Auschwitz: Bikenau Work Selections

Birkenau work selection boy
Figure 1.--This Jewish boy was photographed shortly after being selected for work and separated from his family. You can tell by his expression that he is not yet fully aware of what is happening to him. He probably does not yet know about the gas chambers and what happened to his family. He is reportedly inmate number 9668 J, but that seems a low number. Perhaps he is an early arrival at Auschitz. The badge identifies him as a Jew as does the J in his inmate number. The yellow triangle faces up and the super imposed dark triange faces down. We can not tell how he was identified without knowing the color. This system was developed at Dachau, but varied from camp to camp. (The dark trianges could mean: red--political enemy, green--habitual criminal, blue--emigrant, and black--asocials.) The use of these badges was very strict in the early years, but gradually fell to disuse in the final years of the War.

Auscwitz was primarily a work camp. Thus unlike the death camps, at Birkenau there was a selection for work. This process was especially fpr the Jews, because most other groups were not brought into Auschwitz as family groups, but rather individuals already separzted from their families. Those Jews selected for work included healthy youths and men as well as women unaccopanied with children. The Germas had learned that trying to separate mothers and children woyld disrupt the efficent processing on the Judenrampe. Even if it meant losing young women capable of work, efficently handling the Jews on the ramp was given priority. SS doctors carried out the selection of those deemed halty and fit for work. Youths down to about 14 years of age were seen as suitable for work. Younger children were selected for death. Those deemed fit for work were sent to one side of the Judenrampe and deparate from their families sent to the other side. The elderly and women with children were automatically directed to the line leading to the gas hmbers. The Jes on the ramp had no idea what the selection process meant. Those selected for work were directed to a non-discript building for the registration process. Prisoners would be registered than ordered to undress. They hung their clothes on hooks with their shoes on the floor underneath. Stripped naked they wre thus sparated from all possessons they might still have. Next they were tattooed with their registration number ending with a 'J' for Jew. Finally they were shaved of all body hair, disinfected, and forced into showers that were usually cold even in the dead of winter, but slometimes painfully hot. After the showers, they were given the striped pyjama-like uniforms, cap, and a pair of wooden clogs. Clogs were much cheaper than leather shoes. Then they were photographed for identity purposes. Here we can see one of those photographs. The photographs were done in sets of three, a left and right profile and a frontal shot. Fiinally they were marched to the barracks blocks to begin their life in the camp. It is only then that begin to find out what happened to the rest of their families. Work assignments would determine how long they were survive in Auschwitz. Out doors work would mean they would not survive long, especially in the cold winter weather. They were not issue cold weather coats and jackets. The Germans did not intend for them to survive or even live long.


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Created: 3:50 AM 7/23/2014
Last updated: 3:50 AM 7/23/2014