History and memory
“The Jews are a race that should be totally obliterated” Auschwitz,
Hanz Frank, Governor General of Poland during the occupation
Can we describe more sentences, which show the hatred and abuse which would see humanity at Auschwitz during World War II. Auschwitz is a constant pain for the conscience of the world, today there are just the remains of the Nazi concentration camps installed in different parts of eastern Europe which ended up being a symbol of destruction and today evoking a terrifying moments in the history of mankind.
Here you enter the years of 1940 and 1945 the German Nazis, killed more than a million Jews and tens of thousands of Poles, Gypsies, Soviet prisoners of war and innocent people.
Nazi ideology was based on: hatred of Communism, Jews, and democracy, also had the conviction to be superior to others because of some bare and with a view to create a society “racially pure”, German Nazis planned the extermination of the Jews as the Slavs, Gypsies and others which was part of the motives of German aggression and the beginning of the Second World War to get new lands to settle the German population. In 1933 Adolf Hitler’s Nazi party operator came to power in Germany and described his plans: “In our case this is not the conquest of nations, but simply the conquest of land suitable for agriculture”.
“We will grow a youth, with which the world will tremble. A violent, imperious, bold and cruel youth”.
Adolf Hitler during a convention of the Nazi party with members of the Hitler Youth 1937.
Auschwitz has become a symbol of the Holocaust, genocide and terror. Founded in 1940 in the town of Oswiecim (Auschwitz in German) annexed by the Nazis to the Third Reich, the field received the same name, Auschwitz. Began operating as a concentration camp, according to the Nazi terror system, exploiting the productive force of prisoners and in 1942 began to be gradually transformed into “the largest center of mass extermination of Jews” killed more than a million. The field organization was composed of members of the SS (Schutzstafflen, body protection) an elite guard who protected the meetings of members of the Nazi party and was part of mass destruction and arbitrary executions, belonged to that organization only Germans.
Extending Auschwitz – wiring the death
Auschwitz was created for Poles, and Poles were the first political prisoners there. The number of prisoners grew steadily as a result of the constant arrival of new transports. In 1940, about 8 000 people registered at the camp. Almost all of them were Polish. There was also a small number of Jews and Germans in the camp.
The Auschwitz camp grew each time receiving large-scale deportations of people from virtually the entire continent. At the height of its operation Auschwitz consisted of three main parts:
The first and oldest Auschwitz I, built in mid-1940 that had 12 to 20 thousand prisoners.
The second part is Auschwitz II-Birkenau in 1944 reached 90.000 prisoners and was the largest complex, which raised the largest facilities of mass destruction in occupied Europe.
The third part Auschwitz III-Monowitz, which have reached 11,000 prisoners and became independent.
In total during the years 1942 – 1944 were built 47 subfields of KL Auschwitz external commands by exploiting the productive force of the prisoners.
Insulation of world and resistance movement
All fields and subfields of the Auschwitz complex were isolated from the outside world by the Germans surrounded them with watchtowers and barbed wire and for all prisoners contact with the outside world was forbidden. However, despite the harsh living conditions in the field of prisoners fought to preserve their human dignity.
One of its manifestations was the resistance movement born in the mid of 1940 mainly by Poles, which took several forms: military, political, cultural and religious life. This prompted to create the military council, whose mission was Oswiecim including the preparation of an armed uprising. One of the key functions of the resistance was to inform the outside world about the crimes committed by Nazis in the field. Many Polish citizens of Oswiecim and its surrounding prisoners helped with all possible way and the risk of losing their lives to provide food, medicine and arrange escapes.
In 1941, more than 26 000 people were registered at Auschwitz (about 15,000 Poles, 10,000 Soviet POWs and Jews over 1,000).
As a result of the inclusion of Auschwitz in the process of mass extermination of the Jews, the number of deportees began to rise. About 197 thousand Jews were deported in 1942, about 270 000 the following year, and over 600 thousand in 1944, for a total of almost 1.1 million euros. Among them, about 200 000 people were selected as work capacity and registered as prisoners in the camp.
In this same period, from 1942 to 1944, about 160 thousand Poles, Gypsies, Belarusian, Ukrainian, French, and others were registered. There were over 10 thousand people, mostly Poles, Soviet prisoners of war and gypsies, not entered into records or numbers.
The mass deportation of Jews to Auschwitz began in 1942 radically changed the composition of the prison population. After three months of the deportation, in mid-1942, Jews and obtained the largest ethnic group and its share of the population increased steadily from about 46% in June 1942 to around 68% in peak the rural population in August 1944. A total of about 400 000 prisoners were registered: 195,000 Jews and 205,000 non-Jews.
Ethnicity / Category Number
1 million Jews
70-75 thousand Poles
21 000 Gypsies
15 000 Soviet prisoners
Another 10-15 thousand
Total Approx. 1.1 milion
Source: Franciszek Piper, Ilu ludzi zginęło w KL Auschwitz. Źródeł świetle ofiar Liczba w i Badan, Oświęcim 1992.
Punishments and executions
Regular punishment was applied in Auschwitz, on the basis of the written orders of the commander or director of the camp and reports of the SS men and officers prisoner. The most common offenses were punished all attempts to acquire more food, the various ways of avoiding work or work in a satisfactory manner, doing things such as smoking or making their needs at the wrong time, the use of unregulated clothing or even attempt suicide.
Punishments were completely arbitrary. The prisoners received different punishments for the same crimes. The most common punishment was flogging, confinement in block 11 in the main camp, “the post” (pulley or “hanging torture”), or the assignment to the death penalty.
While carrying prisoners of Auschwitz in evacuation marches and later, in January 1945, the SS worked hard to remove evidence of the crimes they had committed. Documents made bonfires in the streets of the camp. They blew up the crematoria II and III, which had been partially dismantled and the crematorium V, still in working order, set fire to the camp called “Canada II,” the complex of storage sheds with possession of stolen property to victims of extermination.
Today, thanks to the timely intervention of a group of former Polish prisoners and relatives of the victims, in 1947 held the first exhibition which was the beginning of the museum which is now a world heritage site by UNESCO.
The museum was built in 1947 and includes the grounds of two former concentration camps: The first and oldest Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II-Birkenau
The Auschwitz Memorial is more than an extensive estate and the original blocks camp, barracks and watchtowers. It is also tens of thousands of objects of a special, unique meaning, and a unique symbolism.
• Above all, personal possessions brought by the deportees as bags, sunglasses, shoes, clothes, etc. and found at the scene after the liberation. They constitute a unique collection of objects related to the suffering of the people deported to Auschwitz to be killed immediately, and those forced into slave labour by the Germans.
• objects also related to the life of prisoners in the camps, which testify not only to primitive living and hygiene conditions and hunger, but also attempts to preserve the humanity behind the wire Auschwitz.
• The museum collections also contain items related to the lining of the SS, the perpetrators of the crime.
The museum’s collections are:
• about 110 thousand shoes;
• 3800 cases, 2,100 of whom are named after their owners;
• over 12 thousand cooking utensils;
• 470 prostheses;
• 350 striped camp clothing;
• more than 6,000 works of art (including about 2,000 of which were made by prisoners).
The most profound symbolic significance lies in the personal artifacts of people, mostly Jews, taken to Auschwitz by the Germans throughout occupied Europe for the purpose of being killed. There are thousands of everyday objects such as kitchen utensils, shoes, sunglasses, shoe polish containers, brushes and combs. They bear witness not only the magnitude of the looting carried out by the Germans, but also the suffering and death of their owners. Cases with names, dates of birth, transport numbers and addresses are important documentary value, and are often the only proof that a certain person was deported to Auschwitz.
Another group of original elements of the field consists of a striped prisoner clothing, wooden clogs and bowls, and furniture and other elements of the blocks and barracks housing the prisoners. Documenting the daily lives of prisoners, illustrate the phenomena of resistance and mutual help, and show how the prisoners tried to inform the outside world about the crimes committed in the field.
The collections include items left by the authors, such as helmets and boots. There are also tools used by the SS to inflict misery on the prisoners, whips, sticks used to hit, and “goat”, used for flogging. Many of the articles reflect the level of detail that characterizes the planning and organization of the bureaucracy. These include the boards of the ads, statistics, and record keeping. There are also elements of the Museum’s collections that constitute evidence of crimes directly related to the Holocaust, such as tin cans of Zyklon-B to kill people in gas chambers.
The reasons and most of the buildings on the sites of Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II Birkenau are open to visitors. Some buildings are not accessible to visitors (including blocks reserved for the administration of the museum and its services.)
The time required for a visit
To be on the premises and the exhibitions in a proper way, visitors must book a minimum of 90 minutes for the site of Auschwitz and the same amount of time at Auschwitz II-Birkenau. It is essential to visit the two sides of the field, Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II-Birkenau, in order to acquire a sense of the place that has become the symbol of the Holocaust.
The museum is open year-round, seven days a week, except January 1, December 25 and Easter Sunday. The museum is open during these hours:
• 8:00 AM – 3:00 PM December to February
• 8:00 PM – 4:00 PM March, November
• 8:00 PM – 5:00 PM April, October
• 8:00 am – 18:00 September May
• 8:00 PM – 7:00 PM June, July, August
For more information go to: http://www.auschwitz.org.pl/