Auschwitz concentration camp is a network of Nazi concentration and death camps all located in Poland. It was the largest and most notorious concentration camp of Nazi Germany.
There were actually three main concentration camps at Auschwitz and forty five smaller satellite camps. Auschwitz 1 served as the administrative center, Auschwitz 2 was an extermination camp, and Auschwitz 3 was a slave labor camp.
Auschwitz 1 – Stammlager as a base camp and administrative center had several unique features. The SS selected German criminals gave them privileges, and assigned as supervisors for other inmates. These “supervisors” were perpetrators of numerous atrocities.
Inside Auschwitz 1, there was this block called “prisons within prison”. They refer to various types of cells like standing cells, starvation cells, and dark cells where inmates were punished in different ways. Standing cells were about 16.1 square feet, and four people would be placed in them doing nothing, but standing. In starvation cells, prisoners were incarcerated and deprived of food and water until their death. Dark cells were utilized to kill inmates by suffocation.
Auschwitz 2 – Birkenau was equipped with gas chambers and intentionally designed for mass killing. There were five crematoria inside this camp. It was estimated that more than twenty thousand people died in this camp per day. It was the most notorious of all Nazi’s death camps.
Auschwitz 3 – Monowitz as a labor camp was less notorious. Life expectancy inside this camp lasted for three to four months. Those working in the mines were less fortunate, for they would only last one month.
Two infamous marks of Auschwitz concentration camp were secrecy and cruelty. The geographical location was strategic and suitable for official secrecy. Nazi officers also used intricate and deceptive languages to hide the real intent behind the literal meaning of those words. Two examples of these were “Sonderbehandlung” and “Badeanstalten”. The literal meaning of the first word is “special treatment” while the real meaning was to take the Jews through the death process. The second word conveys “bath houses” as the obvious meaning hiding the existence of “gas chambers”.
Cruelty was evident through segregation of inmates and medical experiments. Prisoners in Auschwitz concentration camp were divided into three groups. The dependents were immediately sent for extermination in the gas chambers. The second group was composed of slave laborers. And the inmates of third and last group were selected for medical experiments. They were used as human guinea pigs for various types of experiments.
It was reported that screaming and moaning of prisoners sent to the gas chambers could be heard for fifteen to twenty minutes despite thick concrete walls. Attempting to cover the noise, two motorcycle engines were set to full throttle, but the sound of yelling could still be heard.
The practice of medical experiments inside Auschwitz concentration camp was another evidence of barbaric cruelty. The two most notorious doctors were Dr. Carl Clauberg and Dr. Josef Mengele. The latter was popularly known as the “Angel of Death”. Dr. Clauberg focused his experiment on finding ways to sterilize women. He was utilizing unorthodox methods like X-rays and injecting chemicals into women’s uteruses. Dr. Mengele’s particular interest was on experimenting identical twins to find the secret to cloning in search for a perfect genetic material. He intentionally generated diseases in one twin causing the latter’s death. Seeing this, he would kill the other to perform comparative autopsies.
Due to such cruelty inflicted upon prisoners of Auschwitz concentration camp, it was not surprising to see revolts and escape attempts. By 1943, a resistance was organized inside Auschwitz 2 – Birkenau. On October 7, 1944, inmates “attacked the SS with stones, axes, hammers, other work tools and homemade grenades”. The guards were unprepared and overpowered. Hundreds of prisoners escaped, but were all soon captured and executed. Other escape attempts were successful. It was reported that there were 144 successful escapes out of at least 802 attempted escapes.
Finally, when the Nazis realized they were losing the war, before leaving the camps, they destroyed all evidences of their atrocities including crematoria and burned their documents. They buried the human ashes in huge pits and covered with grass. This is one primary reason why it is almost impossible to determine the precise number of victims at Auschwitz concentration camp. Different numbers were given from 2.5 and 4 million, 1 million, and 800, 000 to 900,000. Finally, Franciszek Piper using timetables of train arrivals combine with deportation records, he came up with 960,000 Jewish deaths, which has been received as recent consensus by other scholars.
On January, 27, 1945, the Russians arrived and found 7,650 abandoned prisoners and at last Auschwitz concentration camp was finally set free.
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