The Third Reich is «famous» for the whole world not only because it unleashed one of the bloodiest wars ever happening in the world, but also the brutal attitude towards prisoners of war and even their own fellow citizens who were not of that faith or nation. There are Jews, Gypsies, Poles, Ukrainians, and Russians. Experiments were conducted on them and killed. All these atrocities carried out in concentration camps, the most famous of which surely is Auschwitz.
After the military occupation of the USSR and Nazi Germany of Poland on the territory controlled by Germany in 1940, near the town of Auschwitz was created a complex of camps, which existed until 27 January 1945. In this regard, it is a «record holder».
The complex consisted of 3 camps: Auschwitz 1, Auschwitz 2 (Birkenau) and Auschwitz 3. The total area is about 500 hectares of land. In this area died or was killed, according to various estimates, from 1.4 to 4.5 million people, of whom more than half were Jews. That is why, after the destruction, it became one of the most recognizable symbols of the Holocaust.
Auschwitz 1 was established on May 20, 1940. The construction started not from scratch, but based on the buildings of the former Austrian (and then Polish) barracks. One-story buildings were completed up to two floors.
The prisoners and the administration were in these brick «blocks» of the camp, each of which had its own number.
The total number of blocks was 24. This 24 was probably the most «harmless»: there was a library on the ground floor, where prisoners could borrow a book (there were about 45 000 volumes, mostly it was German propaganda literature), and there was a brothel on the second floor.
For example, the 11th block was called the «Block of Death», there was not only a prison camp, but also the sessions of the «Extraordinary court», the decisions of which often were most frequently to execute the arrested prisoners by the Gestapo.
Here, in the cellars of 11th block, on September 2, 1941, was the first test of extermination of prisoners by using gas «Zyklon B» by order of SS-Hauptsturmführer Karl Fritzsch.
In the room of the morgue of crematorium 1 was organized a gas chamber, which functioned for about a year, and then was rebuilt into a bomb shelter for the members of the SS.
There are all now recreated to the smallest detail on this place: both the crematorium and gas chamber. A creepy atmosphere tells us what the horror felt by the people when they understood that it was all over… They were herded into the chamber and gas was released.
Speaking about Auschwitz, it is Auschwitz 2 that is most often implied, albeit unconsciously. It was in it that there were single-story wooden barracks, in which prisoners was inhabited in inhumane living conditions. This part of the camp began to be built in October 1941. Here was daily came the prisoners from all over Europe, from Portugal to the USSR. They were divided into 4 groups.
Approximately one-third of them were immediately sent to gas chambers (often it was given out for going to take a shower, to prevent a massive and uncontrolled panic). It was those who were not able to work (the elderly, weak, women, children) and those who were not interested by scientists (more about that later).
The second group of prisoners was working in industrial enterprises of various companies. During the period from 1940 to 1945, a little more than 400 thousand prisoners were sent to various factories. More than half of them died or were executed.
I strongly recommend you to watch the film «Schindler’s List» about the industrialist Oskar Schindler, who saved over a thousand Jews by ransoming them at his factory. In the film there are moments of Auschwitz, where his 300 employees are mistakenly brought.
Part of the prisoners, most of whom were beautiful young women, was sent to the group «Canada» to work as maid and to provide sexual services.
The fourth group that consisted of people who selected at the request of the scientists and doctors has been used for various medical experiments.
And if experiments in some other camps could be called useful (despite the lack of principles and cruelty at the time of the conduct), and their results were used in the future, here for the most part they were meaningless in nature.
For example – the experiments on «bleaching» the skin or «repainting» eyes in blue color. Thus the Dr. Josef Mengele and a group of other insane «doctors» tried to take the method of artificial creation of «true Aryans».
In addition, new medical preparations were tested there. People were infected with malaria, hepatitis and other dangerous diseases. The experiments and surgical operations were conducted on them. The medical staff of the camp castrated men and sterilized women.
Auschwitz 3 is a «subgroup» of another 40 small camps at the factories and mines around the complex.
Prisoners were « marked» by the traditional Nazis cloth emblems – colored triangles on the clothes. Color was allowed to know the reason why a man got here:
- Red – is political prisoners
- Green – is criminal prisoners
- Black – is antisocial and Gypsies
- Purple – is Jehovah’s Witnesses
- Pink – is homosexuals
- Yellow – is Jews
The exact number of victims is unknown, it is impossible to establish, as the main part of the documents were taken or destroyed by the Nazis. At present, there are individual data about 650 thousands of prisoners.
Rudolf Hess, who was the commandant of the camp in 1940-1943 years, said at the Nuremberg Tribunal that there were 2.5 million dead. However, he assessed only the people of Europe, without the Balkans, the inhabitants of the USSR and countries of Africa.
Evidence of countless the victims was hundreds of thousands of their personal belongings: glasses, hygiene items, shoes, toys, dentures… All of this was confiscated on arrival or just before sending to the gas chamber or the crematorium.
On January 27, 1945 – the camp was liberated by the armies of the 1st and 4th Ukrainian fronts.
I strongly recommend you this to visit place. It makes you think. It allows you to see how the insanity of one leader can destroy millions of people. There’s no such a terrible moral oppression, as in Stalag 344. However, this place has broken so many human lives that it is impossible not to feel…
We must not allow the repetition of such history. Later I will tell you how to get here, how much is a visit and how you can get there for free.