term courses. From a performance report it shows that 'the school was divided into four classes. Each class was during the course of the duration attended on an average by 70 to 80 apprentices. Teaching subjects of Masonry was taught in simple terms, the individual teaching method paid particular attention to detailed workmanship . A working day of instructing mason students in lessons started between 8 in the morning and 1700 hour in the afternoon. Following each completed course the SS camp put the boys into work details within the camp complex. Mason students went into a Planierungskommando 'levelling commando' or used in the construction of laundries and toilet barracks in the gypsy camp. A boy describes how the students tried occasionally to gain a break in the busy daily routine: 'Under the watchful eyes of the SS officer who supervised us, we assumed all the habit of being constantly on the move. Whether we were working or not, we always looked very busy. One of our favourite tricks was that if we had fulfilled our task ahead [...] we crept to the upper rooms to rest. We had to be at least four of us to ensure the success of this intermission. One had to observe and posted at the scaffolding, while two others, one in each hand something like a hammer, pretending to do some working noise.
Hans Frankenthal was a member of a bricklayers school, but at the works of IG Farben. He reported that the Bricklayers School was set up because the 'IG Garben needed still plenty of skilled workers '. A Block Elder had used his position and influence: 'So I was not exposed to the hard work and by the way the meals were more than before'. Since the camp-SS considered the skilled work force of the students as important, their food was comparatively better than that of other inmates, even though many of the former bricklayers complained of constant hunger. Prisoner boys reported, that adults in the main camp, who tried to help them with everyday life by additional food or 'organizing' clothing. For the boys, the Bricklayers School meant their training as a temporary escape from everyday camp life, but they were not permanently protected from abuse. At the end of September 1942, the Bricklayers School of Birkenau was moved to the main camp (Stammlager) were only about 200 from the original total of 520 apprentices moved. The reasons given were numerous, stated as'disposals' (deaths), and rampant diseases. With the liberation of Auschwitz among the survivors only about 650 children and young people, among them at least 460 Jews and 135 Poles survived. Countless of them had to leave the camp on one of the death marches, and had died in other concentration camps or had been freed. We will never exactly know how many.


The SS kept during 1940 and 1941 up to 20 prisoners to work at the crematorium of the Stammlager (Main Camp). As the capacity of the crematorium was sufficient mainly due to the mass deaths of Soviet prisoners of war in the last quarter of 1941 this prisoner team had to dig near Birkenau pits and buried the dead there. With the expansion of the extermination camps at Birkenau, the number of the 'Sonderkommando' as they were called in 1942, of prisoners needed, had to be increased. From the transportation trains which arrived in spring 1942 at Birkenau, the SS selected some suitable inmates who had to bury prisoners that had been suffocated in the gas chambers (bunker) . After performing their task they were killed. From late April/ early May 1942 to December 1942 for the first time there remained one special Sondercommando operational for a longer time. In the summer of 1942, it comprised up to 400 mostly Slovakian Jews. They had to remove the bodies from the two 'bunkers' bury them and excavate more pits. From September 1942 they opened the mass graves in Birkenau and burned more than 100,000 corpses. Afterwards the SS murdered the entire working group, then they just recruited a new 'Sonderkommando'.
By the end of 1943, the working team consisted constantly at 400 inmates who had to be continuously supplemented, because the SS killed the sick and the weakened. End of February 1944 until the arrival of the transports from Hungary in May it went back to the strength of about 200. On 28 July 1944 the Sonderkommando had peaked again to 873 inmates. To maintain secrecy, the prisoners were transferred from the men's camp B IId mid-1944 onto the site of the crematoria. After the murder of the Hungarian Jews, the Somderkommando was again reduced. As they knew they were witnesses to the crimes committed that the SS would not let them live, the remaining prisoners decided to revolt, as their action failed on October 7 1944, 451 inmates died. Only the crematorium III and IV allocated prisoners survived the attempted revolt. The last, about 100 prisoners in this Commando were deported on 18 January 1945 to Mauthausen.


Since the spring of 1944 with the evacuation transports thousands of prisoners arrived from forced labour camps for Jews and from the dissolution process such as the concentration camps located in Krakow-Plaszow and Lublin-Majdanek in Auschwitz. In August 1944, the entire Auschwitz camp complex registered 130,000 prisoners. 13,000 of one consignment of 50,000 were Poles, which the Germans had arrested in August 1944 after the suppression of the Warsaw Uprising, and were temporarily admitted to Auschwitz, from here the SS deported them into various concentration camps further into the inner Reich among others Groß-Rosen and Stutthof, whose existence was not jeopardised just then by the effects of the war. In early August 1944, started the first major evacuation transport of Polish and Russian prisoners to Buchenwald concentration camp. More than 80,000 prisoners were again transferred in 1944 from the Auschwitz within the Reich. There they were used in the production of armament production among others in underground arms factories of 'Jet Fighter Planes' (Jägerprogramm) at Mühldorf and Kaufering as forced labor. In addition, the SS between mid-1944 and January 1945, established in the Upper Silesian area in July, as Gleiwitz III, for industrial companies ten satellite camps and in August one in Trzebinia, during September one at Bismarckhütte. This region was not directly threatened by Allied bombing.
On one hand, the SS therefore made every effort, to secure the prisoners as a labour force, but at the same time they found it necessary in the killing of Hungarian Jews up to July 1944 in the gas chambers of Birkenau, the last surviving camp to exterminate inmates, an extensive mass murder that took place in the history of the camp. About 65,000 Jews from the Lodz ghetto, the final evacuation was carried out from May to August, were, in addition to Hungarians, the main group of inmates for direct extermination. Between September and November 1944, after a two-year hiatus, the deportations of Slovak Jews were again taken up. Moreover, the SS liquidated in July the 'Theresienstadt family camp' and at the beginning of August the Gypsy camp in Birkenau. During this operation over 15,000 Jews and Gypsies found their deaths. At least half a million people were killed in 1944, in a very short time in Auschwitz, that means, out of a total of about 1.1 millions over half of the prisoners died or were murdered in the last year of the war.
The SS reported in the course of 1944, an increasing resistance activity and greater cooperation between the camp internal resistance movement of the main camp (Stammlager) with guerrilla units. District President of Katowice, Walter Springorum had in 1943 already considered the possibility of an armed inmate uprising, supported by the Armia Krajowa (Polish Home Army) as a serious threat. The SS saw themselves in the event of Allied bombing raids or the takeover of the camp by enemy troops, threatened by the enormous number of prisoners. For this reason, the SS units were to secure the camp and strengthened their contingent by April 1944 with an additional 1,000 SS men. By the months July/August 1944 units of the Red Army, were only 200 km away from the concentration camp.
Specific plans for the evacuation of the camp were available in September/October 1944, to the Higher SS and Police Leader in Breslau, Heinrich Schmauser who had worked with Gauleiter and First President of the province of Silesia, Fritz Bracht, and the departments of the SS in Auschwitz. Between August 1944 and January 1945, the SS sent about 65.000 prisoners in more than 130 evacuation transports and spread them over ten concentration camps of the 'Altreich' (Germany-proper). The compilation (Zusammensetzung) of the transport took place at Birkenau. Selections were made here to determine the fitness for work of the men, women and children. Managers of German companies traveled to Auschwitz in part to choose suitable workers. Most of the prisoners were sent to Buchenwald, Mittelbau-Dora and Flossenbürg, at least 4,000 went to Groß-Rosen.
In mid-January 1945, as Soviet forces approached the Auschwitz camp complex, the SS began evacuating Auschwitz and its satellite camps. Nearly 60,000 prisoners were forced to march west from the Auschwitz camp system. Thousands had been killed in the camps in the days before these death marches began. Tens of thousands of prisoners, mostly Jews, were forced to march to the city of Wodzislaw in the western part of Upper Silesia. SS guards shot anyone who fell behind or could not continue. Prisoners also suffered from the cold weather, starvation, and exposure on these marches. More than 15,000 died during the death marches from Auschwitz. On January 27, 1945, the Soviet army entered Auschwitz and liberated more than 7,000 remaining prisoners, who were mostly ill and dying. The capture of Auschwitz comes as the Red Army has made important advances on three fronts: in East Prussia to the north, in western Poland as well as Silesia in eastern Germany. Fighting was continuing around the historic Polish western city of Poznan. 

Russian Soldiers with women prisoners at Auschwitz
As an urgent task was to procure food, to bring medical help to the sick and bury the dead lying around the grounds. The conditions in the barracks of Birkenau and Monowitz were horrible. Excrement and filth had to be literally scraped off the dirt floor, water from the fire extinguishing ponds and fountains were brought in, or melted from snow. Initially there were only a few members of the Soviet medical service available, supported by members of the Polish Red Cross, and civilians from the area. Only in the course of a few weeks was it able to relocate the sick into the hospital that was previously equipped in the brick buildings of the former main camp (Stammlager) Auschwitz I. There departments for the treatment of tuberculosis, internal medicine and surgery had been established. In addition, the need for psychiatric help for some severely traumatized victim was in great need. Several dozen former prisoners who had already worked in the camp as doctors and nurses cared for, regardless of their own weakened condition to the sick. At nearby hospitals patients were gradually admitted from Auschwitz.
Quite a few liberated prisoners tried to return by themseves to their homes. From mid-February 1945, the first organised transport by the Soviet military authorities began the return of survivors to their home countries. However, the war was not yet over, Europe was destroyed and limited transportation options were available. Thus, a group of 300 survivors from Western and Southern Europe,were TAKEN into several transit camps in Belarus and Ukraine, before they were finally repatriated in autumn 1945 by rail. By summer all the transportable former prisoners had left the camp site.
In February 1945, Soviet and Polish authorities did investigate the crimes committed at Auschwitz. Buildings and destroyed crematoria were a significant expressions of the crimes as were piles of human ashes and the victims stolen possessions that could not be sent back to Germany. More than a million pieces of clothing for  men, women and children, piles of shoes, eyeglasses and dentures, as well as seven tons of human hair was found. 200 former prisoners, including two survivors of the Sonderkommando, were interviewed. In addition, documents and records, which the SS had not the time to destroy, as well as notes from prisoners, including buried reports of the Sonderkommando, were secured. A forensic Commission investigated together with a group of former inmate doctors more than 2,000 inmate patients, among them 180 children, in order to get an idea of ​​the 'camp diseases' and the medical experiments performed. On 8 May 1945, the "Extraordinary State Commission of the Soviet Union were to investigate the crimes committed by the German-Fascist invaders" and published a report "About the horrendous Crimes of the German Government in Auschwitz."

Bales of hair cut from female prisoners, discovered at Auschwitz following its liberation in January 1945.'
For some months buildings in the main camp (Stammlager) and barracks of the former women's camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau were used as a Soviet Internment Camp. Prior to their transport to Russia there were German prisoners of war, civilians from Upper Silesia, including members of the Volkssturm, ethnic German Poles and isolated prisoners who had been handed over by the Americans to the Soviet authorities detained. The last prisoners left the camp Birkenau in early 1946.


The trial of the staff who had been captured took place at Krakow in Poland in the autumn of 1947 and concluded on the 22nd of December of that year. Twenty one defendants, including ex-commandant Liebehenschel, and two women, Maria Mandel, head of the women's camp and Therese Rosi Brandel, were condemned to death by the Supreme People's Court in Krakow.
SS-Oberaufseherin Maria Mandel, a 36 year old blonde, was born at Munzkirchen in Austria in January 1912 and joined the SS in 1938. From October 1938 to May 1939, she was Aufseherin at KZ Lichtenburg and then from May 1939 to October 1942 she was Aufseherin in KZ Ravensbrück. She then transferred as an Oberaufseherin to KZ Auschwitz where she worked until the 30th of November 1944. She was moved on to KZ Mühldorf where she continued until May 1945. Her arrest came on August 10th, 1945. She was reported to be highly intelligent and dedicated to her work. The prisoners, however, referred to her as "the beast" as she was noted for her brutality and enjoyment in selecting women and children for the gas chambers. She also had a passion for classical music and encouraged the women's orchestra in Auschwitz. The orchestra were kept busy playing at roll calls, to accompany official speeches, to welcome transports and at hangings.
Therese Rosi Brandel been born in Bavaria in February 1902 and began training at Ravensbrück in 1940.  She worked as an SS Aufseherin in KZ Ravensbrück before transferring to Auschwitz in 1942 and then to the KZ Mühldorf (a satellite camp of Dachau). She beat her prisoners and made selections for the gas chambers. In 1943, she received the war service medal for her work there. She was arrested on the 29th of August 1945 in the Bavarian mountains.
On January 24th, 1948, all twenty one prisoners were executed in groups of five or six within the Montelupich prison in Krakow. The hangings commenced at 7:09 a.m. with Maria Mandel and four male prisoners, Artur Liebehenschel, Hans Aumeier, Maximilian Grabner and Carl Möckel. Each prisoner in turn was made to mount a simple step up. When they were noosed, this was removed leaving them suspended, slowly strangling to death. The four men were hanged one at a time, followed by Maria Mandel. It is reported that it was 15 minutes before they could be declared dead.
A second group of five prisoners, all men, were hanged at 7.43 a.m. with a further five men following them at 8.16 a.m. The final group comprising of five men and the other condemned woman, Therese Brandl, went to the gallows at 8.48 a.m. Again, they were hanged one by one and were certified dead 15 minutes later.
After execution, the 21 bodies were all taken to the Medical School at the University of Krakow for autopsy and as specimens for the students to practice anatomy on.
A further woman to be hanged at Krakow was 46 year old Elizabeth Lupka. She was born on the 27th of October 1902 in the town of Damner and married in 1934. The marriage was childless and soon ended in divorce. From 1937 to 1942, she worked in Berlin in the aircraft industry before becoming an SS Aufseherin in the KZ Ravensbrück. From March 1943 until January 1945, she worked in the KZ Auschwitz Birkenau. She beat her prisoners (women and children) and participated in the selections for the gas chambers. She was arrested on the 6th of June 1945 and brought to trial on the 6th of July 1948 at the district court in Krakow where she was convicted of war crimes and sentenced to death by hanging. She was executed on the 8th of January 1949 at 7.05 a.m. in the Montelupich prison in Krakow. Her body was also taken to the Medical School at the University of Krakow for use as an anatomical specimen by the medical students.
Margot Drexler (also given as Dreschel) was another SS Aufseherin in Auschwitz who was particularly feared by the women inmates, whom she beat and starved to death. She had last worked at the Ravensbruck subcamp of Neustadt-Glewe. After the war, she tried to escape but was caught in Pirma-Bautzen in Czechoslovakia in the Russian zone in May 1945 and hanged in May or June of that year in Bautzen. Maria Mandel told her trial that Drexler had made selections for the gas chambers.


"Buergerhaus Gallus" at Frankenalle in Frankfurt am Main-Gallus. Courthouse for the first "Frankfurt Auschwitz Trial" during 1963-65.
The Frankfurt Auschwitz Trials, known in German as der Auschwitz-Prozess or der zweite Auschwitz-Prozess, (the "second Auschwitz trial") was a series of trials running from December 20, 1963 to August 19, 1965, charging 22 defendants under German penal law for their roles in the Holocaust as mid- to lower-level officials in the Auschwitz-Birkenau death and concentration camp complex.
Most of the senior leaders of the camp, including Rudolf Höss, the longest-standing commandant of the camp, were turned over to Polish authorities in 1947, following their participation as witnesses in the Nuremberg Trial, at which time they were tried in Kraków and many sentenced to death. That earlier trial in Poland is usually known as the first Auschwitz Trial; Richard Baer, the last camp commandant died in detention while still under investigation as part of the trials.
Defendants ranged from members of the SS to kapos, privileged prisoners responsible for low-level control of camp internees, and included some of those responsible for the process of "selection," or determination of who should be sent to the gas chambers directly from the "ramp" upon disembarking the trains that brought them from across Europe ("selection" generally entailed inclusion of all children held to be ineligible for work, generally under the age of 14, and any mothers unwilling to part with their "selected" children). In the course of the trial, approximately 360 witnesses were called, including around 210 survivors. Proceedings began in the "Bürgerhaus Gallus", in Frankfurt am Main, which was converted into a courthouse for that purpose, and remained there until their conclusion.
Hessian Generalstaatsanwalt (State Attorney General) Fritz Bauer, himself briefly interned in the concentration camp at Heuberg in 1933, led the prosecution. Bauer was perhaps at least as concerned with establishing the character of the camps at Auschwitz-Birkenau as he was with pursuing individual defendants, which may explain in part why only 22 of an estimated 6,000 to 8,000 SS members thought to have been involved in the administration and operation of the camp were charged. Bauer is said to have been opposed in the former purpose by the young Helmut Kohl, then a junior member of the Christian Democratic Union. In furtherance of that purpose Bauer sought and received support from the Institute for Contemporary History in Munich. The following historians from the Institute served as expert witnesses for the prosecution; Helmut Krausnick, Hans-Adolf Jacobsen, Hans Buchheim, and Martin Broszat. Subsequently, the information the four historians gathered for the prosecution served as the basis for their 1968 book, Anatomy of the SS State, the first thorough survey of the SS based on SS records.
Information about the actions of those accused and their whereabouts had been in the possession of West German authorities since 1958, but action on their cases was delayed by jurisdictional disputes, among other considerations. The court's proceedings were largely public and served to bring many details of the Holocaust to the attention of the public in the Federal Republic of Germany, as well as abroad. Six defendants were given life sentences and several others received the maximum prison sentences possible for the charges brought against them. There is no Death Sentence in the Federal Republic of Germany.


I am often amazed by the views and what is written, specially by the younger generation in their comments when replying to some blogs or that of their own, that makes butter go sour, how stupid and 'nutty' the Nazis were, yet they did run structurally a very efficient system in their attempt to shape a new world order no matter how brutal their ideology was enforced, I lived and grew up under the regime as a youngster, although I had a liberal upbringing. Germany marked the 80th anniversary on 30 January 2013 of Adolf Hitler's rise to power with a warning from Chancellor Angela Merkel that social divisions could allow far-right tyranny to rise again. Following is a general brief overview for further study and reading if need be:
Within Himmler's empire the 'Main Office for the Security of the 'Reich' (Reichssicherheitshauptamt, or RSHA), established on September 17, 1939 and placed under Heydrich's command, created a single institutional framework for the security and police agencies (the SD, the Gestapo, and the criminal police) that had already been coordinated since 1936. Heydrich's (later Kaltenbrunner) became one of the centres of planning and implementation of the anti-Jewish measures of the regime, within the general policy framework set up by Hitler. New initiatives were often worked out at the RSHA and submitted for Himmler's and ultimately Hitler's approval, although, on many occasions proposals were rejected or sent back for modification, due to political or military constraints. The RSHA delegates, the commanders of the security Police (Befehlshaber der Sicherheitspolizei, or BdS), operated in each occupied country or area throughout the Continent, and at times their relation with the Wehrmacht or with other Nazi agencies were tense, as a result of their independent initiatives and frequent disregard for established chain of command. In 1940, the basic structure of the RSHA was finalised. Regarding Jewish matters, two offices were of special importance: Amt (office) IV and Amt V. Amt IV-"Research About and Fighting Against Enemies", was, in fact, the Gestapo, under command of Heinrich Müller, Subsection IVB4, the Jewish Referat or 'desk', under Eichmann's authority, became the hub of the administration and logistic organisation of the anti-Jewish policies decided by the higher echelons. Eichmann had direct access to Heydrich and often to Himmler as well. Amt V, the criminal police central office, in charge of all measures against 'asocial', homosexuals, and the 'Gypsies' also developed methods, mainly gas installations, for the murder of the mentally ill, later to be adopted to the extermination of the Jews, it worked in close cooperation with the headquarters, of the 'euthanasia' operation, often identified as T4 (address of its headquarters Tiergarten 4-Berlin). For a thorough study of the RSHA see Michael Wildt, Generation des Unbedingten: Das Führungskorps des Reichssicherheitshauptamtes (Hamburg, 2002). Kurt Daluege's Order Police, also under Himmler's command as chief of the German police, soon became an indispensable auxiliary of the Security Police Units, mainly in the East. It was from the ranks of the Security Police that most of the commanders of the Einsatzgruppen were chosen.
Notwithstanding its crucial role, the RSHA was only one of the agencies within the SS that fulfilled a major function in the terror system. The higher SS and police leaders(Höhere SS und Polizeiführer or HSSPF) were Himmlers personal delegates, East and West. They carried the ultimate responsibility for operations against the Jews and fight against 'partisans' or various resistance movements in their country or area. They represented the goals and interests of the SS in any policy debate with the local authorities, the Wehrmacht, or party appointees in the occupied countries. The HSSPF commanded a network of district SS and police leaders (SSPF) and were the commanders of the Order Police units in their area. For a thorough study of the HSSPF, see Ruth Bettina Birn, Die höheren SS und Polizeiführer: Himmler's Vertreter im Reich und in den besetzten Gebieten (Düssldorf, 1986).
The concentration camps had been one of the main SS instruments of terror from the outset of the regime: The first of the camps, as most people know, was Dachau, established at the very early beginning of the regime, in March 1933. The camps became a single system, from 1934 onward under the command of the SS Concentration Inspectorate (The first inspector, SS General Theodor Eicke, was followed by Richard Glücks). The camps grew from seven in the 1930's to hundreds of main and satellite camps, spread all over Europe at the height of the war, some of them were almost as deadly as the extermination camps set up from the end of 1941. In early 1942, the Concentration Camp Inspectorate was integrated into Oswald Pohl's SS Main Offoce for Economic Administration (Wirtschaftverwaltungs-Hauptamt, or WVHA) in charge of the entire SS economic realm. On the WVHA see Erik Schulte, Zwangsarbeit und Vernictung:Das Wirtschaftimperium Oswald Pohls und das SS-Witschafts-und Verwaltungshauptamt (Paderborn 2001), and Michael Thad Allen, The Business of Genocide: SS, Slave Labor and Concentration Camp (Chapel Hill 2002)
New SS organisations such as Himmler's Reich Agency for the Strengthening of Germandom (RKFDV) played a major role after the beginning of the war. The RKFDV ruled over the ethnic reshuffling in Eastern Europe: In gathering, expulsion, deportations. Himmler's chief of staff at the RKFDV was Obergruppenführer Ulrich Greifelt and the ongoing contact with the ethnic Germans, their transportation, and  resettlement (or their ever longer waiting in transit camps) was more directly in the hands of the (Volksdeutsche Mittelstelle (VOMI), headed by an old-timer Nazi propaganda and incitement operations among German communities in foreign countries, SS Gruppenführer Werner Lorenz. Notwithstanding major achievements in the historiography dealing with SS, one of the best overview remains the two-volume study:Hans Buchheim et al., Anatomie des SS Staates, 2 Vol. (Olten, 1965)
February 2013


"Will there be room for [the German refugees, fleeing before the Red army] in what is left of Germany? We have killed six or seven million Germans and probably there will be an other million or so killed before the end of the war." -- Winston Churchill. [ according to James F Byrnes' shorthand note of Plenary Session at Yalta, Feb. 7, 1945 (H S Truman Libr., Independence]
As the flames subsided, the residents of Dresden discovered that 24,866 out of the 28,410 houses in the inner city were destroyed - an area of total destruction extending over eleven square miles. As for the death toll, German authorities gave up trying to work out the precise total after some 35,000 bodies had been recognised, labelled, and buried while hundreds of cellars and air raid shelters remained unopened.
There was far too great a risk for the spread of disease to allow the proper identification of the dead. So, a massive funeral pyre was constructed in the Altmarkt where thousands more were burned.

Funeral Pyres of unidentified German civilians at Dresden'

Officials inspecting remains of Funeral Pyres at Altmarkt, Dresden 1945

With such a large amount of undocumented refugees in the city, coupled with the number of people who were outright incinerated or ripped apart by the violent winds, it is impossible to come up with an exact casualty figure. Some scholars have claimed that approximately 30,000 perished, but this estimate is far too low. Even the German authorities who, a few days after the attack, put the total somewhere between 120,000 and 150,000 could have underestimated the final amount. By way of clarification, on the night of the raid, there were approximately 1,250,000 people in the city. After the fire storm subsided, there were just under 370,000. Certainly, the majority of the 800,000 refugees were successful in fleeing Dresden. However, it is entirely justifiable to assume that approximately one quarter of these individuals actually perished in the flames. Therefore, an amount which was closer to reality, which according to American historians was mere propaganda, was provided by Dr. Goebbels -- 260,000. One reader of this blog claims 8000 incineration (at Auschwitz) of remaining  cadavers around the clock is outright hogwash is a reality. In Dresden, about 12,000 victims had been burned daily on funeral pyres within one week at the Altmarkt alone as they had to be constantly stoked, apart from those that were identified and buried within three days.

PS.: The bombing of Dresden has no relationship with events that took place in Auschwitz, other then to show and highlight the disposal of the dead up to 9000 per day, which is questioned by a number of readers, and is in the realm of possibility on packed funeral pyres, which did occur in Auschwitz. I translated truthfully what was published by the researcher.

Numerous Sources
Various Authors
Translated partly by:
Herbert Stolpmann