Auschwitz



Auschwitz began as a barracks camp in the town of Oswiecim, for the polish army in the early 1930's. Germany then

captured Poland and needed another location for Polish political prisoners. In 1940, the German SS sent a

commission to Oswiecim to see if the barracks there could be used. The first inspection reported that it could not be

used, however, a later inspection stated that after a few minor changes it would be useable.

On May 4, 1940 Rudolf Hoss officially established it as a German concentration camp. Hoss was Auschwitz's first

commandant.

Auschwitz was originally intended for Polish political prisoners and other Poles. In June of 1940, the first load of

prisoners arrived. 728 Poles and a handful of Jews. Soon, though, it became a melting pot of prisoners. Czechs,

Soviets, Yugoslavs, Jews, and Gypsies; but only men were housed there. Not until 1942 did women arrive.

In January of 1942 it was decided that Auschwitz would become the main Jewish extermination camp. Thereafter

cattle cars brought in ship loads of Jews monthly. They were brought from all over in these filthy cars, going for

days without food, water, or washing facilities. Many times these cars were so crowded that people were simply

crushed to death.

During the first few months of operation, Auschwitz simply housed the Jews because an effective method for mass

extermination had not yet been found. They performed many experiments on the prisoners to find a gas that was

cheap and quickly effective. Also, they had not yet begun cremating the bodies so they had prisoners dig huge

trenches 15 ft. wide, 15 ft. deep, and 150 yds. long to bury them. These massive holes would be filled within days.

However, during the summer, the bodies bloated and rotted and a disgusting purplish liquid began seeping up from

these graves, smelling of bile and rotting flesh. Nearby fish farmers complained that their fish were dying from

pollution caused by the rotting bodies. Some other way to deal with the prisoners had to be found, especially since

their numbers were increasing with every arrival.

The Nazis then discovered Zyklon B. It was a very effective gas. Since they were then able to kill more efficiently,

they had to find a more efficient means of disposing of the bodies. Soon, mass crematoriums were erected, capable

of burning 2,000 bodies in a single day.

Upon arrival at camp, doctors made selections as to who would live and perform slave labor. The others would be

gassed. Two lines would be formed, one going in the direction of the camp, and the other leading toward the 'shower

rooms'.

Those not selected for the 'life' line were told that they would be going to the showers for 'delousing'. They were

made to fold their clothes neatly and put them in piles and march, naked, to the 'showers'. Those rooms were

equipped with fake shower heads and benches and everything, but none of them worked. The Jews would be herded

into these rooms and the doors would lock. Then Vents in the ceiling would open and granules of Zyklon B would

be released. Within 15 minutes, they would all be dead.

Thirty minutes after they died, they would open the doors and let it air out for two or three hours. Then they would

send in slaves to remove the bodies, taking them to the crematorium.

The prisoners chosen for the 'life' line had the worst fate though. The conditions at Auschwitz were unthinkable.

Prisoners slept 6 people to a bunk, which was made for two. These bunks rose 6 feet high, sometimes with so much

weight on the tops of them, they would collapse and kill all them ones underneath while they slept. Sleep was

impossible for most though, beds were hard plank boards, over crowded and infested with lice, ticks and bed bugs.

The rats were so bad that if a prisoners died in the middle of the night, the rats would have eaten him to the point

where recognition was impossible.

Every morning prisoners had to stand or squat for hours at a time for roll call. They also had to bring out the bodies

of anyone who had died during the night and hold them up to be counted.