7 December 2012
Auschwitz was a concentration camp and a death camp. There were three different Auschwitz camps along with sub-camps. Daily life of a prisoner at Auschwitz was very hard and sometimes painful. Prisoners were worked until death or gassed to eliminate the weak or sick. There were many victims of Auschwitz; however, there were also many survivors.
Auschwitz I was called the “main camp”. This camp was named “Stammlager” which means base camp. Auschwitz land was bought on May 26, 1940 (JewishGen). To clear the land for the camp, Jews living near or on the land were evicted in 1940-1941. Approximately 1,000 Jewish homes were demolished for Auschwitz. Initially, Auschwitz was to be one more concentration camp of the type Nazis had been setting up since 1930s (Memorial and Museum). Extensive construction work began in October 1941. Russian POWs constructed Auschwitz and about 10,000 Russian POWs died in the process (JewishGen). Auschwitz opened in February 1942 (Rogasky). Auschwitz I held between 15,000 and 20,000 Prisoners (Memorial and Museum). The main population grew rapidly. In December 1942, there were 18,000 Prisoners and by March 1943, the number had increased to 30,000 prisoners (JewishGen).
Auschwitz II was called “Birkenau” and opened October 8, 1941. This camp was named “Vernichtungslager” meaning extermination camp (JewishGen). Birkenau was located four kilometers from the main camp and was intended for captured Russian POWs. Birkenau received the new arrivals of Gypsies, families, and women. A women’s camp was established at Auschwitz in March 1942, and held 6,000 inmates. In August 1942, the women’s camp was moved to Birkenau. In February 1943 there was a section for Gypsies established at Birkenau (JewishGen). Auschwitz II was the largest Auschwitz and also became the largest death camp. In 1944 Birkenau held 90,000 prisoners (Memorial and Museum).
There were 51 sub-camps of Auschwitz (JewishGen). By the end of 1942, there were 6,000 camps, large and small in Poland (Rogasky). The largest sub-camp was Buna located in Monowitz and held 10,000 prisoners (Memorial and Museum). The situations in the sub-camps were often even worse than the main camps (JewishGen).
Auschwitz III, called Buna, was originally a sub-camp. It was established on May 31, 1942 and was named “Arbeitslager”, meaning labor camp (JewishGen). In November 1943, Buna became Auschwitz III (Memorial and Museum). Buna provided slave labor for major industrial plaints ran by I G Farben. The prisoners produced synthetic rubber (JewishGen).
Almost every element of camp life had been designed beforehand to break down each inmate in body and in mind. The camps were not places to live. They were deliberately established to be places to die. SS Commander Krause said, “A prisoner should not survive more than 6 weeks in a concentration camp. If he lives beyond that time, it simply means he has adapted and must be liquidated immediately.” The Barracks were called Blocks. They were made to hold five hundred people, but they held two thousand people. Four to five people slept on each bunk. The “mattresses” were filthy straw on bare wooden planks. One or two buckets served as toilets (Rogasky). The human hair was sold to the company “Alex Zink”, located in Bavaria, for confection of cloth for 50 pfennig/kilo (JewishGen).
The first transport of prisoners was almost all polish civilians and arrived in June 1940 (JewishGen). The arrival platforms and buildings were set up so victims would not know what was going to happen, they were hidden by trees (Rogasky). Prisoners arrived at the nearby train station and were marched or trucked into the camp. They were registered, tattooed, undressed, shaved, and showered. Their clothes were disinfected by Zyklon-B gas. The prisoners then entered the camp under the infamous gateway inscribed 'Arbeit Macht Frei' ("Labor make you free") (JewishGen). There were...