View Full Version : Auschwitz I/Auschwitz II-Birkenau, Poland, June 2008

30-04-2010, 09:06 PM
Auschwitz was a network of concentration and extermination camps built and operated in occupied Poland by Nazi Germany during the Second World War. It was the largest of the German concentration camps, consisting of Auschwitz I (the Stammlager or main camp); Auschwitz II-Birkenau (the Vernichtungslager or extermination camp);Auschwitz III-Monowitz, also known as Buna-Monowitz (a labour camp); and 45 satellite camps.

Auschwitz I was the original camp, serving as the administrative centre for the whole complex. The site for the camp had earlier served as Polish army artillery barracks.


The first prisoners arrived in May 1940. The first transport of 728 Polish prisoners which included 20 Jews arrived on June 14, 1940. The inmate population grew quickly, by March 1941, 10,900 were imprisoned there, most of them Poles.


On September 3, 1941, an experiment on 600 Russian POWs and 250 Polish inmates was carried out, cramming them into the basement of Block 11 and gassing them with Zyklon B. This paved the way for the use of Zyklon B as an instrument for extermination at Auschwitz, and a gas chamber and crematorium were constructed by converting a bunker. This gas chamber operated from 1941 to 1942, during which time some 60,000 people were killed. This gas chamber still exists, together with the associated crematorium, which was reconstructed after the war using the original components, which remained on-site.


Not all prisoners were executed in the gas chamber. Located in the yard between block 10 (where medical experiments on prisoners were performed, most notably by Dr. Josef Mengele) and block 11 (The ‘Death Block’) was the ‘Death Wall’. The condemned were led to the wall for execution. SS men shot several thousand people here. The wall was dismantled in 1944, while the camp was still in existence. Part of the wall has been reconstructed.


Today, Auschwitz I is a museum honouring the victims and as a permanent reminder of the atrocities committed by the Nazis. Amongst the collection is 2 tonnes of hair (an estimated 7 tonnes was at the camp when it was liberated) which was used to stuff coats, pillows and blankets or woven into cloth. Block 5 contains 43,000 pairs of shoes.

As they were found (left) and today (right)

http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3005/4566471566_046c542f47.jpg http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3526/4565840753_f501c71ab9.jpg

Many of the items reflect the level of detail that characterized the planning and organization of the camp bureaucracy.


Construction on Auschwitz II-Birkenau, the extermination camp, began in October 1941 to ease congestion at the main camp. It was larger than Auschwitz I, and more people passed through its gates than through Auschwitz I. It opened as a branch of Auschwitz in March 1942.

Whilst the camp was being constructed prisoners were unloaded at a ramp about half a mile from the main entrance. It has recently been restored and now 2 train carriages sit at the ramp.


This is the first glimpse the prisoners would have had of the camp.


Once the camp was completed the tracks were extended, taking the prisoners from all over German occupied Europe, directly into the camp through ‘The Death Gate’. By 1942 several trains a day, each carrying over 1000 prisoners, were arriving at Auschwitz II-Birkenau.


Shortly after passing though the gate the trains would pull up to the new unloading ramp which starts just after the right-hand track splits into 2.


By July 1942, the SS were conducting the infamous "selections," in which incoming Jews were divided into those deemed able to work, who were sent to the right and admitted into the camp, and those who were sent to the left and immediately gassed.


The end of the line.


Those marked for execution were led to one of 4 crematoriums that were eventually in operation at the camp. SS officers told the victims they were to take a shower and undergo delousing. The victims would undress in an outer chamber and walk into the gas chamber, which was disguised as a shower facility, complete with dummy shower heads. After the doors were shut, SS men would dump in the cyanide pellets via holes in the roof or windows on the side.

The gates outside crematorium III.


On November 25, 1944, as Soviet forces continued to approach, SS chief Heinrich Himmler ordered the destruction of the Auschwitz-Birkenau gas chambers and crematoria.

Crematorium III ruins.


Crematorium II ruins and the entrance to the changing rooms.

http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3371/4565838257_4e13626f19.jpg http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4048/4565838885_eae5d9e6e7.jpg

As an aside, on October 7, 1944 members of the Jewish prisoner "special detachment" (Sonderkommando) that was forced to remove bodies from the gas chambers and operate the crematoria staged an uprising. They successfully blew up Crematorium IV and killed several guards. This story is told in the film ‘The Grey Zone’.

For those prisoners deemed fit enough to work, the conditions at the camp were horrific. In Birkenau two kinds of barrack huts were used for housing prisoners. Each brick hut housed over 700 people.


The wooden stable huts originally intended to serve as stalls for 52 horses housed a total of 400 people. Only a handful of the wooden huts survive.




The Auschwitz I and the Birkenau death camp was liberated by soldiers of the Soviet Union in the First Army of the Ukrainian Front on January 27, 1945. There were 7,500 prisoners left in the camp. Another 20,000 Auschwitz prisoners were moved prior to the liberation to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany, where they were liberated by the British in April 1945.

The majority—probably about 90%—of the victims of Auschwitz Concentration Camp died in Birkenau, approximately a million people. The majority, more than nine out of every ten, were Jews.

The International Monument to the Victims of Fascism in Birkenau, as the memorial was originally called, was unveiled in 1967.


30-04-2010, 09:38 PM
Fantastic report great pics there mate very well done :thumb

30-04-2010, 09:58 PM
Great pics mate an amazing site I'm glad it has been preserved so that we can all remember what happened here and never to let anything like it happen again despearte to visit the site myself :thumb

30-04-2010, 10:31 PM
An excellent historical account of the atrocities that occurred here. Made good reading did that, and smashing pics to go with it. Well done :thumb

30-04-2010, 10:55 PM
good stuff ive had the pleasure of seeing this place its quite an eye opener

01-05-2010, 04:22 AM
I went here in 2007 and was completely taken over by the incredible 'silence'. This was despite a young Jewish demonstration going on at the time. I didn't take photos as you're requested not to. I appreciate that's not a good UE approach but I did purchase a book written in German about the place and it's a interesting read (if you understand German that is!)

01-05-2010, 10:20 PM
excellent report :) very interesting and very very sad.

04-05-2010, 09:50 AM
Very very interesting and educational, great report :)

04-05-2010, 10:10 AM
Really interesting, well written & very sobering. :(

05-05-2010, 07:22 PM
Thanks for all the comments.

I find it hard to believe that all this was happening only 70 years ago.

If you get the chance then watch 'The Grey Zone', it's extremely dark as you would expect but a great film.

05-05-2010, 08:24 PM
Fantastic report there :thumb
Somewhere I've always wanted to go, weldone :thumb