The Holocaust: Auschwitz, Concentration and Death Camps

History Block 3

May 9, 2004

The Holocaust is the most horrifying crime against humanity of all times. Hitler, in an attempt to establish the pure Aryan race, decided that all mentally ill, gypsies, non supporters of Nazism, and Jews were to be eliminated from the German population. He proceeded to reach his goal in a systematic scheme. One of his main methods of doing away with these undesirable was through the use of concentration camps. In January 1941, in a meeting with his top officials the \'final solution\' was decided. Jews were to be eliminated from the population. Auschwitz was the concentration camp that carried out Hitler\'s "final solution" in greater numbers than any other.


Auschwitz, located in Poland, was Nazi Germany\'s largest concentration camp. It was established by order of Himmler on April 27, 1940. At first, it was a work camp for Polish and Soviet prisoners of war. It became a death camp in 1941. Auschwitz was divided into three areas: Auschwitz 1 was the camp commander\'s headquarters and administrative offices. Auschwitz 2 was called Birkenau and it was the death camp with forty gas chambers. Auschwitz 3 was a slave labor camp.(6)

On the gate of Auschwitz was a sign in German which read, \'Arbeit macht frei\', which means work makes you free." Auschwitz included camp sites a few miles away from the main complex. The working conditions were so poor that death was a sure result. In March 26, 1942, Auschwitz took women prisoners, but after August 16, 1942 the women were housed in Birkenau.

When the Jews arrived at Auschwitz, they were met with threats and promises. If they didn\'t do exactly as they were told, they would be beaten, deprived of food, or shot. From time to time, they would be assured that things would get better.

The daily meals in Auschwitz consisted of watery soup, distributed once a day, with a small piece of bread. In addition, they got extra allowance consisting of 3/4 ounce of margarine, a little piece of cheese or a spoonful of watered jam. Everyone in the camp was so malnourished that if a drop of soup spilled prisoners would rush from all sides to see if they could get some of the soup. Because of the bad sanitary conditions, the inadequate diet, the hard labor and other torturous conditions in Auschwitz, most people died after a few months of their arrival. The few people who managed to stay alive for longer were the ones who were assigned better jobs.

The prisoners slept on three shelves of wooden slabs with six of these units to each tier. They had to stand for hours in the wet and mud during role call, which was twice a day. Some people thought the reason hundreds of people died, daily, was because when it rained they lay with wet clothes in their bunks.

In place of toilets, there were wooden boards with round holes and underneath them concretes troughs. Two or three hundred people could sit on them at once. While they were on these troughs they were watched in order to assure that they did not stay too long. There was no toilet paper, so the prisoners used linings of jackets. If they didn\'t have they might steal from someone else. The smells were horrible because there wasn\'t enough water to clean the Latrine, the so called bathrooms.

When people were loaded onto trains to be taken to the gas chambers, they were told that they were being "resettled" in labor camps. It was impossible for the Jews to make out which building was the gas chambers because they looked presentable from the outside, just like any other building. Over the gas chambers were well kept lawns with flowers bordering them. When the Jews were being taken to the gas chambers, they thought they were being taken to the baths. While people were waiting for them \'baths\', a group of women prisoners, dressed in navy skirts and white shirts, played very delightful music. (7)

In Auschwitz, Jews were killed by something called Lykon B. It was hydrogen cyanide which was poured through the ceiling of the gas chambers and turned into gas. The S.S. commanders of Auschwitz preferred