Aushwitz-Birkenau

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One of the most horrific events in history occurred during the time of World War II. The shocking attempt at exterminating a race out of Europe known as the holocaust killed of hundreds of thousands of innocent people and left many countries in ruins. Death camps were, many times, the final destination of members of this condemned race of Jewish people (Auschwitz Concentration Camp). A death camp known as Auschwitz-Birkenau, located just outside of Oswiecim in Poland, is renouned to be the worst camp because of its gas chambers, work requirements, and effective organization.

At the start of the camp, in 1940, the main purpose was to make the grounds and quarantine camp. As more people were forced into the area, the first distinct change was made and the camp became a death camp to kill all inhabitants. The final evolvement of the camp made the site hybrid of extermination and forced labor (History). This final stage is most clearly shown in the camps most thriving year, 1944 (Auschwitz Concentration Camp).

This deadly camp could only be effective if it was well organized, so the leading members of the SS garrison administration made sure that the camp ran smoothly. From the moment a prisoner got off the train the system of the camp started. As the prisoners came off the trains they came to a place known as the Judenrampe. Here the inmates were split into groups from which many were killed immediately and others were registered in the camps records. These records indicate that at least 400,000 were completely registered into the system, with an additional two or three hundred thousand not fully registered, most of which died during their time at the camp. If the prisoners made it past the first selection they were split into groups again to go to one of three main locations in the camp. The official names are Auschwitz I, Auschwitz II, and Auschwitz III, but they are referred to as Auschwitz I, Monowitz, and Birkenau (The Auschwitz Concentration Camp Gas Chambers and Crematoria). Each camp had a strict hierarchy of SS officials that followed orders to the detail (History). This allowed for the smooth control of the large population of inmates. They were assigned to barracks, given small rations, and many even had identification numbers put on their skin by tattoo or branding (Auschwitz Concentration Camp). Every morning and evening a long checking process was done to make sure no one escaped. The inmates were ordered to stand in orderly columns and rows or other strict formations to keep order. They marched from their daily work and stood in specific lines to get food and on occasion medical care. This order helped to make the systematic killing successful for 3 million people, as testified by Rudolf Höß (Auschwitz Concentration Camp).

A huge supply of labor in military related factories came from Auschwitz III. IG Farben was one of the most prominent places of employment for 11,000 prisoners at Auschwitz III. These individuals working in the new IG plant became known as Buna because that was the trade name for the synthetic rubber they were making. Another 7,000 prisoners worked in chemical plants along with the 8,000 that worked in mines (History). Harsh conditions and long hours were the daily routines of these working men and women. The catch was that only the able and healthy were allowed to work, so if someone started to slow production or dwindle in health a regular inspection from a medical officer would condemn the ill prisoner to the gas chamber (Night). In the end, over ten thousand workers lost their lives while working for these companies.

The terror brought upon the prisoners mainly came from the lethal gas chambers. The first operational chamber was created in the fall of 1941, and was initially used to kill Poles, Soviet POW’s, and a small amount of Jews (History). After the successful use of the first chamber the SS built four main gas chambers and cremetoria in Auschwitz II-Birkenau to be used instead of the first. In chambers II and III, 1,440 people could be poisoned and burned in twenty four hours. According to other calculations, in chambers IV and V, 768 people could be poisoned and burned every day (The Auschwitz Concentration Camp Gas Chambers and Crematoria). Most of the casualties coming from the chosen poison known more specifically as Zyklon B. This chemical was stored in air tight canisters and contained hydrogen cyanide along with a stabilizer. The compound was showered into the gas chambers and released the hydrogen cyanide gas that actually poisoned the prisoners (Auschwitz Concentration Camp). From the time that the German officials started using the compound in 1941 up until the dismantling of the last chamber in January 1945, it became the most effective killer of the camps. With such high mortality rates from this camp the prisoners obeyed the regulations after not seeing a single person come back from the chambers.

By the end of the war on May 8th, 1945, the allied forces had gathered more than enough evidence to try the SS officials that ran Auschwitz (1945: Civil Rights, Exploration and Settlement, Government, Statistics, and Wars). The precise records kept by the officers came to be their downfall when discovered by the allied forces. The details of the thousands killed at Auschwitz II still shocks people today and the stories of the brave ones that outlasted the struggles and hardships in the camp are going down in history as some of the most honored people around. The effects of the harsh working conditions, the relentless gas chambers, and the unsettling order of the destruction of a race are now revealed in the horrible past of Aushwitz.





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