Auschwitz II Concentration Camp (Auschwitz-Birkenau)

surviving Birkenau boy
Figure 1.--Here are two survivors of the NAZIs. This Soviet newsreel footage was shot during the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau. The moving photograph shows a young boy with an adult survivor. We at first assumed the boy was Jewish, but do not know this for sure. Shockingly Auschwitz was not one of the five death camps (Belzec, Chelmo, Maly Trostenets, Sorbibor, and Treblinka), although there was also a killing unit at Birkenau for killing Jews. Children and most adults at the Death Camps were killed within hours after the transports arrived. Some camps held small numbers of Jewish families that the NAZIs preceived as having value for a variety of reasons, primarily to be ransomed. There were medical experiments conducted on Jews at Auschwitz. The most horendous on twin Jewsish children. The boy here may have been one of the children spared during the NAZI anti-partisan campaigns and sent to various concentration camps. Click on the image where we will archive what ever information we can find about this image.

The main camp, Auschwitz I was located on the outskirts of the Polish city Oswiecim. The sub camp Birkenau was in a suiburb called Zasole near Brzezinka, about 2 miles from main camp. Himmler visited Auschwitz (March 1941). He ordered the Camp Commandant Hoess to expand Auschwitz I to hold 30,000 prisoners. He also ordered the creation of a new camp (Auschwitz II) with a capacity of 100,000 people at Brzezinka (Birkenau). The Germans began construction Birkenau after the invasion of the Soviet Union (October 8, 1941). It was a mnassive undertaking and conducted during the winter of 1941-42. The Russian POWs worked in terrible consitions. About 10,000 Russiahs are believed to have perished in the construction of Birkenau. When finally completed, it was larger than Auschwitz I which served as the administrative center of the overall Auschwitz complex. More people passed through the Birkenau gates than than those at Auschwitz I. Hundreds of thousands of people were imprisoned here and over 1 million people, mainly Jews, were murdered here with poison gas, mostly soon after arrival. There were two purposes for Birkenau. First was to to ease congestion at the main camp. The NAZIs did know what to do with the the vast numbers of Soviet prisoners of war (POWs) taken as a result of Operation Barbarossa. The second purpose was to operate as a Vernichtungslager (extermination or death camp) to carry out the NAZI Final Solution of the Jewish Question. Birkenau was organized into several descrete camps. There was a camp for new arrivals and those to be sent on to work at other camps, mostly sub-camps in the Auschwitz system. Several specialized facilities were established. There was a Gypsy camp. The SS a set up a section for Gypsies, camp BIIe (February 1943). There was also a so-called family camp. Thiswas a section for Czech Jews deported from Theresienstadt. A camp called Kanada was set up to hold and sort the possessions of the people on the incoming transports. There was also a women's camp. The SS set up In March 1942, a women's camp is established at Auschwitz with 6,000 inmates (March 1942). The SS moved it to Birkenau (August 1942). There were 27,000 women there (August 1944) in section B1a. While Auschwitz was primarily a work camp, Jews and otheres were killed here on an industrial basis. The NAZIs carried out the largest numbers of murders by gas in an industrial fashion at the Birkenau killing opperation. Birkenau was one of the many sub-camps, but the most infamous one. Auschwitz-Birkenau became the the NAZIs premier killing center. Auschwitz when fully operational had the capacity to murder 10,000 people in 24 hours.

Location

The main camp, Auschwitz I was located on the outskirts of the Polish city Oswiecim. The sub camp Birkenau was in a suburb called Zasole near Brzezinka, about 2 miles from main camp.

Establishment (March 1941)

Himmler visited Auschwitz (March 1941). He ordered the Camp Commandant Hoess to expand Auschwitz I to hold 30,000 prisoners. He also ordered the creation of a new camp (Auschwitz II) with a capacity of 100,000 people at Brzezinka (Birkenau).

Construction (October 1941)

The Germans began construction Birkenau after the invasion of the Soviet Union (October 8, 1941). It was a mnassive undertaking and conducted during the winter of 1941-42. The Russian POWs worked in terrible consitions. About 10,000 Russiahs are believed to have perished in the construction of Birkenau. When finally completed, it was larger than Auschwitz I which served as the administrative center of the overall Auschwitz complex. More people passed through the Birkenau gates than than those at Auschwitz I. Hundreds of thousands of people were imprisoned here and over 1 million people, mainly Jews, were murdered here with poison gas, mostly soon after arrival.

Purpose

There were two purposes for Birkenau. First was to to ease congestion at the main camp. The NAZIs did know what to do with the the vast numbers of Soviet prisoners of war (POWs) taken as a result of Operation Barbarossa. Hitler had no intention of having the Wehrmacht treat them as POWs as required by the Geneva Convention. Birkenau was designed to hold several categories of prisoners, including Soviet POWs. The Soviet POWs were to be used as slave labor to build an SS 'utopia' in Upper Silesia. The SS at the time was actively expelling ethnic Poles from Silesia. I G Farben, the massive German chemical company, expressed an interest in utilizing slave labor. They only had to pay the SS a smallnfee for the workers. The second purpose was to operate as a Vernichtungslager (extermination or death camp) to carry out the NAZI Final Solution of the Jewish Question.

Organization

Birkenau was organized into several descrete camps. There was a camp for new arrivals and those to be sent on to work at other camps, mostly sub-camps in the Auschwitz system. Several specialized facilities were established. There was a Gypsy camp. The SS a set up a section for Gypsies, camp BIIe (February 1943). There was also a so-called family camp. Thiswas a section for Czech Jews deported from Theresienstadt. A camp called Kanada was set up to hold and sort the possessions of the people on the incoming transports. There was also a women's camp. The SS set up In March 1942, a women's camp is established at Auschwitz with 6,000 inmates (March 1942). The SS moved it to Birkenau (August 1942). There were 27,000 women there (August 1944) in section B1a.

Staff

The SS assigned about 6,000 SS members to oversee operations. I think this was the overall number at Auschwitzand not just Birkenau. This is a rather small number given the size of the Auschwitz. The NAZIs had learned at Dacahau and other camps to use prisoners to operate the camps to reduce the cost and manpower needs. Thus Birkenau like the rest if Auchwitz was run partly by prisoners under SS supervision. The primary group was Kapos (orderlies). The Kapos were responsible for keeping order in the barrack and formations. Birkenau has a special group--the Sonderkommandos (workers at the killing operations). They were Jews that had been temporarily spared foir the killing operation. It was the Sonderkommando who under SS supervision met the incomung transports and prepared the new arrivals for selection. They then assisted in the killing operations. The Sonderkomando moved the luggage and possessuins to the Canada sorting operation. They also helped moved those selected for death to the gas chambers. There they assisted in the preparatory operatin of getting the victims to undress. After the gassing opeation, they moved the corpses from the gas chambers to the crematoria furnaces. They were responsible for examoning the corpses for dental gold and retreiving it. The Sonderkomando were periodically killed.

Vernichtungslager: Killing Operation

While Auschwitz was primarily a work camp, Jews and otheres were killed here on an industrial basis. The NAZIs carried out the largest numbers of murders by gas in an industrial fashion at the Birkenau killing opperation. Birkenau was one of the many sub-camps, but the most infamous one. Auschwitz-Birkenau became the the NAZIs premier killing center. Auschwitz when fully operational had the capacity to murder 10,000 people in 24 hours, accorduing to Camp Commandant Rudolf Hoess at the War Crimes Trials following the War. Witness after witness, document after document produced irrefutable evidence of the crimes committed, and no witness was more shocking than Rudolf Hoess, who calmly explained how he had come to exterminate 2,5 million people. The NAZIs first experimented with gassing (September 1941). They chose 850 malnourished and sick prisoners no longer capable of work. When the gass chambers were completed, murder became a daily routine (mid-1942). The NAZIs used Zyklon-B to kill Jews on an industrial level as part of a carefully planned effort to exterminate European Jews. Historians believe that about 3 million persons were murdered at Auschwitz. The largest number were killed by gassing, but starvation, disease, and shooting also took their toll. The opening of the gas chambers changed the nature of Auschwitz. Up to that point, the killing was largely to dispose of people who because of sickness, abuse, and malnutrition were no longer capable of work. The killing capacity of the gas chambers meant that huge numbers of people could be killed daily. This began the killing of Jews in lage numbers. The NAZIs had already prepositioned Jews for easy transport. Poland's large Jewish comminity had been isolated in medieval ghettos. Other Jews throughout NAZI occupied Europe had also been concentrated or were in the process of being so. Rail transports delivered the Jews to a station platform located adjacent to the gas chambers. A selection at the station selected out mothers with children, the elderly, and sick. Healthy individuals unencumbered with children were selected for slave labor which because of the conditions would eventually reduced them to a condition where they would also be gassed. Most of the NAZI victims were Jews, perhaps 90 percent. They were, however, not the only victims. The NAZIs also gassed Christian Poles, Soviet POWs, gypseys, and homosexuals. The difference was that these groups (except the gypseys) did not include children and family groups.

Birkenau Revolt (October 1944)

Jews were selected to work at the Birkenau killing operation. Anyone who refused was killed. They were called Sonderkommandos. They worked in both the gas chambers and crematoria. They were kept separate from the main camp. Kommando III staged the uprising. They attacked the SS guards with with makeshift weapons (stones, axes, hammers, other work tools as well as homemade grenades) they managed to stockpile. The Jews managed to catch the SS guards by surprise and overpowered them (October 7, 1944). They blew up Crematorium IV with explosives female inmates smuggled in from a weapons factory in the Auschwitz complex. They were joined by the Birkenau Kommando I of Crematorium II which also managed to overpower their SS guards. They then broke out of the compound and along with hundreds of prisoners escaped. Tragically they were quickly recaptured and along with others who participated in the revolt were executed. Women from the munitions factory who supplied the explosives were tortured, but refused to name any co-conspirators. Because of the deteriorating military situation, the destroyed crematoria were not rebuilt.

Children

Almost all of the children in the incoming tranports of Jews at Birkenau were sent directly from the selection platform on arrivaL to the gas chambers and killed. When the Soviets liberated Auschwitz, however, the found some surviving children. Some of these children were found at Birkenau. Some had camp uniforms some dd not. We do not know much about these children. As far as we can tell they were not identified and records do not exist as to just who they were. We believe that they were probably children spared during the dreadful NAZI anti-partisan operations in the western Soviet Union and Poland. Thus these would not have been Jewish children. Most of the Jew in these areas were killed in 1941. Whole villages were razed in the anti-prtisan operations and the poulations murderd. In some cases the children were spared abd transported to concentration camps. We believe that these are the children that the Soviets found, at least most of the children. There may be other children at Birkebau, but this is all we can find at this time.

Current Situation

The Polish government maintains Birkenau as a prmanent memorial for the NAZI victims who perished here. The main camp at Auschwitz is a now a museum, research archive, and publishing house. Birkenau in contrat has been preserved essentially in the state in which the Red Army foundit (January 1945). Only a few of the wooden barracks now remain, but are being restored. The brick barracks and other structures in the women's camp still exist. The four Birkenau crematoria were dynamited by the SS in an effort to obscure what occured here, but the rubble remains.






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Created: 4:41 PM 5/29/2008
Last updated: 6:47 PM 8/19/2009