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Auschwitz Concentration Camp (Fall 2012)

            The beginning of the Second World War began in 1939. Jews, Gypsies, Gays, Lesbians, all were being persecuted. The Nazis denied these groups of their civil liberties and forced on to them occupational exclusion. It then grew to denying the right to vote to a Jew, no Jewish immigration, and all other common rights were taken away. The leader of the Anti-Semitic movement was known as Adolf Hitler. He moved the Jews from their warm houses to the dirty and unhealthy living conditions of the ghetto. Jews in the ghetto would die of starvation, sickness and diseases, and mistreatment. The food rations would equal out to be only 200 calories a day compared to the 1200-2000 most typical for an adult human. The most brutal event that occurred from this war was the “Final Solution”. Jews were deported from their ghetto homes to Jewish Concentration Camps. The Jews were transported like cattle onto trains that would take them to their “final destination”. Once arrived, the Jews stepped out to what maybe their last so called home. At the concentration camps, Jews were forced to work and slave for the soldiers until it was decided if and when it was their time to die. Death could mean either being shot, gassed, beat up, hung, or even starved to death. One of the largest concentration camps that the Nazis produced was called Auschwitz. This area became one of the largest mass murdering sites known to mankind. More than one million innocent Jews lost their lives in the Auschwitz camp all because of the manipulation and motivation of one man. 

            Auschwitz is known as one of the most brutal of all of the concentration camps that the Nazis controlled in World War Two. Officially called Auschwitz- Birkenau. Over one million people died because of persecution from Nazis. The Nazis believed that the Jews were not superior and needed to be weeded out so that the superior race is more abundant. The Nazis viewed these people as a race and not as a religion. Therefore if one were born from two people that followed the Jewish religion, that person would automatically be considered a Jew whether or not they practiced that religion. So because the Nazis thought of the Jews as being much lower than them, the Nazis put the Jews into concentration camps to hopefully end their existents. Auschwitz was located in Southern Poland. It was near one of the largest cities in Poland called Krakow.  This part of Poland was annexed to Germany after they defeated Poland in September 1939 (The Camps). It opened as a concentration camp in the spring of 1940. It was earlier used as a detention center for political prisoners (Auschwitz). Auschwitz had a duel function in the war. It was made for both a concentration camp and an extermination center. Auschwitz was located in the center of many cities in Poland. This made it very convenient to ship prisoners. They either had prisoners walk or travel in a train, which became a hot spot for infectious diseases. The camps first commander was Rudolf Hoss. He had previous experience in running concentration camps, which made him a good canadent for Auschwitz. Auschwitz had three different sections. All of the sections focused on different aspects of the “final solution”. “Auschwitz I held the commandant’s office and living quarters, the administration building, kitchen, infirmary, the main guard station, one gas chamber and crematorium, the Gestapo camp, medical experiments center and gallows (The Camps). This first section is where the prisoners would stay. These areas were called Barracks. As one would first enter through the gates of Auschwitz, on the main entrance it said “Arbeit Macht Frei” and that read “work will make you free”. This gave the prisoners false hope that they may make it out of the camps if they work hard and do as the soldiers ask. Sadly enough, most of the time the way out would mean death. The estimated total number of prisoners housed at Auschwitz I was between 15,000 and 20,000 (Auschwitz). This section also focused on the executions of the prisoners. This took place in the southwest corner of the concentration camp. Prisoners were put up against the wall, in rows, and shot. After their death, the bodies were thrown in a dug out pit that was located around and inside the main camp (The Camps). All around the camp were barbed wire fences and 28 watchtowers, armed with guards. (Auschwitz: The Camp of Death). Another main focus of Auschwitz I was using it as a location for medical experiments. Humans were used for the research. One of the most notorious doctors that preformed most of these inhumane experiments was Doctor Josef Mengele. He focused his experiments mainly on twins. Auschwitz II or known as Birkenau was only a mile and half from the main Auschwitz center. This section went under construction in the fall of 1941. This was the largest of the camp sections. This camp held up to 90,000 prisoners. “The main goal of this camp was the extermination and elimination of all the prisoners” (The Camps).  It held bathhouses, which were created for the location where the Nazis would gas the prisoners to death.  This section also contained the crematory ovens where the soldiers would burn the bodies of the Jews. Auschwitz II was where majority of the murders took place. The last section of Auschwitz was known as Auschwitz III. It was also referred to as Monowitz. This was where synthetic fuel and rubber was made. This sector began operating in 1942. It housed around 10,000 prisoners. 

            The main reason for these camps was to exterminate the Jewish prisoners. They gave the Jewish people false hope that they will be able to survive the conditions they were being put into. One of the ways the Nazis would kill the Jews was to shoot them. They would line the Jews in a row and shoot them left to right. To dispose of the victim’s bodies, they would either pile them in a ground pit or burn them in a crematorium. Another way of death was to march the prisoners into a bathhouse and pretend to give them showers. Instead of being exposed to water, they were exposed very poisonous gas (Zyklon-B Poison Gas), which would not take very long to kill the prisoners. Euthinization was a way the Nazis quickly murdered the Jews. Another way of death was being overworked. More factors include disease, starvation, and plainly the strict and brutal living conditions of the prisoners. 

            Upon arrival to Auschwitz, the Jewish prisoners would have to travel long distances to reach the camp. They traveled on train, which contained diseases and infections. They were transported like cattle, pushed and shoved on to the trains (Auschwitz Concentration and Death Camp). The trains supported more passengers then it would normally hold cattle. Which means that the cattle acquired more respect and were treated more humanly than the Jewish people (Holocaust Encyclopedia). When at Auschwitz, the prisoners were told to leave their belongings in the cattle trains. The families were then lined up in single file lines of males and females. The prisoners were unknowingly evaluated on how much work they might be able to accomplish. If some Jews were unfit for work they were sent to death instantly. Some women would even make a small cut on their body and smear the blood on their cheeks so they passed the health inspection by looking healthy and being capable of doing work. The groups normally chosen for immediate death were the young children, elderly, pregnant women, and the desperately sick and weak. The prisoners were then executed by being either shot, euthanized, gassed, or used for medical experiments. The people physically capable of doing work would be sent to live in the barracks and given only minimal food portions daily. Most of these prisoners worked until they were too weak to carry on. At that point they were either killed or just died from weakness and lack of energy because of starvation. Most of the days were based on routines. The Jews would wake up, get dressed very quickly, and then make their bed as neatly as possible. If these jobs were not done to the satisfaction of the soldiers, they were beaten and slashed 25 times (Y. Pfeffer: Concentration Camp Life and Death (1946)). After that it was time to wash up in the bathrooms. Typically around 4,000 prisoners were supposed to use a bathroom that consisted of only a couple sinks and contained no soap or towels. The Jews would then receive their normal breakfast, which was a cup of bitter coffee. After that the Jews were off to work in groups. “ Some would build railway tracks or a road, some to the quarries to carry stones or coal, some to take out manure, or for potato-digging, latrine- cleaning, barracks or sewer repairs. During work the SS men beat up the prisoners mercilessly, inhumanly and for no reason” (Y. Pfeffer: Concentration Camp Life and Death (1946)). Most of the prisoners sent to Auschwitz never made it to the day of liberation. Many Jews suffered greatly each and every single day.

            The Liberation of the Auschwitz Concentration Camp occurred on January 27, 1945.  Prior to that, the Nazis tired to marched around 58,000 prisoners to the central part of Germany. They tried to hide all evidence of what was previously being committed at Auschwitz. They tried to disassemble some of the gas chambers, the crematories and the barracks where the sickly victims lived. When the Soviets marched into the camp they found about 7,600 survivors left there (The Camps). The estimated total of death from Auschwitz is from one million to two and a half million Jews. Auschwitz will go down in history as being the most notorious and effective of all of the concentration camps the Nazis created.  The line “ work will give you freedom” was only a desperate hope for the innocent Jewish religion. 

            Some of the history forces that Auschwitz recognizes is for one the politics and government. Adolf Hitler organized and motivated the movement of Anti- Semitism. He created and controlled all aspects of the concentration camps. New ideas also were brought out by the creation of Auschwitz.  The thought that the Jewish religion was lower than the Nazis really created a new way of thinking. Adolf also got the society to believe in the Philosophies he preached. He told the people that life would be better without the Jewish and people believed that they were the ones causing the problems. Lastly, the personal groups/ identities of the Jews were discriminated upon. 

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