Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp
About the concentration camp
The Auschwitz Concentration Camp was one of the largest of its kind. It was created by the Nazi regime. It included 3 main camps all of which were prisoners at forced labor. One of the camps was a killing center, the people that weren't strong enough and were too young to do anything got sent straight to the killing camp. The other camps are where you would do work.
Location of Auschwitz-Birkenau
The Camps were located approximately 37 miles west of Krakow, near the German-Polish border in Upper Silesia. The Jews would be removed from there homes and put on a train to be taken to the Auschwitz camps. The train ride was not the best...the people had to stand up the whole time and you were packed tight in a small little box, with about 60 to 100 people. You had no where to use the bathroom and nothing to eat or drink. The cattle cars had only one window and that window had barbwire in front of it so you couldn't jump out. People were going insane being in these carts.
After you got off of the cattle cars and arrived at Auschwitz, you would go through selection. Selection is where they would split up the men from the women and have them in two big lines. After they got the men and women separated they would then go through all the women separately and all the men separately. They would look at you and see if you were strong enough and going to be able to work. If you weren't able to work you were sent straight to the gas chambers, if you were somewhat strong enough and could work they sent you to the other line. From that line the SS officers would take you to the camps.
The Gas Chambers
The people that were too young or too weak or just didn't look like they would be able to do much were sent here. This gas chamber was the largest room in the crematorium 1 at Auschwitz. The room was originally used as a mortuary room but then was converted in 1941 as a gas chamber to kill Jews and POWs. The SS officers would tell the people that they were about to go take a shower and they would take their clothes off and wait to get in the shower, but once they got in there they would realize that it wasn't a shower and once the doors were shut there was no getting out. The people would pile on top of each other to try to get air from above. They would also claw the walls to try to get to the very top.
The people that didn't go to the gas chambers went to the camp, but first they had to give up just about everything they had. At first they would take your clothes and your shoes and give you very thin striped clothes and no shoes. They would then shave your head and sometimes other places too. If you had glasses they would take those too. If you had any golden teeth they would pull those and keep those too. When you got through of all this they would then tattoo a number on your left arm and from that point on you were no longer you, you were a number.
Below are pictures of all the stacks of clothes and shoes they the camp had collected from the prisoners.
work that the prisoners would do
The prisoners were assigned a whole different range of work duties. Some were assigned inside the camp and some were assigned outside of the camp and in the factories. Sometimes they would work in the coal mines or on farms.
women during the holocost
Certain areas within the concentration camps would have a certain area for women. Over 100,000 women had been incarcerated in Ravensbruk by the soviet troops liberated the camp in 1945. The women were guarded by men in the camps. If the women had younger children that couldn't do much of anything they were killed upon arrival. Children that were born at the camp were usually killed on the spot. Near the end of the war, to save gas and cut expenses they would take living children and burn them in the ovens or throw them into the burning pits.
Survivors of the holoucost
Above is a picture of Trude Silman, She is a holocaust survivor. When Trude was 9 years old she escaped the country by train with her aunt and her cousin and arrived in England where she grew up in a series of foster homes boarding schools. Trude had some family that had to stay behind in the camps and she is still researching and trying to find out what happened to her relatives. Trude has limited memories of Hitler's rise to power in Germany. She doesn't remember a lot of the holocaust but she remembers certain things.
This is Margaret Kagan, She is also a holocaust survivor. When the German Army invaded Lithuania a lot of people left and tried to get away. Margaret and her family got sent to the Ghetto. She describes the ghetto as very dreadful. They were forced to do hard labour and deprived of food, in overcrowded conditions with three families living in just two rooms. This was a very hard time for the Jews. A lot of people died during this time and the people that did live, have a very harsh past.