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Auschwitz (part 1)

Posted August 26th, 2017 at 10:05 AM by Solidaire
Updated August 26th, 2017 at 10:08 AM by Solidaire

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The main entrance to Auschwitz concentration camp. The infamous "Arbeit macht frei" sign dominates the scene. "Work sets you free", a slogan used by the Nazis to greet prisoners in a number of concentration camps, not just in Auschwitz. It is said that the "B" was made upside down by the prisoners as an act of defiance.

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The perimeter of the camp and its fence, electrically charged back then. Inside, the large building with the chimneys was the main kitchen of the camp, right next to the gate. In front of it was stationed the camp orchestra, which accompanied the prisoners with classical music as they exited the camp in the morning to work in the various factories of the area, and as they returned in the evening, through the "arbeit mach frei" gate. The orchestra, consisting of prisoners itself, was also giving concerts on weekends for the entertainment of the guards.

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Before the war, the buildings at Auschwitz were used by the Polish army as barracks. After the German invasion and occupation of Poland, the facilities were turned into a German concentration camp, used at first for Polish political prisoners. Later, it became part of the "Final Solution".

Auschwitz was considered an excellent location for a concentration camp because it was centrally located in Europe, and because it was in an area suitable for factories because of its large coal deposits. At the same time that Heinrich Himmler chose this location for the first concentration camp in what is now Poland, the I.G. Farben company also chose Auschwitz as the site of their new chemical factories.

Initially a labor camp for Polish political prisoners and German criminals who assisted the Germans in supervising the prisoners, Auschwitz I did not become a camp for the systematic extermination of the Jews until after the Wannsee conference, on January 20, 1942, in which plans for the "Final Solution to the Jewish Question" were made.

In February 1942, the first known transport of prisoners which was composed entirely of Jews arrived at Auschwitz; train loads of Jews continued to arrive at Auschwitz-Birkenau from all over Nazi-occupied Europe until November 1, 1944, at which time the Germans began plans to abandon Auschwitz-Birkenau, as they retreated from the advancing army of the Soviet Union.

In October 1941, a second camp, called Auschwitz II, was established in the village of Birkenau, 3 kilometers from the Auschwitz main camp. The first inmates at Birkenau were Soviet Prisoners of War.

In 1942, Auschwitz III was opened in Monowitz at the factory complex that had been built by the I.G. Farben company. The SS collected wages from I.G. Farben for the work done by the Auschwitz prisoners. Both the SS and the I.G. Farben company made enormous profits from this arrangement.

Between 1942 and 1944, there were 40 sub-camps established, under the jurisdiction of Auschwitz III; these camps were located mainly in the vicinity of steel works, coal mines and factories where the Auschwitz prisoners worked as slave laborers.


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This is where Rudolf Höss, the commandant of Auschwitz for many years and a key figure of the Holocaust, was hanged in 1947. Rudolf Höss is a study case of the psychological profile that allowed the horror of the Holocaust to materialise. His father was a dogmatic, oppressing figure in his early life, wanting him to become a priest. Instead, Höss joined the army, and later the SS. He was obsessed with discipline, duty, obedience, and efficiency in carrying out orders. In that context, he strove, and succeeded, to turn the camp he was given command of to the most efficient extermination centre of the Holocaust, and to carry out the "final solution" directive with the utmost efficiency of an industrialised process, Holocaust's most striking characteristic. It was under his command that experiments with new methods of mass murder were tried out, concluding to Zyklon B and its use in the gas chambers. His lack of emotion, apathetic approach to the death of millions, which he "treated as a purely administrative procedure", indicate a pathological psychiatric condition.

Rudolf Hoess http://www.HolocaustResearchProject.org

In the back, the building of Krema I is visible, the first gas chamber and crematorium in the Auschwitz complex.

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This building was used initially as the morgue of Auschwitz. It was turned into a gas chamber in September 1941, and was used as such until March 1942. The first use of Zyclon B took place in another Auschwitz building, Block 11, the prison block. In its underground cells, the gas was tested to execute Soviet prisoners of war, in late August 1941. It was repeated a few days later, on 3 September, gassing 600 Soviets. On 16 September 1941, Krema I was used for the first time as a gas chamber, to exterminate another 900 Soviet prisoners of war. The first mass gassing of Jews in Krema I took place in early 1942. Afterwards, due to the limited capacity of its crematorium and the difficulty of keeping the whole process secret, mass gassing was taking place in two farm houses converted into gas chambers, "the little red house" and "the little white house", in the periphery of the vast, expanding Birkenau camp nearby, where dead were initially buried in mass graves, and later burned en masse in open pits. In March 1943, two new massive gas chambers and crematoriums became operational, followed by another two in the following months. Krema II, III, IV and V had enormous capacity for both gassing and burning victims, and it was there, at Birkenau, that the vast majority of them were exterminated.

Auschwitz Concentration Camp The Gas Chambers http://www.HolocaustResearchProject.org

Krema I was converted to an air raid shelter in September 1944 and its ovens were removed. It was reconstructed by the Soviets in 1947, almost to its initial design. The chimney is a reconstruction detached from the building and unconnected to the reinstalled ovens.


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Above, pictures of the gas chamber. Here's how Commandant Höss described the first gassing of the 900 Soviet prisoners:

“While the transport was detraining, holes were pierced in the earth and concrete ceiling of the mortuary. The Russians were ordered to undress in an anteroom, then they quietly entered the mortuary, for they had been told they were to be deloused.

The whole transport exactly filled the mortuary to capacity – the doors were then sealed and the gas shaken down through the holes in the roof. I do not know how long the killing took. For a little while a humming sound could be heard – when the powder was thrown in, there were cries of gas, then a great bellowing and the trapped prisoners hurled themselves against both doors.

But the doors held, they were opened several hours later, so that the place could be aired."

The first transports of Jews arrived in the camp from Silesia at the beginning of 1942, on 15 February the first transport of Jews who have been arrested by the Gestapo arrived in Auschwitz from Beuthen. The Jews are gassed in the morgue beside the crematorium. The transport arrived by rail at the unloading ramp near the camp. From there they were escorted by the SS to the courtyard of the crematorium. In the meantime, all approach and transit roads were cleared and closed.

After undressing the victims were led into the morgue-cum- gas chamber – where they were told they were going to have a shower, after which they would receive a meal and be assigned to work.

The moment the gas was introduced, in order to drown out the screams and groans of the dying people, the motor of a lorry, parked there for this purpose, was switched on.

Initially the process of killing and ventilation of the gas chamber lasted several hours. Later, after the installation of ventilators, this period was shortened to about an hour.

After this time had elapsed, the prisoners of the crematorium squad proceeded to burn the corpses. All of this took place in the deepest secrecy, with participation limited to the minimum number of SS men from the camp command and the Political Department.

The modest capacity of the crematorium, which could cope with 340 corpses in the space of 24 hours and the difficulty of keeping the whole action a secret, resulted in the operation being transferred to Birkenau.

Auschwitz Concentration Camp The Gas Chambers http://www.HolocaustResearchProject.org

Below, images of the crematorium
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  1. Old Comment
    Radrook's Avatar
    Thanks for the informative Blog. Today it seems almost unbelievable that this should occur within recent history.
    I was born in 1946 just a few years after these horrible events transpired. During my study of dental technology, I saw expressions of bitterness expressed by a Jewish teacher directed at a German student and didn't realize at the time the exact reasons why. Being young, only 18 at the time, I considered something that had occurred approx. 20 years previously as almost ancient history.

    I think that most young people felt the same way when they watched such programs as Combat. It all seems to belong to another era. Of course we were wrong just as we were wrong in assuming that our gym teacher was teaching us how to march because it was just good exercise.

    As humans who take pride in our humanity we cringe at these facts and somehow try to deny them. But the stark reality is that being human doesn't prevent such horrendous things-it makes them more likely.
    Posted October 15th, 2017 at 11:54 AM by Radrook Radrook is offline

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