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Auschwitz

Auschwitz, located in Poland, was Nazi Germany’s largest and most terrible concentration camp. It was established by order of Himmler on April 27, 1940. At first, it was small because 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 was the camp commander’s headquarters and administrative offices. Auschwitz was called Birkenau and it was the death camp with forty gas chambers. Auschwitz was a slave labor camp. On the gate of Auschwitz was a sign in German, which read, ‘Arbeit macht frei’, which means work makes you free. 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. 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. 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.

When people were loaded onto trains to be taken to the gas chambers, they were told that they were being “resettled” in labor camps. This was one of the many lies told. It was impossible for the Jews to make out which building were 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. 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 Lykon B. because it worked fast. The gas chambers were not large enough to execute great numbers at a time, so crematoria were built. The crematoria would burn 2,000 bodies in less than 24 hours.

Many Jews and non – Jews tried to escape from Auschwitz. Some succeeded. Of course they wanted to inform the world of what was going on. Those who escaped wrote descriptions of the horrors they suffered. Information spread to many countries, yet no countries seemed to do anything to help the situation. In fact, as the war progressed, the number of prisoners increased. In total, between 1.5 and 3.5 million Jews were murdered at Auschwitz between the years 1940 and 1945. In 1946 Poland founded a museum at the site of the Auschwitz concentration camp in remembrance of its victims.


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