History Background The ideology of Nazism brought together elements of antisemitism , racial hygiene , and eugenics , and combined them with pan-Germanism and territorial expansionism with the goal of obtaining more Lebensraum living space for the Germanic people.
Similar legislation soon deprived Jewish members of other professions of the right to practise. German Jews were subjected to violent attacks and boycotts. These laws prohibited marriages between Jews and people of Germanic extraction, extramarital relations between Jews and Germans, and the employment of German women under the age of 45 as domestic servants in Jewish households.
Thus Jews and other minority groups were stripped of their German citizenship. This supplementary decree defined Gypsies as "enemies of the race-based state", the same category as Jews.
German dictator Adolf Hitler ordered that the Polish leadership and intelligentsia be destroyed. In addition to leaders of Polish society, the Nazis killed Jews, prostitutes, Romani, and the mentally ill.
Initially the intention was to deport the Jews to points further east, or possibly to Madagascar. Bach-Zelewski had been searching for a site to house prisoners in the Silesia region, as the local prisons were filled to capacity. Auschwitz I, the original camp, became the administrative center for the whole complex. Some of the plans went forward, including the construction of several hundred apartments, but many were never fully implemented.
They were interned in the former building of the Polish Tobacco Monopoly, adjacent to the site, until the camp was ready. By March , 10, were imprisoned there, most of them Poles. South is at the top in this photo. Eyeglasses of victims The victories of Operation Barbarossa in the summer and fall of against Hitler's new enemy, the Soviet Union, led to dramatic changes in Nazi anti-Jewish ideology and the profile of prisoners brought to Auschwitz.
Plans called for the expansion of the camp first to house , and eventually as many as , inmates. Unlike his predecessor, he was a competent and dynamic bureaucrat who, in spite of the ongoing war, carried out the construction deemed necessary. The Birkenau camp, the four crematoria , a new reception building, and hundreds of other buildings were planned and constructed. Bischoff's plans called for each barrack to have an occupancy of prisoners one-third of the space allotted in other Nazi concentration camps.
He later changed this to prisoners per barrack. The SS designed the barracks not so much to house people as to destroy them. It was operational by March He was given a demonstration of a mass killing using the gas chamber in Bunker 2 and toured the building site of the new IG Farben plant being constructed at the nearby town of Monowitz.
Crematorium II, which had been designed as a mortuary with morgues in the basement and ground-level incinerators, was converted into a killing factory by installing gas-tight doors, vents for the Zyklon B a highly lethal cyanide -based poison to be dropped into the chamber, and ventilation equipment to remove the gas thereafter.
Crematorium III was built using the same design. Crematoria IV and V, designed from the start as gassing centers, were also constructed that spring. By June , all four crematoria were operational. Most of the victims were killed using these four structures. Porajmos Zigeunermischlinge Gypsy half-breeds used in an anthropological study by German psychologist Eva Justin. Housed in the Gypsy camp, all but two of Justin's subjects were murdered when the camp was liquidated.
Approximately 23, Gypsies had been brought to Auschwitz by , 20, of whom died there. A witness in another part of the camp later told of the Gypsies unsuccessfully battling the SS with improvised weapons before being loaded into trucks. The surviving population estimated at 2, to 5, was then killed en masse in the gas chambers.
In addition to its proximity to the concentration camp, which could be used as a source of cheap labor, the site had good railway connections and access to raw materials. All Poles able to work were to remain in the town and were forced to work building the factory. Development of the camp at Birkenau began about six months later. This number increased to 7, in and 11, in The camp at Monowitz also called Monowitz-Buna or Auschwitz III was constructed and began housing inmates on 30 October , the first concentration camp to be financed and built by private industry.
These prisoners were also forced to work on the building site. Though the factory had been expected to begin production in , shortages of labor and raw materials meant start-up had to be postponed repeatedly. List of subcamps of Auschwitz Various other German industrial enterprises, such as Krupp and Siemens-Schuckert , built factories with their own subcamps.
Prisoner populations ranged from several dozen to several thousand. Prisoners were also made to work in forestry and farming. The crematorium IV building was dismantled,  and the Sonderkommando were ordered to begin removing evidence of the killings, including the mass graves. On 26 January , the last crematorium V at Birkenau was demolished with explosives just one day ahead of the Soviet attack.
Peter Longerich estimates that a quarter of the detainees were thus killed. Throughout February, the terribly overcrowded main camp at Gross-Rosen was cleared, and all 44, inmates were moved further west. An unknown number died in this last journey. Among items found by the Soviet soldiers were , men's suits, , women's garments, and 7. In historian Laurence Rees ' opinion, this was due to three factors: Stoves and chimneys are all that remains of most of them Auschwitz II Birkenau was liberated by the Red Army at around 3: Military trucks loaded with bread arrived the next day.
Others were placed in an orphanage at Harbutowice. The hospital director personally went from village to village to collect milk.
The hospital had to move beyond the camp perimeter into former administrative buildings, where it functioned until October The poorest residents sifted the crematoria ashes in search of nuggets from melted gold, before the warning shots were fired. He was convicted of murder, returned to Auschwitz and hanged at the site of his crimes on 16 April Poland was more active than other nations in investigating war crimes, prosecuting of the total Auschwitz staff brought to trial.
The trial's defendants included commandant Arthur Liebehenschel , women's camp leader Maria Mandel , and camp leader Hans Aumeier. The trials ended on 22 December , with 23 death sentences, 7 life sentences, and 9 prison sentences ranging from three to fifteen years.
Others worked in the medical or political departments, in the camp headquarters, or in the economic administration, which was responsible for the property of dead prisoners.
Facilities for the SS personnel and their families included a library, swimming pool, coffee house, and a theater that hosted regular performances. The Kapos received better rations and lodging and wielded tremendous power over other prisoners, whom they often abused. Their quality of life was further improved by access to the goods taken from murdered prisoners, which Sonderkommandos were sometimes able to steal for themselves and to trade on Auschwitz's black market.
Almost none of the 2, prisoners placed in these units survived to the camp's liberation. The weather was cold in Auschwitz at that time of day, even in summer. The prisoners were ordered to line up outdoors in rows of five and had to stay there until The inmates were counted and re-counted.
When he was a prisoner in —45, five to ten men were found dead in the barracks each night. Kapos were responsible for the prisoners' behavior while they worked, as was an SS escort. The working day lasted 12 hours during the summer and a little less in the winter. Much of the work took place outdoors at construction sites, gravel pits, and lumber yards.
No rest periods were allowed. One prisoner was assigned to the latrines to measure the time the workers took to empty their bladders and bowels. Inmates who did not speak German would trade some of their bread to another inmate for help composing their letters. Members of the SS censored the outgoing mail. Prisoner identity photographs taken by Wilhelm Brasse. A second mandatory roll call took place in the evening.
If a prisoner was missing, the others had to remain standing in place until he was either found or the reason for his absence discovered, regardless of the weather conditions, even if it took hours.
After roll call, individual and collective punishments were meted out, depending on what had happened during the day, before the prisoners were allowed to retire to their blocks for the night and receive their bread rations and water.
Curfew was two or three hours later. The prisoners slept in long rows of wooden bunks, lying in and on their clothes and shoes to prevent them from being stolen. Unable to stretch out completely, they slept there both lengthwise and crosswise, with one man's feet on another's head, neck, or chest. Stripped of all human dignity, they pushed and shoved and bit and kicked each other in an effort to get a few more inches' space on which to sleep a little more comfortably.
For they did not have long to sleep". Political prisoners had a red triangle, Jehovah's Witnesses had purple, criminals had green, and so on. The nationality of the inmate was indicated by a letter stitched onto the Winkel. Jews had a yellow triangle , overlaid by a second Winkel if they also fit into a second category.
In the evening they received a small ration of moldy bread. Most prisoners saved some of the bread for the following morning. Some prisoners were made to spend the nights in standing cells. These cells were about 1. Prisoners sentenced to death for attempting to escape were confined in a dark cell and given neither food nor water while being left to die.
Prisoners placed in these cells gradually suffocated as they used up all the oxygen in the cell; sometimes the SS lit a candle in the cell to use up the oxygen more quickly. Many were subjected to hanging with their hands behind their backs for hours, even days, thus dislocating their shoulder joints.
To be sent rechts!