Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camps
After the defeat of the September Campaign of 1939, when Polish soldiers had attempted to repel the German invasion, the town of Oswiecim and the surrounding areas were incorporated within the Third Reich. At the same time its name was changed to Auschwitz. By the end of 1939, at the SS and Police Headquarters in Wroclaw (Braslau), the idea of setting up a concentration camp had already been proposed. The official justification for this plan was based on the overcrowding of the existing prisons in Silesia, and on the necessity of conducting further waves of mass arrest among the Polish inhabitants both of Silesia and the rest of German-occupied Poland.
Several special committees were convened, whose task it was to consider the most favorable location for such a camp. The ultimate choice fell upon the deserted pre-war Polish barracks in Oswiecim. Situated some distance away from the built up area of the town, they could quite easily be expanded and isolated from the outside world. Another factor not without significance was the convenient position of Oswiecim – an importand railway junction – within the existing communications network.
The order to proceed with plans to found a camp was given in April 1940, and Rudolf Hoss was appointed its first commandant. On June 14, 1940, the Gestapo dispatched the first political prisoners to KL Auschwitz – 728 Poles from Tarnów. Initially the camp comprised 20 buildings – 14 at ground level and 6 with an upper floor. During the period from 1941 to 1942 an extra story was added to all ground-floor buildings and 8 new blocks were constructed, using the prisoners as the work force. Altogether the camp now contained 28 one-storey buildings ( excluding kitchens, storehouses etc. ) The average number of prisoners fluctuated between 13-16.000, reaching at one stage ( during 1942 ) a record total of 20.000 people. They were accommodated in the blocks, where even the cellares and lofts were utilized for this purpose.
As the number of inmates increased, the area covered by the camp also, grew, until it was transformed into a gigantic and horrific factory of death. The monstrosity in Oswiecim – KL Auschwitz I – became the parent or “Stammlager” to a whole generation of new camps. In 1941 the construction of a second camp, later called Auschwitz II-Birkenau, was commenced in the village of Brzezinka 3 kilometers away and in 1942 the camp in Monowice near Oswiecim-KL Auschwitz III-was established on the territory of the German chemical plant IG-Farbenindustrie. Furthermore, during the years 1942-1944, about 40 smaller branches of the auschwitz complex came into being these fell under the jurisdiction of KL Auschwitz III and were situated mainly in the vicinity of steelworks, mines and factories, where prisoners were eploited as cheap labour.
The camp in Oswiecim ( KL Auschwitz I) and in Brzezinka (KL Auschwitz II – Birkenau) are now maintained as museums open to the public. The most important constructions and objects in Birkenau are the remnants of four crematoria, gas chambers and cremation pits and pyres, the special unloading platform were the deportees were selected and also a pond with human ashes. In Auschwitz such a construction is the “Death block”
Furthermore in both camps are well preserved blocks and a part of prisoners barracks, the main entrance gates to the camps, sentry watch towers as well as barbed wire fences. Some of the constructions destroyed by the Nazis were rebuilt from the orginal elements – for instance the ovens in the crematorium I. Some objects were completely destroyed by the SS obliteratingthe traces of their crimes. In the cases of special importance the constructions were reproduced by the museum and placedin the same area as they were during the existence of the Auschwitz camp. Above all these are the “Death wall” and the collective gallows at the rool-call ground.
The prison blocks in the camp at Auschwitz contain exhibitions portraying the history of Auschwitz or tracing the torments of the various nations whose people were murdered here. Above the main gate at Auschwitz – through which the prisoners passed each day on their way to work (returning 12 hours or more later) there is a cynical inscription: “Arbeit macht frei” (Work brings freedom). and on the small square by the kitchen the camp orchestra would play marsches, mustering the thousands of prisoners so that they could be counted more efficiently by the SS.
Everybody should go there and see what happened there because those place is very important so high recommendation.
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