Graveyard of the Jewish People
By Rachel Orian
Auschwitz. The Death Camp.
was established on April 27, 1940 and was the largest Nazi extermination
camp. It was named after the Polish town Oswiecim in upper
Shelezia close by.
first, only Polish political prisoners were placed there.
were brought to the camp on June 14, 1940, which at the time, was used
as a base for the Polish horse rider army unit and had formerly served
the Austro-Hungarian Military. The camp was later named “Auschwitz 1”
(or “The Death Block”). In October 1941, an additional camp was
established and was named “Auschwitz 2”, other wise known as “Birkenau”.
massive camp included wooden and brick barracks and at first Soviet
POW's, captured after the German invasion of the Soviet Union, were sent
there. An additional camp was established 8km from “Auschwitz 1”, near
the town of Monovich, serving as a base for several military and civil
industries. On May 1942 “Auschwitz 3” was established .
Thousands of prisoners, mostly Jews, were transported from
“Auschwitz 1” and “Birkenau” (“Auschwitz 2”) to work at the factories of
of those factories are well know even today: Simens, Krup, Herman
Gering, and Werden Werka.
the winter of 1941 Rudolph Hess, commander of “Auschwitz 1”, received an
order from Heinrich Himler, head of the Reich security office, to
prepare for the implementation of the “Final Solution”- a systematic
extermination of all Jews.
September 3rd, 1941 Himler, Hess, and Eichman first
experimented with “Cyclone B”.
experiment took place at “Auschwitz 1”, where 600 Soviet POW's and 250
sick prisoners served as test subjects. As a result of excessive
shipments of prisoners, the commanders of “Auschwitz 1” were unable to
efficiently carry out the “Final Solution”, and therefore various
killing devices were constructed at Bikenau such as a gas chamber and
were ordered to undress and were taken to buildings named “Bunker No. 1”
and “Bunker No. 2” (also called “The Red House” and “The White House”).
In these bunkers, “Cyclone B” gassed the prisoners to death.
“Auschwitz 3”, Military and civil industries labored the prisoners. The
“Zonder Commando” was a special unit composed of Jewish prisoners and
was responsible of removing the bodies from the gas chambers.
Germans were “industrializing death” in order to expedite and increase
the number of people executed with a minimal amount of time and money
spent. Thus, a new, more efficient process was born: “everything under
one roof”. The process of sorting the prisoners was called “Selection”.
Most prisoners and victims of “Auschwitz 2” during 1942 were Jews.
The Zonder Commando
first, only a small number of prisoners served in the unit, some of them
non-Jews. With time, only Jews were assigned to it, and at the peak of
the extermination process it included approximately 900 men, all of whom
were sentenced to death due to their classified occupation.
about 80-100 of them miraculously survived. It has recently been
published that only 4 of these men are still alive.
“Final Solution” Fundamentals
chamber operators were German SS. The victims were cheated into
undressing by being told they were to be disinfected in order to improve
their health prior to their transfer to labor camps.
when they were trapped with no chance of escape, the prisoners realized
their fate. Other Jews were assigned to aid in concealing the crime.
cremated their friends’ and families’ bodies, making the ashes
disappear, participating in the Germans’ horrible crime.
“Everything under one roof”
killing procedure was not being executed fast enough for the Germans, so
they decided to shorten it. New buildings were built for the entire
process and were put into use by the spring of 1943.
the entrance, in a special hall, victims would undress and walk to the
gas chambers, now located in the same building. Prior to cremation,
golden teeth were removed from their mouths. However, even then, the
killing pace was not efficient enough, and improvised installations were
one case, thousands of Jews had arrived from Hungary and, due to a
shortage of crematoriums, ditches were dug behind these installations
into which the bodies were dumped. In 1944, the execution industry was
operating to it's fullest capacity, when the Germans reactivated
installation 2, which had been inactive throughout the previous two
The “Selection” Process
1 and Canada 2, the camp intended for personal belongings,
was the prisoners’ first stop. An SS doctor sorted the prisoners into
two groups. One group, consisting of approximately 80% of the shipment,
would be immediately executed.
others, the healthiest of the prisoners would remain alive for the time
being. They would be put to work in factories while awaiting their
death. Some jobs were considered better than others, as they came with
the privilege of delaying death. Many of these jobs disregarded the most
basic of moral human values and included Cabin Heads, Cabin Secretaries,
Group Head, and the Punishment Commando.
Many of the people occupied in
these jobs justified their cruelty to their fellow Jews with their need
to save their own life, and some even caused the death of fellow Jews.
Upon their arrival in
Auschwitz, each prisoner’s left arm was tattooed with a number.
Germans would often hold selections in order to filter out those who
could no longer contribute. Many prisoners died of cold or starvations,
and some from Germans’ beatings. Some prisoners were used as medical
The Prisoners' Uprising At Crematorium No. 4
in “Auschwitz 2”
October 7, 1944, Jewish prisoners who were members of the special unit
Zonder Commando initiated an uprising putting Crematorium No. 4 out of
order, killing 3 SS members and wounding others.
The Germans cut off the
rebellion within hours, killing most of its initiators. This was the
only planned armed Jewish rebellion ever to take place at Auschwitz.
General underground members were supposed to take part in it but they
Nov 1944, when Germany’s defeat was clear, Himler gave the order to stop
the killings in the gas chambers. However, shipments of Jews continued
to arrive at Auschwitz.
On Nov 26, 1944, high authorities gave an order
to destroy all gas chambers and crematoriums so there would be no
evidence left of the crime. In the summer and fall of 1944, Germans
began evacuating the camp, transferring prisoners to concentration camps
scattered in Germany and Austria. Many died or were shot during the
long ‘death walks’, which were conducted in conditions of cold and
Estimated Number of People Killed in
Jews killed at the camp:
Polish killed at the camp:
Soviet POWs killed at the camp:
Gypsies killed at the camp:
Total estimated number of people
killed at the camp: 1,500,000
Soviet troops liberated
Auschwitz and Birkenau -- the occupiers' names for Polish Oswiecim and
Brzezinka -- on Jan. 27, 1945.