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the Final Solution & the Massacres of the Jews

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Sarah
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« Reply #15 on: February 09, 2007, 10:48:28 pm »

Auschwitz concentration camp

Auschwitz is the name loosely used to identify the largest Nazi extermination camp along with two main German concentration camps and 45-50 sub-camps. The name is derived from the German name for the nearby Polish town of Oświęcim (pronounced [oɕ'fʲeɲʨiːm]), situated about 60 kilometres (37 mi) southwest of Kraków. Beginning in 1940, Nazi Germany built several concentration camps and an extermination camp in the area, which at the time had been annexed by Nazi Germany. The camps were a major element in the perpetration of the Holocaust, killing around 1.1-1.6 million people, of whom over 90% were Jews.

The three main camps were:

Auschwitz I, the original concentration camp which served as the administrative centre for the whole complex, and was the site of the deaths of roughly 70,000 people, mostly Poles and Soviet Prisoners of War
Auschwitz II (Birkenau), an extermination camp and the site of the deaths of at least 1.1 million Jews, 75,000 Poles, and some 19,000 Roma
Auschwitz III (Monowitz/Monowice), which served as a labor camp for the Buna-Werke factory of the IG Farben concern.
See List of subcamps of Auschwitz for others. The exact number of people killed in the camps is not known, but most modern estimates are around 1.1-1.6 million.[/b]

Like all Nazi concentration camps, the Auschwitz camps were operated by Heinrich Himmler's SS. The commandants of the camp were the SS-Obersturmbannführers Rudolf Höß (sometimes transliterated in English as "Hoess") until Summer 1943, and later Arthur Liebehenschel and Richard Baer. Höß provided a detailed description of the camp's workings during his interrogations after the war and also in his autobiography. He was hanged in 1947 in front of the entrance to the crematorium of Auschwitz I. Chief of the women's field was handled by Johanna Langefeld, Maria Mandel and last by Elisabeth Volkenrath.

About 700 prisoners attempted to escape from the Auschwitz camps during the years of their operation, with about 300 attempts successful. A common punishment for escape attempts was death by starvation; the families of successful escapees were sometimes arrested and interned in Auschwitz and prominently displayed to deter others.

Auschwitz I
 
Entrance to Auschwitz in 1941. The slogan Arbeit macht frei over the gate translates as "Work (shall) make (you) free" (or "work liberates")
Auschwitz I concentration camp in 2001
View of Auschwitz in the winter(2002)Auschwitz I served as the administrative center for the whole complex. It was founded on May 20, 1940, on the basis of an old Polish brick army barracks. A group of 728 Polish political prisoners from Tarnów became the first residents of Auschwitz on June 14th that year. The camp was initially used for interning Polish intellectuals and resistance movement members, then also for Soviet Prisoners of War. Common German criminals, "anti-social elements" and 48 German homosexuals were also imprisoned there. Jews were sent to the camp as well, beginning with the very first shipment (from Tarnów). At any time, the camp held between 13,000 and 16,000 inmates; in 1942 the number reached 20,000.

The entrance to Auschwitz I was (and still is) marked with the cynical sign "Arbeit macht frei", "Work (shall) make (you) free" (or "work liberates"). The camp's prisoners who left the camp during the day for construction or farm labour were made to march through the gate at the sounds of an orchestra. Contrary to what is depicted in several films, the majority of the Jews were imprisoned in the Auschwitz II camp, and did not pass under this sign.

The SS selected some prisoners, often German criminals, as specially privileged supervisors of the other inmates (so-called: kapo). The various classes of prisoners were distinguishable by special marks on their clothes; Jews were generally treated the worst. All inmates had to work; except in the associated arms factories, Sundays were reserved for cleaning and showering and there were no work assignments.

The harsh work requirements, combined with poor nutrition and hygiene, led to high death rates among the prisoners.

Block 11 of Auschwitz I was the "prison within the prison", where violations of the numerous rules were punished. Some prisoners had to spend several days in tiny cells too small to sit down. Others were executed by shooting, hanging or starving.

 
Entrance of Auschwitz IIn September 1941, the SS conducted poison gas tests in block 11, killing 850 Poles and Russians using cyanide. The first experiment was on 3 September, 1941, and it killed 600 Soviet POWs. The substance producing the highly-lethal cyanide gas was sold under the trade name Zyklon B, originally for use as a pesticide used to kill lice. The tests deemed successful, a gas chamber and crematorium were constructed by converting a bunker. This gas chamber operated from 1941 to 1942 and was then converted into an air-raid shelter.

The first women arrived in the camp on March 26, 1942. From April 1943 to May 1944, the gynecologist Prof. Dr. Carl Clauberg conducted sterilization experiments on Jewish women in block 10 of Auschwitz I, with the aim of developing a simple injection method to be used on the Slavic people. Dr. Josef Mengele experimented on twins in the same complex. Prisoners in the camp hospital who were not quick to recover were regularly killed by a lethal injection of phenol.

The camp brothel, established in the summer of 1943 on Himmler's order, was located in block 29 and was used to reward privileged prisoners. It was staffed by women specifically selected for the purpose, and by some volunteers from the female prisoners most of whom were raped by the Nazis.


Auschwitz II (Birkenau)

 
Entrance to Auschwitz II (Birkenau), the main extermination camp, in 2002
Selection at the Birkenau ramp, 1944 — Birkenau main entrance visible in the background
Birkenau concentration camp in 2001Auschwitz II (Birkenau) is the camp that many people know simply as "Auschwitz". It was the site of the imprisonment of hundreds of thousands, and the killings of over one million people, mainly Jews.

The camp is located in Brzezinka (Birkenau), about 3 kilometres (1.8 mi) from Auschwitz I. The camp was designed, according to the Bauhaus concept of functionalism and construction started in 1941, as part of the Final Solution (Endlösung). The camp was about 2.5 kilometres by 2 kilometres (1½ mi by 1¼ mi) large and was divided into several sections, each of which was separated into fields. Fields as well as the camp itself were surrounded with barbed, electrified wire (which was used by some of the inmates to commit suicide). The camp held up to 100,000 prisoners at one time.

The camp's main purpose, however, was not internment with forced labour (as Auschwitz I & III) but rather extermination. For this purpose, the camp was equipped with four crematoria with gas chambers; each gas chamber was designed to hold up to 2,500 people at one time. Large-scale extermination started in Spring 1942.

Most people arrived at the camp by rail, often after horrifying trips in cattle cars lasting several days. From 1944 railway tracks extended into the camp itself; before that, arriving prisoners were marched from the Auschwitz railway station to the camp. At times, the whole transport would be sent to its death immediately. At other times, the Nazis would perform "selections", often administered by Josef Mengele, to the end of choosing whom to kill right away and whom to imprison as labour force or use for medical experiments. Young children were taken from their mothers and placed with older women to be gassed, along with the sick, weak and old.

Those arriving prisoners who survived the initial selection would go on to spend some time in quarantine quarters and eventually work on the camp's maintenance or expansion or be sent to one of the surrounding satellite work camps.

One section of the camp was reserved for female prisoners. In another section known as "Canada" (so named because Germans believed that Canada was a land of vast riches), the belongings of the arriving victims were sorted and stored, to be transferred to the German government. Items such as banknotes, coins, jewellery, precious metals and diamonds were removed from "Canada" and shipped off to the Reichsbank.

Those selected for extermination were sent to any of four massive gas chamber/crematorium complexes, all at the edge of the camp. Two of the crematoria (Krema II and Krema III) each had an underground undressing room and the underground gas chamber, capable of holding thousands of people. To avoid mass panic, the victims were told that they were going there for showering; to reinforce this impression, shower heads were fitted in the gas chamber, though never connected to a water supply. The victims were ordered to strip naked and leave their belongings in the undressing room in a location that they could subsequently remember, before being led to the adjacent gas chamber. Once the victims were sealed shut in the chamber, the toxic agent Zyklon B was discharged from openings in the ceiling. Gas chambers in crematoria IV and V were above ground and Zyklon B was poured through the special windows in the walls. An oven room, where selected camp prisoners called Sonderkommandos took out the dead bodies and burned them, was part of the same building. This same process happened in Auschwitz I, but on a smaller scale.

 
Empty poison gas canisters and hair from victims, as seen in the Auschwitz museum that has been built in Auschwitz IJews from many countries were sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau to be killed: 300,000 from Poland, 69,000 from France, 60,000 from the Netherlands, 55,000 from Greece, 46,000 from Moravia, 25,000 from Belgium, as well as tens of thousands of Jews from other countries. The largest group of Jews deported to Auschwitz came from Hungary after Germany took control of its former ally in March 1944. Between May and July 1944, about 438,000 Jews from Hungary were deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau and the most were killed there. When the crematoria could not keep up, bodies were burned in open pits. [1].

Many Roma had been imprisoned in a special section of the camp, mostly in family units. They were gassed in July 1944. On 10 October, eight hundred Roma children were systematically killed at Birkenau.

On October 7, 1944, the Jewish Sonderkommandos (those prisoners kept separate from the main camp and involved in the operation of the gas chambers and crematoria) staged an uprising. Female prisoners had smuggled in explosives from a weapons factory, and crematorium IV was partly destroyed by an explosion. The prisoners then attempted a mass escape, but nearly all of the 250 were killed soon after.

Many of the inmates enslaved here survived less than a year due to their harsh living conditions. Birkenau was liberated on January 27, 1945.


Auschwitz III and satellite camps
Also see List of subcamps of Auschwitz
The surrounding satellite work camps were closely connected to German industry and were associated with arms factories, foundries and mines. The largest work camp was Auschwitz III Monowitz, named after the Polish village of Monowice. Starting operations in May 1942, it was associated with the synthetic rubber and liquid fuel plant Buna-Werke owned by IG Farben. In regular intervals, doctors from Auschwitz II would visit the work camps and select the weak and sick for the gas chambers of Birkenau. The largest subcamps were built at Trzebinia, Bleechammer and Althammer. Female subcamps were constructed at Budy , Plawy, Zabrze, Gleiwitz I, II, III, Rajsko and at Lichtenwerden.


Knowledge of the Allies
 
A photograph of Birkenau, taken May 31, 1944 by a Mosquito plane from South African Air Force, sent to take photographs of the fuel factory at nearby Monowitz. The photographic analysts missed the significance of the photograph, it was identified in the late 1970s and analyzed by the CIA in 1978. Smoke can been seen coming from Crematoria V, indicating that a group of prisoners were recently gassed.Some information regarding Auschwitz reached the Allies during 1941-1944, such as the reports of Witold Pilecki and Jerzy Tabeau, but the claims of mass killings were generally dismissed as exaggerations. This changed with receipt of the very detailed report of two escaped prisoners, Rudolf Vrba and Alfred Wetzler, which finally convinced most Allied leaders of the truth about Auschwitz in the middle of 1944.

Detailed air reconnaissance photographs of the camp were taken accidentally during 1944 by aircraft seeking to photograph nearby military-industrial targets, but no effort was made to analyse them. (In fact, it was not until the 1970s that these photographs of Auschwitz were looked at carefully.)

Starting with a plea from the Slovakian rabbi Weissmandl in May 1944, there was a growing campaign to convince the Allies to bomb Auschwitz or the railway lines leading to it. At one point Winston Churchill ordered that such a plan be prepared, but he was told that bombing the camp would most likely kill prisoners without disrupting the killing operation, and that bombing the railway lines was not technically feasible. Later several nearby military targets were bombed. One bomb accidentally fell into the camp and killed some prisoners. The debate over what could have been done, or what should have been attempted even if success was unlikely, has continued heatedly ever since.


Evacuation and liberation

The gas chambers of Birkenau were blown up by the Germans in November 1944 in an attempt to hide their crimes from the advancing Soviet troops. On January 17, 1945 Nazi personnel started to evacuate the facility; most of the prisoners were marched West. Those too weak or sick to walk were left behind; about 7,500 prisoners were liberated by the 322nd Infantry unit of the Red Army on January 27, 1945.

'Liberation' was not necessarily the end of the ordeal for many prisoners. Soviet POWs were accused of collaborating with the Germans and were either executed or sent to gulags in the Soviet Union.


Death toll

Since the Nazis attempted to destroy the evidence of the mass murder at Auschwitz, the exact number of victims is impossible to fix with certainty. Early efforts to count the number of dead relied on the testimony of witnesses, especially Nazi Rudolf Hoess, who gave the number of dead at 2.5-3 million. Though this number, and a higher total of 4 million, was used by Soviet and Polish authorities, it was never taken seriously by Western scholars, who generally supported numbers of around 1-2 million. In 1983, French scholar George Wellers was one of the first to use Nazi data on deportations to estimate the number killed at Auschwitz, arriving at 1.613 million dead, including 1.44 million Jews and 146,000 Poles. A larger study started around the same time by Franciszek Piper used time tables of train arrivals combined with deportation records to calculate 1.1 million Jewish deaths and 140,000-150,000 Polish victims, along with 23,000 Roma. This number has met with "significant, though not complete" agreement among scholars.^


After the war

After the war, the camp served as a prison of the NKVD through most of 1945 and then remained in a state of disrepair for several years. The Buna Werke were taken over by the Polish government and became the foundation for the chemical industry of the region.

The Polish government then decided to restore Auschwitz I and turn it into a museum honouring the victims of nazism; Auschwitz II, where buildings were prone to decay, was preserved but not restored. Today, the Auschwitz I museum site combines elements from several periods into a single complex: for example the gas chamber at Auschwitz I (which did not exist by the war's end) was restored and the fence was moved (because of building being done after the war but before the establishment of the museum). However, in most cases the departure from the historical truth is minor, and is clearly labelled.

 
Part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site - ruins at Birkenau, 2002Auschwitz II and the remains of the gas chambers there are also open to the public. The Auschwitz concentration camp is part of the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites.

In 1979, the newly elected Polish Pope John Paul II celebrated Mass on the grounds of Auschwitz II to some 500,000 people. After the pope had announced that Edith Stein would be beatified, some Catholics erected a cross near bunker 2 of Auschwitz II where she had been gassed. A short while later, a Star of David appeared at the site, leading to a proliferation of religious symbols there; eventually they were removed.

Carmelite nuns opened a convent near Auschwitz I in 1984. After some Jewish groups called for the removal of the convent, representatives of the Catholic Church agreed in 1987. One year later the Carmelites erected the 8 metre (26 ft) tall cross from the 1979 mass near their site, just outside block 11 and barely visible from within the camp. This led to protests by Jewish groups, who said that mostly Jews were killed at Auschwitz and demanded that religious symbols be kept away from the site. Some Catholics have pointed out that the people killed in Auschwitz I were mainly Polish Catholics. The Catholic Church told the Carmelites to move by 1989, but they stayed on until 1993, leaving the large cross behind. In 1998, after further calls to remove the cross, some 300 smaller crosses were erected by local activists near the large one, leading to further protests and heated exchanges. Following an agreement between the Polish Catholic Church and the Polish government, the smaller crosses were removed in 1999 but the large papal one remains. See Auschwitz cross for more details.

In 1996, Germany made 27 January, the day of the liberation of Auschwitz, the official day for the commemoration of the victims of 'National Socialism'.

The European Parliament marked the anniversary of the camp's liberation in 2005 with a minute of silence and the passage of this resolution:

"27 January 2005, the sixtieth anniversary of the liberation of Nazi Germany's death camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau, where a combined total of up to 1.5 million Jews, Roma, Poles, Russians and prisoners of various other nationalities, and homosexuals, were murdered, is not only a major occasion for European citizens to remember and condemn the enormous horror and tragedy of the Holocaust, but also for addressing the disturbing rise in anti-semitism, and especially anti‑semitic incidents, in Europe, and for learning anew the wider lessons about the dangers of victimising people on the basis of race, ethnic origin, religion, social classification, politics or sexual orientation."


Other Controversies

For many years, a memorial plaque placed at the camp by the Soviet authorities and the Polish communist government stated that 4 million people had been murdered at Auschwitz. This number was never taken seriously by Western historians, and was never used in any of the calculations of the death toll at Auschwitz (which have generally remained consistently around 1-1.5 million for the last sixty years) or for the total deaths in the Holocaust as a whole. After the collapse of the Communist government, the plaque was removed and the official death toll given as 1.1 million. Holocaust deniers have attempted to use this change as propaganda, in the words of Nizkor: "Deniers often use the 'Four Million Variant' as a stepping stone to leap from an apparent contradiction to the idea that the Holocaust was a hoax, again perpetrated by a conspiracy. They hope to discredit historians by making them seem inconsistent. If they can't keep their numbers straight, their reasoning goes, how can we say that their evidence for the Holocaust is credible? One must wonder which historians they speak of, as most have been remarkably consistent in their estimates of a million or so dead. In short, all of the denier's blustering about the 'Four Million Variant' is a specious attempt to envelope the reader into their web of deceit, and it can be discarded after the most rudimentary examination of published histories."[2]


Recently the Polish media and the foreign ministry of Poland have voiced objections to the use of the expression "Polish death camp" in relation to Auschwitz, as they feel that phrase might misleadingly suggest that Poles (rather than Germans) perpetrated the Holocaust. Most media outlets now show awareness of the offence this may cause, and try to avoid using such expressions (or issue an apology after using them, see for example the recent note in The Guardian).

The Polish film directors Andrzej Munk and Andrzej Wajda were both given permission to film in Auschwitz for the films Pasażerka and Krajobraz Po Bitwie respectively. However, permission was denied to Steven Spielberg for Schindler's List. His Auschwitz scene was therefore filmed outside the near-symmetrical entrance, with scenery added to make it look like the real thing.

In February 2006, Poland refused to grant visas to Iranian researchers who were planning to visit Auschwitz.[3]. Polish Foreign Minister Stefan Meller said his country should stop Iran from investigating the scale of the Holocaust, which Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has dismissed as a myth.

  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Auschwitz_concentration_camp
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