Arbeit Macht Frei translated to: work
will give you freedom. This was the first lie the prisoners saw upon entering
their death at the camp known as Auschwitz. The camp itself held many parts
inside of it including Auschwitz I, Birkenau, and Monoschwitz. As well as 44
sub work camps. This camp spread out 40 square kilometers, or 15 miles, and
held 28 two-story brick buildings. This was the biggest and most tragic of all
of the work camps the Nazis made.
` In the 1940s in Oswiecim, Poland
stood Auschwitz. Surrounding the camp was electric barbed wire fences that
insured the prisoners would never leave. The barracks held the prisoners, while
they slept, and were made of wood and were extremely crowded with 800 to 1,000
people in each barrack. At Auschwitz between 1940-1945 there were an estimated
1,095,000 Jews deported to the camp and 960,000 of that amount died. Among the
Jews, there were 147,000 Poles deported and 21,000 died. As for the rest of
people, such as gypsy, homosexuals, mentally disabled, or birth defected
people, there were 25,000 deported and 12,000 of those human-beings died. Spread
throughout this awful camp was pits used as graves for thousands of stacked,
naked bodies. One grave could hold 107,000 people.
The first camp, the main but the smallest,
being Auschwitz I, was established in April 1940. This held the commandant’s office
and living quarters, the “death block” which held the criminals, the prisoners’
kitchen and infirmary. It also held the main guard station, the first
crematorium and gas chamber. As well as the Gestapo camp and the group gallows.
Around Auschwitz I was nine watch towers and double barbed wire electric
The second part of Auschwitz, was
known as Birkenau; built in March 1942. This was the largest section of Auschwitz
and the worst of them all. This camp in particular had absolutely no running
water or sanitary equipment. At one time, it held 200,000 prisoners. At
Birkenau and Auschwitz I, the commander SS Lieutenant Colonel Friedrich Hartjenstein
was in charge from November 1943 to May of 1944. Picking up right after that
was SS Captain Josef Kramer to November of 1944. This camp in particular
contained the gas chambers and Crematoria II, III, IV and V. The death chambers
were located near the barracks and reminded the inmates of constant death. This
also held the “experimental block.” This camp was surrounded by 28 watch towers
and the barbed wire electric fences.
Moving on to the third part of Auschwitz was
Monoschwitz. It was established in October of 1942. This camp was known as the
work section where the prisoners made synthetic fuel and rubber. Some prisoners
worked at the IG Farben Factory that made chemicals, such as Zyklon B used in
the gas chambers. The commander of this part of the camp was SS Captain
Meinrich Schwarz; started in November of 1943 and completed his duties in
January of 1945.
Life during the Holocaust in the
camps for the victims was anything but pleasant. Death became the normality
there and sickness ran faster than light. Disease spreads throughout every
victim. As soon as the prisoners arrived at the camp they were separated between
the sexes. Then they were looked at by a team of doctors and soldiers and were
selected to either work or be killed right away. The inmates were employed on
huge farms, stone quarries, coal mines, or fisheries. If they were chosen to
work they were given a uniform to wear with a number sewn into that became
their new identity. The guards recorded personal details such as height and
weight. The number assigned to the victim was tattooed onto their left arm.
Their hair was cut off with dull, unsanitary scissors that pulled the hair off.
They were then sprayed with disinfectant and showered with scalding hot water.
Before dawn the prisoners had to
awake for roll call and were required to make their sparse wooden beds and were
punished if it wasn’t to the guards’ liking. Then they would line up outside in
rows and were called upon each prisoner and were made to stand out in rain and
snow for up to four hours. The uniforms assigned weren’t washed for months on
end and gave no protection against the weather. If one prisoner did something
wrong the penal roll call was given for the whole group and they were left
outside at night to stand in the cold and were given beatings, some were even
shot on site. After the roll call in the morning they were given breakfast.
This overall wasn’t enough. They were given ten ounces of bread with salami or
butter, and coffee without sugar. After breakfast, a siren would go off and
they were herded to their work groups and escorted by the guards with guns and
dogs. They were labored 11 to 12 hours every single day.
Coming to the noon hour they were
given soup to eat which was water, a few carrots and rutabagas. Then they were
told to resume work till dusk. After work, they had to sit through a four-hour
roll call. The final meal was bread with more rotten salami or butter and
sometimes with jam. They even received a piece of rotten skim cheese. The feces
were everywhere around the camp considering they were allowed to use the
toilets (that had no running water) for a monitored 10 seconds. They were made
to sleep with 10 people per bed and lay sideways to fit more people. Among them
insects and vermin scattered around.
While the life was terrible for the common
inmates, some of the prisoners were selected to have experiments done on them.
The doctor known for the massive twin experiments was Josef Mengele. He selected
in particular 3,000 sets of twins. He traced genetic origins of various
diseases. He also conducted research on heterochromia and collected the victim’s
eyes as “research material.” He was hoping to find out how to artificially change
the colors of eyes. He also documented the disease Noma, as it ran throughout the
camp. This disease destroys the mucous membrane of the mouth and other tissues.
Most of his victims inevitably died. He was hoping to finish his research as Habilitation. He never accomplished this
however and fled Auschwitz in January of 1945.
During this time of death some
prisoners tried to escape. One of the well-known resistance was the Birkenau Revolt.
This occurred on October 7th, 1944. Several hundred prisoners were
told to go to Crematorium IV and they rebelled as soon as they realized they
were being lead to their deaths. During the rebellion, the prisoners managed to
kill three guards and managed to blow up the Crematorium and adjacent gas chamber.
The prisoners used explosives smuggled into the camp. They got them from
neighboring Jewish women who worked in armaments factories. The Germans soon
fled in and killed almost all of those prisoners and the Jewish women were
Overall for the people who survived
speak now for their abuse and for the people who didn’t make it through the camps.
One man, whom we learned about, Elie Wiesel, speaks now about his experience he
went through at Auschwitz. All he knows is the men who ran those camps didn’t
have a heart and never once saw those innocent lives as human. On the daily the
innocent prisoners went through constant abuse but still managed to rebel. The
things these people went through is sickening and affects everyone who knows
about this terrible time known as the Holocaust.
Today Auschwitz stands as a reminder
and as a grave for the lost souls.