World War 2 Stories for Sheffield

Concentration Camps

Holocaust Memorial Day

This story taken from the Holocaust Memorial Trust Click for website

Holocaust Memorial Day – 27 January

Each year on 27 January the world marks Holocaust Memorial Day (HMD). HMD has been held in the UK since 2001 and the United Nations declared this an International event in November 2005. 27 January was chosen as the date for HMD because it was on this date in 1945 that the largest Nazi killing camp Auschwitz-Birkenau was liberated.

HMD is about remembering the victims and those whose lives have been changed beyond recognition of the Holocaust, Nazi persecution and subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and the ongoing atrocities today in Darfur. HMD provides us with an opportunity to honour the survivors but it’s also a chance to look to our own lives and communities today. Genocide doesn’t happen overnight, it’s a gradual process which begins when the differences between us are not celebrated but used as a reason to exclude or marginalise. By learning from the lessons of the past, we can create a safer, better future.

Each year, we announce a theme for HMD which provides a focal point and a shared message for the hundreds of events which take place around the UK. The theme for HMD 2011 is Untold Stories.

Anyone can organise a HMD activity and we provide free resources to enable you to do so. Order our free Campaign Pack to find out how you can become involved. There’s no such thing as a right or wrong HMD event – whether events are for invited guests in a council chamber, open to the general public in a large public space or a closed event within a school or college – each event marks HMD as a key date in the equalities and human rights calendar.

HMD is a day for everyone. It’s an opportunity for all the diverse strands of our communities to come together. It’s also an opportunity for groups or organisations to remember the past and commit to creating a better future. HMD can be commemorated individually or collectively.

HMD has taken place in the UK since 2001. It was established at a meeting on 27 January 2000, when representatives from forty-four governments around the world met in Stockholm to discuss Holocaust education, remembrance and research. At the conclusion of the forum, the delegates unanimously signed a declaration. This forms the HMD Statement of Commitment which is used a basis for HMD events internationally.

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The Documentary - Auschwitz The Forgotten Evidence History

Concentration Camps 

From Holocaust Encyclopedia

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

The term concentration camp refers to a camp in which people are detained or confined, usually under harsh conditions and without regard to legal norms of arrest and imprisonment that are acceptable in a constitutional democracy. In Nazi Germany between 1933 and 1945, concentration camps (Konzentrationslager; KL or KZ) were an integral feature of the regime.

The first concentration camps in Germany were established soon after Hitler's appointment as chancellor in January 1933. In the weeks after the Nazis came to power, The SA (Sturmabteilungen; commonly known as Storm Troopers), the SS (Schutzstaffel; Protection Squadrons -- the elite guard of the Nazi party), the police, and local civilian authorities organized numerous detention camps to incarcerate real and perceived political opponents of Nazi policy.

German authorities established camps all over Germany on an ad hoc basis to handle the masses of people arrested as alleged subversives. The SS established larger camps in Oranienburg, north of Berlin; Esterwegen, near Hamburg; Dachau, northwest of Munich; and Lichtenburg, in Saxony. In Berlin itself, the Columbia Haus facility held prisoners under investigation by the Gestapo (the German secret state police) until 1936.

After the SS gained its independence from the SA in July 1934, in the wake of the Röhm purge, Hitler authorized the Reich SS leader, Heinrich Himmler, to centralize the administration of the concentration camps and formalize them into a system. Himmler chose SS Lieutenant General Theodor Eicke for this task. Eicke had been the commandant of the SS concentration camp at Dachau since June 1933. Himmler appointed him Inspector of Concentration Camps, a new section of the SS subordinate to the SS Main Office.

After December 1934, the SS became the only agency authorized to establish and manage facilities that were formally called concentration camps, though local civilian authorities continued to establish and manage forced-labour camps and detention camps throughout Germany. In 1937, only four concentration camps were left: Dachau, near Munich; Sachsenhausen near Berlin; Buchenwald near Weimar; and Lichtenburg near Merseburg in Saxony for female prisoners.

Already as commandant of Dachau in 1933, Eicke developed an organization and procedures to administer and guard a concentration camp. He issued regulations both for the duties of the perimeter guards and for treatment of the prisoners. The organization, structure, and practice developed at Dachau in 1933-1934 became the model for the Nazi concentration camp system as it expanded. Among Eicke's early trainees at Dachau was Rudolf Höss, who later commanded the Auschwitz concentration camp.

Special “political units on alert” (Politische Bereitschaften), originall guarded the SS concentration camps. They were renamed “SS Guard Units” (SS-Wachverbände) in 1935 and “SS Death's-Head Units” (SS-Totenkopfverbände) in April 1936. One SS Death's-Head Unit was assigned to each concentration camp. After 1936, the camp administration, including the commandant, was also a part of the SS Death's-Head Unit. Although all SS units wore the Death's-Head symbol (skull and crossbones) on their caps, only the SS Death's-Head Units were authorized to wear the Death's Head Symbol on their lapels. After the creation of the “SS Death's-Head Division” of the Waffen SS in 1940, whose officers had been recruited from concentration camp service, members of this division also wore the Death's-Head symbol on their lapel.

The SS Death's-Head Unit at each camp was divided into two groups. The first was the camp staff, which encompassed: 1) the commandant and his personal staff; 2) a Security Police officer and an assistant to maintain and update prisoner records; 3) the commandant of the so-called protective detention camp (Schutzhaftlagerführer) which housed the prisoners, and his staff (including the labour allocation officer, the roll call officer, and the Blockführer, who were responsible for the individual prisoner barracks); 4) an administrative staff responsible for the fiscal and supply administration of the camp; and 5) an infirmary run by an SS physician, who was assisted by one or two SS sanitation officers and/or medical orderlies. The second group constituted the guard detachment (SS-Wachbataillion), which prior to 1939 was at battalion strength.

After 1938, authority to incarcerate persons in a concentration camp formally rested exclusively with the German Security Police (made up of the Gestapo and the Criminal Police), which held this exclusive authority de facto since 1936. The “legal” instrument of incarceration was either the “protective detention” (Schutzhaft) order (which the Gestapo could issue for persons considered a political danger after 1933) and the “preventative detention” (Vorbeugungshaft) order, which the Criminal Police could issue after December 1937 for persons considered to be habitual and professional criminals, or to be engaging in what the regime defined as “asocial” behaviour. Neither order was subject to judicial review, or any review by any German agency outside of the German Security Police.

The model thus established by Eicke in the mid-1930s characterized the concentration camp system until the collapse of the Nazi regime in the spring of 1945. The daily routine at Dachau, the methods of punishment, and the duties of the SS staff and guards became the norm, with some variation, at all German concentration camps.



EXPANSION OF THE CAMP SYSTEM 1939

As Nazi Germany expanded by bloodless conquest between 1938 and 1939, the numbers of those labelled as political opponents and social deviants increased, requiring the establishment of new concentration camps. By the time the Germans invaded Poland in September 1939, unleashing World War II, there were six concentration camps in the so-called Greater German Reich: Dachau (founded 1933), Sachsenhausen (1936), Buchenwald (1937), Flossenbürg in north-eastern Bavaria near the 1937 Czech border (1938), Mauthausen, near Linz, Austria (1938), and Ravensbrück, the women's camp, established in Brandenburg Province, southeast of Berlin (1939), after the dissolution of Lichtenburg.

From as early as early as 1934, concentration camp commandants deployed prisoners as forced labourers for the benefit of SS construction projects, including the construction or expansion of the camps themselves. By 1938, SS leaders envisioned using the reservoirs of forced labourers incarcerated in the camps for a variety of SS-commissioned construction projects. To mobilize and finance such projects, Himmler revamped and expanded the administrative offices of the SS and created a new SS office for business operations. Both agencies were led by SS Major General Oswald Pohl, who would take over the Inspectorate of Concentration Camps in 1942.

Beginning a pattern that would become typical after the war began, economic considerations had an increasing impact on the selection of sites for concentration camps after 1937. For instance, Mauthausen and Flossenbürg were located near large stone quarries. Likewise, concentration camp authorities increasingly diverted prisoners from meaningless, backbreaking labour to more goal-oriented if still backbreaking and dangerous labour in extractive industries, such as stone quarries and coal mines, and construction labour.

After Nazi Germany unleashed World War II in September 1939, vast new territorial conquests and larger groups of potential prisoners inspired the rapid expansion of the concentration camp system to the east. The war did not change the original function of the concentration camps as detention sites for the incarceration of political enemies. The climate of national emergency that the conflict granted to the Nazi leaders, however, permitted the SS to expand the functions of the camps.

The concentration camps increasingly became sites where the SS authorities could kill targeted groups of real or perceived enemies of Nazi Germany. They also came to serve as holding centres for a rapidly expanding pool of forced labourers deployed on SS construction projects, SS-commissioned extractive industrial sites, and, by 1942, in the production of armaments, weapons, and related goods for the German war effort.

Despite the chronic need for forced labour, the SS authorities continued to deliberately undernourish and mistreat prisoners incarcerated in the concentration camps, deploying them so ruthlessly and without regard to safety at forced labour, with such rates of mortality that many prisoners believed that they were in effect being "annihilated through work."

The years 1939-1942 saw a marked expansion in the concentration camp system. In 1938, SS authorities had begun to exploit the labour of concentration camp prisoners for economic profit. In September 1939, the war provided a convenient excuse to ban releases from the camps, thus providing the SS with a readily available labour force.

SS authorities established new camps in the vicinity of factories (for example, the brickworks at Neuengamme, 1940) or sites for the extraction of raw materials (such as the stone quarry at Mauthausen, 1938). The goods extracted or produced by prisoner labour were sold to the German Reich through SS-owned firms such as the German Earth and Stone Works.

As Germany conquered much of Europe in the years 1939-1941, the SS established a number of new concentration camps to incarcerate increased numbers of political prisoners, resistance groups, and groups deemed racially inferior, such as Jews and Roma (Gypsies). Among these new camps were: Gusen (1939), Neuengamme (1940), Gross-Rosen (1940), Auschwitz (1940), Natzweiler (1940) Stutthof (1942), and Majdanek (February 1943). Stutthof had been a Gestapo Labour Education camp from 1939 to 1942.

After the beginning of the war, the concentration camps also became sites for the mass murder of small-targeted groups deemed dangerous for political or racial reasons by the Nazi authorities. For example, several hundred Dutch Jews were rounded up in retaliation for a Dutch transit strike in protest of Nazi persecution of Jews in the Netherlands in the winter of 1941. They were sent to Mauthausen in February 1941 where within a few days, the SS staff had killed all of them. Thousands of "security suspects" released from German prisons in the autumn of 1942 were sent to concentration camps and literally worked to death under a program called "Annihilation through Work" (Vernichtung durch Arbeit). Finally, captured members of national resistance movements were sent to concentration camps to be murdered upon arrival.

During this period, the German authorities constructed gas chambers for use to kill people at several of the concentration camps. Gas chambers were constructed at Mauthausen, Sachsenhausen, Auschwitz I, and other camps. A gas chamber was constructed later at Dachau, but it was never used.

 After the December 1941 defeat of the German army in its attempt to take Moscow and the entry of the United States into World War II on December 11, the German authorities understood that Germany would have to fight a long war. Responding to increasingly acute labour shortages and the need to produce armaments, machinery, airplanes, and ships to replace German losses, the SS established more SS-owned firms. It also signed contracts with state and private firms to produce goods and provide labour for the German armaments and related industries.

A famous example of cooperation between the SS and private industry was the I.G. Farben company's establishment of a synthetic rubber plant in 1942 at Auschwitz III (Monowitz). The incarceration of increasing numbers of people in the concentration camps assured at least the quantity of the labour supply even as the brutality of the regimen inside the camps depleted the number of available labourers. The SS used gas chambers and other means to "weed out" prisoners who were no longer able to work.

During 1942-1944, hundreds of subcamps were established for each concentration camp. Subcamps were located in or near factories or sites for the extraction of raw materials. For example, Wiener Neudorf, a subcamp of Mauthausen established in 1943, was located near an airplane factory on the east side of Vienna, Austria; Sosnowitz was established in the vicinity of a coal mine as a subcamp of Auschwitz III/Monowitz; prisoners incarcerated at Dora-Mittelbau worked under brutal conditions in underground factories for the production of rockets. Central SS authorities tried to induce camp commandants to focus their efforts on keeping the prisoners alive, if only to serve the German war effort. However, few of the commandants took these instructions seriously and none were concerned about changing the murderous culture of the camps.

During the last year of the war, as the Germans retreated into the Reich itself, the concentration camp population (Jewish and non-Jewish) suffered catastrophic losses due to starvation, exposure, disease, and mistreatment. In addition, the SS evacuated concentration camp prisoners as the front approached because the Nazis did not want the prisoners to be liberated. Under SS guard, prisoners had to march on foot during brutal winter weather without adequate food, shelter, or clothing. SS guards had orders to shoot those who could not keep up. Other prisoners were evacuated by open freight car in the dead of winter.

During this period, the concentration camps were also sites of hideous and perverted medical experiments conducted on prisoners against their will and often with lethal results. For example, in Dachau, German scientists experimented on prisoners to determine the length of time German air force personnel might survive under reduced air pressure or in frozen water. In Sachsenhausen, various experiments were conducted on prisoners to find vaccines for lethal contagious diseases. At Auschwitz III, the SS doctor Josef Mengele conducted experiments on twins to seek ways of increasing the German population by breeding families that would produce twins. These experiments were criminal and murderous; they were also based for the most part on bogus science and racist fantasy.

In 1944-1945, the Allied armies liberated the concentration camps. Tragically, deaths in the camps continued for several weeks after liberation. Some prisoners had already become too weak to survive.

According to SS reports, there were more than 700,000 prisoners left in the camps in January 1945. It has been estimated that nearly half of the total number of concentration camp deaths between 1933 and 1945 occurred during the last year of the war.

 

Nazi Concenmtration Camps and Their Locations 

From Wikipedia

AUSCHWITZ-BIRKENAU 

Auschwitz (German: Konzentrationslager Auschwitz) was a network of concentration and extermination camps built and operated in Polish areas annexed by Nazi Germany during the Second World War. It was the largest of the German concentration camps, consisting of Auschwitz I (the Stammlager or base camp); Auschwitz II-Birkenau (the Vernichtungslager or extermination camp); Auschwitz III-Monowitz, also known as Buna-Monowitz (a labour camp); and 45 satellite camps.

Auschwitz is the German name for Oświęcim, the town in and around which the camps were located; it was renamed by the Germans after they invaded Poland in September 1939. Birkenau, the German translation of Brzezinka (birch tree), refers to a small Polish village nearby that was mostly destroyed by the Germans to make way for the camp.

Auschwitz II-Birkenau was designated by Heinrich Himmler, who was the Reichsführer and Germany's Minister of the Interior, as the place of the "final solution of the Jewish question in Europe". From spring 1942 until the fall of 1944, transport trains delivered Jews to the camp's gas chambers from all over Nazi-occupied Europe. The camp's first commandant, Rudolf Höss, testified after the war at the Nuremberg Trials that up to three million people had died there (2.5 million exterminated, and 500,000 from disease and starvation), a figure since revised to 1.1 million, around 90 percent of them Jews. Others deported to Auschwitz included 150,000 Poles, 23,000 Roma and Sinti, 15,000 Soviet prisoners of war, and tens of thousands of people of diverse nationalities.Those not killed in the gas chambers died of starvation, forced labor, lack of disease control, individual executions, and medical experiments.

On January 27, 1945, Auschwitz was liberated by Soviet troops, a day commemorated around the world as International Holocaust Remembrance Day. In 1947, Poland founded a museum on the site of Auschwitz I and II, which by 1994 had seen 22 million visitors—700,000 annually—pass through the iron gates crowned with the infamous motto, Arbeit macht frei ("work makes you free").

 

The Auschwitz complex of camps encompassed a large industrial area rich in natural resources. There were 48 camps in all. The three main camps were Auschwitz I, Auschwitz II-Birkenau, and a work camp called Auschwitz III-Monowitz, or the Buna. Auschwitz I served as the administrative center, and was the site of the deaths of roughly 70,000 people, mostly ethnic Poles and Soviet prisoners of war. Auschwitz II was an extermination camp or Vernichtungslager, the site of the deaths of at least 960,000 Jews, 75,000 Poles, and some 19,000 Roma (Gypsies). Auschwitz III-Monowitz served as a labor camp for the Buna-Werke factory of the IG Farben concern. The SS-Totenkopfverbände (SS-TV) was the SS organization responsible for administering the Nazi concentration camps for the Third Reich. The SS-TV was an independent unit within the SS with its own ranks and command structure. Obersturmbannführer Rudolf Höss was overall commandant of the Auschwitz complex from May 1940–November 1943; Obersturmbannführer Arthur Liebehenschel from November 1943–May 1944; and Sturmbannführer Richard Baer from May 1944–January 1945.

Yisrael Gutman writes that it was in the concentration camps that Hitler's concept of absolute power came to fruition. Primo Levi, who described his year in Auschwitz in If This Is a Man, wrote:

[N]ever has there existed a state that was really "totalitarian." ... Never has some form of reaction, a corrective of the total tyranny, been lacking, not even in the Third Reich or Stalin's Soviet Union: in both cases, public opinion, the magistrature, the foreign press, the churches, the feeling for justice and humanity that ten or twenty years of tyranny were not enough to eradicate, have to a greater or lesser extent acted as a brake. Only in the Lager [camp] was the restraint from below non-existent, and the power of these small satraps absolute.

 

Auschwitz 1

Auschwitz I was the original camp, serving as the administrative centre for the whole complex. The site for the camp (16 one-story buildings) had earlier served as Polish army artillery barracks. It was first suggested as a site for a concentration camp for Polish prisoners by SS-Oberfuhrer Arpad Wigand, an aide to Higher SS and Police Leader for Silesia, Erich von dem Bach Zelewski. Bach Zeleski had been searching for a site to house prisoners in the Silesia region as the local prisons were filled to capacity. Richard Glucks, head of the Concentration Camps Inspectorate, sent former Sachsenhausen concentration camp commandant, Walter Eisfeld, to inspect the site. Glucks informed SS Reichsfuhrer Heinrich Himmler that a camp would be built on the site on 21 February 1940. Rudolf Höss would oversee the development of the camp and serve as the first commandant, SS-Obersturmführer Josef Kramer was appointed Höss's deputy.

Local residents were evicted, including 1,200 people who lived in shacks around the barracks, creating an empty area of 40 km2, which the Germans called the "interest area of the camp". 300 Jewish residents of Oświęcim were brought in to lay foundations. From 1940 to 1941 17 000 Polish and Jewish residents from the western districts of Oświęcim town, from places adjacent to Auschwitz Concentration Camp was expelled. Germans ordered also expulsions from the villages of Broszkowice, Babice, Brzezinka, Rajsko, Pławy, Harmęże, Bór, and Budy. The expulsion of Polish civilians was a step towards establishing the Camp Interest Zone, which was set up to isolate the camp from the outside world and to carry out business activity to meet the needs of the SS. German and Volksdeutsche settlers moved into some buildings whose Jewish population had been deported to the ghetto.

The first prisoners (30 German criminal prisoners from the Sachsenhausen camp) arrived in May 1940, intended to act as functionaries within the prison system. The first transport of 728 Polish prisoners which included 20 Jews arrived on 14 June 1940 from the prison in Tarnow, Poland. They were interned in the former building of the Polish Tobacco Monopoly adjacent to the site, until the camp was ready. The inmate population grew quickly, as the camp absorbed Poland's intelligentsia and dissidents, including the Polish underground resistance. By March 1941, 10,900 were imprisoned there, most of them Poles.

The SS selected some prisoners, often German criminals, as specially privileged supervisors of the other inmates (so-called kapos). Although involved in numerous atrocities, only two Kapos were ever prosecuted for their individual behaviour; many were deemed to have had little choice but to act as they did. The various classes of prisoners were distinguishable by special marks on their clothes; Jews and Soviet prisoners of war were generally treated the worst. All inmates had to work in the associated arms factories, except on Sundays, which were reserved for cleaning and showering. The harsh work requirements, combined with poor nutrition and hygiene, led to high death rates among the prisoners.

Block 11 of Auschwitz was the "prison within the prison", where violators of the numerous rules were punished. Some prisoners were made to spend the nights in "standing cells". These cells were about 1.5 m2 (16 sq ft), and four men would be placed in them; they could do nothing but stand, and were forced during the day to work with the other prisoners. In the basement were located the "starvation cells"; prisoners incarcerated here were given neither food nor water until they were dead.

In the basement were the "dark cells"; these cells had only a very tiny window, and a solid door. Prisoners placed in these cells would gradually suffocate as they used up all of the oxygen in the cell; sometimes the SS would light a candle in the cell to use up the oxygen more quickly. Many were subjected to hanging with their hands behind their backs, thus dislocating their shoulder joints for hours, even days.

On September 3, 1941, deputy camp commandant SS-Hauptsturmführer Fritzsch experimented on 600 Russian POWs and 250 Polish inmates by gathering them in the basement of Block 11 and gassing them with Zyklon B, a highly lethal cyanide-based pesticide. This paved the way for the use of Zyklon B as an instrument for extermination at Auschwitz, and a gas chamber and crematorium were constructed by converting a bunker. This gas chamber operated from 1941 to 1942, during which time some 60,000 people were killed therein; it was then converted into an air-raid shelter for the use of the SS. This gas chamber still exists, together with the associated crematorium, which was reconstructed after the war using the original components, which remained on-site.

 

Auschwitz II-Birkenau

Construction on Auschwitz II-Birkenau, the extermination camp, began in October 1941 to ease congestion at the main camp. It was larger than Auschwitz I, and more people passed through its gates than through Auschwitz I. It was designed to hold several categories of prisoners, and to function as an extermination camp in the context of Heinrich Himmler's preparations for the Final Solution of the Jewish Question, the extermination of the Jews. The first gas chamber at Birkenau was "The Little Red House," a brick cottage converted into a gassing facility by tearing out the inside and bricking up the walls. It was operational by March 1942. A second brick cottage, "The Little White House," was similarly converted some weeks later.

The Nazis had committed themselves to the final solution no later than January 1942, the date of the Wannsee Conference. In his Nuremberg testimony on April 15, 1946, Rudolf Höss, the commandant of Auschwitz, testified that Heinrich Himmler personally ordered him to prepare Auschwitz for that purpose:

"In the summer of 1941 I was summoned to Berlin to Reichsführer-SS Himmler to receive personal orders. He told me something to the effect—I do not remember the exact words—that the Fuehrer had given the order for a final solution of the Jewish question. We, the SS, must carry out that order. If it is not carried out now then the Jews will later on destroy the German people. He had chosen Auschwitz on account of its easy access by rail and also because the extensive site offered space for measures ensuring isolation."

British historian Laurence Rees writes, that Höss may have misremembered the year Himmler said this. Himmler did indeed visit Höss in the summer of 1941, but there is no evidence that the final solution had been planned at this stage. Rees writes that the meeting predates the killings of Jewish men by the Einsatzgruppen in the East and the expansion of the killings in July 1941. It also predates the Wannsee Conference. Rees speculates that the conversation with Himmler was most likely in the summer of 1942. The first gassings, using an industrial gas derived from prussic acid and known by the brand name Zyklon-B, were carried out at Auschwitz in September 1941.

In early 1943, the Nazis decided to increase greatly the gassing capacity of Birkenau. Crematorium II, originally designed as a mortuary, with morgues in the basement and ground-level furnaces, was converted into a killing factory by placing a gas-tight door on the morgues and adding vents for Zyklon B and ventilation equipment to remove the gas. It went into operation in March. Crematorium III was built using the same design. Crematoria IV and V, designed from the start as gassing centres, were also constructed that spring. By June 1943 all four crematoria were operational. Most of the victims were killed during the period afterwards.

The camp was staffed partly by prisoners, some of whom were selected to be kapos (orderlies, most of whom were convicts) and sonderkommandos (workers at the crematoria). The kapos were responsible for keeping order in the barrack huts; the sonderkommandos prepared new arrivals for gassing (ordering them to remove their clothing and surrender their personal possessions) and transferred corpses from the gas chambers to the furnaces, having first pulled out any gold that the victims might have had in their teeth. Members of these groups were killed periodically. The kapossonderkommandos were supervised by members of the SS; altogether 6,000 SS members worked at Auschwitz. 


The largest of the Auschwitz work camps was Auschwitz III-Monowitz, named after the Polish village of Monowice, and regarded from the fall of 1943 onwards as an industrial camp. Starting operations in May 1942, it was associated with the synthetic rubber and liquid fuel plant Buna-Werke owned by IG Farben. 11,000 slave laborers worked at Monowitz. Seven thousand inmates worked at various chemical plants. 8,000 worked in mines. Approximately 40,000 prisoners worked in slave labor camps at Auschwitz or nearby, under appalling conditions. In regular intervals, doctors from Auschwitz II would visit the work camps and select the weak and sick for the gas chambers of Birkenau.

Children At Auschwitz

The young Jewish girl, Eva Münzer, was born 1936 in The Hague, where her father owned a men's clothing store.

After the German occupation of The Netherlands, the Münzer family remained in their home and endured the ever more repressive measures inflicted on the Jewish population.

On February 8, 1944, eight-year-old Eva and her sister Leana were deported to Auschwitz, where they were killed three days later.

 

Auschwitz

Auschwitz-Birkenau became the killing centre where the largest numbers of European Jews were killed. After an experimental gassing there in September 1941 of 850 malnourished and ill prisoners, mass murder became a daily routine.  By mid 1942, mass gassing of Jews using Zyklon-B began at Auschwitz , where extermination was conducted on an industrial scale with some estimates running as high as three million persons eventually killed through gassing, starvation, disease, shooting, and burning ...

9 out of 10 were Jews. In addition, Gypsies, SovietPOWs, and ill prisoners of all nationalities died in the gas chambers. Between May 14 and July 8,1944, 437,402 Hungarian Jews were deported to Auschwitz in 48 trains. This was probably the largest single mass deportation during the Holocaust.

Auschwitz/Birkenau, Nazi Germany's largest concentration and extermination camp facility, was located nearby the provincial Polish town of Oshwiecim in Galacia. Auschwitz was established by order of Heinrich Himmler on 27 April 1940.

In Hermann Langbein's Menschen in Auschwitz Lucie Adelsberger describes the life of the children at Auschwitz:

"Like the adults, the kids were only a mere bag of bones, without muscles or fat, and the thin skin like pergament scrubbed through and through beyond the hard bones of the skeleton and ignited itself to ulcerated wounds. Abscesses covered the underfed body from the top to the bottom and thus deprived it from the last rest of energy. The mouth was deeply gnawed by noma-abscesses, hollowed out the jaw and perforated the cheeks like cancer.

Many decaying bodies were full of water because of the burning hunger, they swelled to shapeless bulks which could not move anymore. Diarrhoea, lasting for weeks, dissolved their irresistant bodies until nothing remained .."                  

At Auschwitz children were generally killed upon arrival. Children born in the camps were generally killed on the spot.

So called camp doctors, especially the notorious Josef Mengele, would torture Jewish children, Gypsy children and many others. "Patients" were put into pressure chambers, tested with drugs, castrated, frozen to death, and exposed to various other traumas.

A survivor, Eva Mozes Kor, later recalled how a set of Gypsy twins was brought back from Mengele's lab after they were sewn back to back. Mengele had attempted to create a Siamese twin by connecting blood vessels and organs. The twins screamed day and night until gangrene set in, and after three days, they died ...


At Auschwitz Professor Carl Clauberg injected chemical substances into wombs during his experiments. Thousands of Jewish and Gypsy women were subjected to this treatment. They were sterilized by the injections, producing horrible pain, inflamed ovaries, bursting spasms in the stomach, and bleeding. Men and women were positioned repeatedly for several minutes between two x-ray machines aimed at their sexual organs. Most subjects died or were gassed immediately. Men's testicles were removed and sent to Breslau for histopathological examination.


Likewise at Auschwitz Dr. Herta Oberhauser killed children with oil and evipan injections, removed their limbs and vital organs, rubbed ground glass and sawdust into wounds.

Near the end of the war, in order to cut expenses and save gas, "cost- accountant considerations" led to an order to place living children directly into the ovens or throw them into open burning pits.





After WW2, in October of 1946, the Nuremberg Medical Trial began, lasting until August of 1947. Twenty-tree German physicians and scientists were accused of performing vile and potentially lethal medical experiments on concentration camps inmates and other living human subjects between 1933 and 1945. Mengele was not amongst the accused.

Fifteen defendants were found guilty, and eight were acquitted. Of the 15, seven were given the death penalty and eight imprisoned. Herta Oberhauser, the doctor who had rubbed crushed glass and sawdust into the wounds of her subjects, received a 20 year sentence but was released in April 1952 and became a family doctor at Stocksee in Germany. Her license to practice medicine was revoked in 1958.

Carl Clauberg was put to trial in the Soviet Union and sentenced to 25 years. 7 years later, he was pardonned under the "returnee" arrangement between Bonn and Moscow and went back to West Germany. Upon returning he held a press conference and boasted of his scientific work at Auschwitz. After survivor groups protested, Clauberg was finally arrested in 1955 but died in August 1957, shortly before his trial should have started.

After the war it appeared that only one man managed to get prisoners out of Auschwitz, the Gate to Hell - Oscar Schindler, one remarkable man who outwitted Adolf Hitler and the Nazis to save more Jews from the gas chambers than most of the heroic rescuers during WWII ...



Source: The Archives of

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum


Holocaust Deaths

Country/Region

Estimate

Germany (1938 Borders) 130,000

Austria 65,000

Belgium & Luxembourg 29,000

Bulgaria 7,000

Czechoslovakia 277,000

France 83,000

Greece 65,000

Hungary & Ukraine 402,000

Italy 8,000

Netherlands 106,000

Norway 760

Poland & USSR 4,565,000

Romania 220,000

Yugoslavia 60,000

TOTAL

6,017,760

   Source: Nizkor Project statistics derived from Yad Vashem and Fleming, Hitler and the Final Solution.



 


Bergen-Belsen 

In April 1943 the Nazis created Bergen-Belsen in Lower Saxony near the city of Celle as a transit center - Bergen-Belsen was never officially given formal concentration camp status. But the second commandant, SS-Hauptsturmführer Josef Kramer, completed the transformation of Bergen-Belsen  into a regular concentration camp. 

By 1945 thousands of prisoners who had become too weak to work were shipped there, to die off slowly by starvation and typhoid. In the one month of March, more than 18,000 succumbed.

The first commandant in Bergen-Belsen was SS-Hauptsturmführer Adolf Haas. His previous assignment had been the concentration camp known as Niederhagen/Wewelsburg near Paderborn. In early 1944, Haas was replaced by SS-Hauptsturmführer Josef Kramer who had been working in concentration camps since 1934.

Josef Kramer`s most recent assignment had been at the death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau. His incumbency had earned him the nickname the Beast of Belsen.

His prescription for the uncontrollable epidemic of diarrhea was starvation. 'If you don't eat, you don't shit.' When railroad cars and convoys were unavailable, he dispatched the prisoners on long marches. The weakest, unable to keep going, were left to die or were shot. The roads were littered with thousands who had succumbed ...

In her book Five Chimneys the Holocaust survivor Olga Lengyel later recalled the SS troops in fits of destructive insanity, blindly beating the sick women, kicking the pregnant: 'Kramer himself had lost his calm. A strange gleam lurked in his small eyes, and he worked like a madman. I saw hin throw himself at one unfortunate woman and with a single stroke of his truncheon shatter her skull ..' 

A Bergen-Belsen survivor, Fania Fenelon, provides this grim vignette just prior to the discovery of the camp at Bergen-Belson, with the war nearly at an end:

The stench had become intolerable; wrapped in my cloak, a priceless possession, I went out in search of air, to stretch out, to sleep in the open. The ground was muddy and cold, so I kept walking. In front of me, a pile of corpses balanced carefully on one another, rose geometrically like a haystack. There was no more room in the crematoria so they piled up the corpses out here.

I climbed up them as one would a slope; at the top I stretched out and fell asleep. Sometimes an arm or leg slackened to take its final position. I slept on; in the morning, when I woke up, I thought I that I too must be losing my reason ...

Fania Fenelon weighed 65 pounds the day the British arrived... 

Another prisoner, Moshe Peer, now 67, was held captive as a boy at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp during World War II. In 1942, at age 9, Peer and his younger brother and sister were arrested by police in their homeland of France. 

His mother was sent to Auschwitz and never returned. Peer and his siblings were sent to Bergen-Belsen two years later.

Moshe Peer has spent many years writing a first-person account of the horror he witnessed at Bergen-Belsen. He recalls the separation from his parents as excruciating. But surviving the horrors of the camp quickly became a priority: `There were pieces of corpses lying around and there were bodies lying there, some alive and some dead,` Peer recalled,  `Bergen-Belsen was worse than Auschwitz because there people were gassed right away so they didn't suffer a long time ...` Russian prisoners were kept in an open-air camp and were given no food or water. `Some people went mad with hunger and turned to cannibalism.`

MoshePeer and his siblings - who all survived - were cared for at the camp by two women, whom Peer unsuccessfully tried to find after the war. Peer was reunited with his father in Paris and the family moved to Israel. Peer's four children were born in Israel, but after serving in the Israeli army in a number of wars, Peer moved to Montreal in 1974. Even today 55 years later, Peer is still haunted by his concentration-camp experience and still finds his memories keep him awake at night.

Hitlers most famous victim Anne Frank ended up in Bergen-Belsen after being evacuated from Auschwitz in October, 1944. As starvation. cold and disease swept through the camp's population, Margot, Anne's sister, developed typhus and died. A few days later, Anne herself, in April, 1945, succumbed to the disease a few weeks before the camp was liberated by the British. She was 15 years old

At the same time this little boy miraculously survived the same camp, Bergen-Belsen! More than any other photos, this famous photograph captures the essence of the horrors of Holocaust: Warsaw 1943, a little Jewish boy dressed in short trousers and a cap, raises his arms in surrender with lowered eyes, as a Nazi soldier trains his machine gun on him.

     

The photograph goes right to the heart, and after the war millions of people were brought to believe that the frightened little boy was murdered like Anne Frank and millions of other Jews. 

By a miracle the boy survived, and he was found after several decades - Tsvi C. Nussbaum, a physician living in Rockland County in upstate New York, USA.

Bergen-Belsen SS-women. On the right the notorious Herta Bothe, after the war charged with having committed war crimes. She had a good time shooting at weak female prisoners carrying food containers from the kitchen to the block with her pistol. And she often beat sick girls with a wooden stick. At the Bergen-Belsen Trial she got imprisonment for 10 years.

On April 15, 1945, the British army liberated Belsen. However, it was unable to rescue the inmates. On that liberation day the British found 10,000 unburied corpses and 40,000 sick and dying prisoners. Among the 40,000 living inmates, 28,000 died after the liberation. The inmates were abandoned in Bergen-Belsen by the Germans, left behind for death to come. 

Between April 11 and 14, 1945, two thousand prisoners had to drag the dead to huge mass graves ...

Captured by the British after liberation, SS Hauptsturmführer Josef Kramer was arrested, tried, and later executed.

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Zyklon B is a cyanide-based poisonous gas which interferes with cellular respiration. Specifically, it prevents the cell from producing ATP by binding to the one of the proteins involved in the electron transport chain. This protein, cytochrome c oxidase, contains several subunits and has ligands containing iron groups. At one of these iron groups, heme a3, the cyanide component of Zyklon B can bind, forming a more stabilized compound through metal-to-ligand pi bonding. As a result of this new iron-cyanide complex, the electrons which would situate themselves on the heme a3 group can no longer do so. Instead, because of the new bond formed between the iron and the cyanide, these electrons would actually destabilize the compound (based on molecular orbital theory); thus, the heme group will no longer accept them. Consequently, electron transport is halted, and the cell can no longer produce the energy needed to synthesize ATP. 

Use By The Nazis

Zyklon B was used by Nazi Germany to poison prisoners in the gas chambers of their network of extermination camps throughout Europe. Zyklon B was used at Auschwitz Birkenau, Majdanek, Sachsenhausen and one of the Operation Reinhard camps [which one?]. At the other extermination camps, carbon monoxide from engine exhaust was used in the gas chambers or mobile gas vans. Most of the victims were Jews and the Zyklon B gas became a central symbol of the Holocaust.

Zyklon B was used in the concentration camps also for delousing to control typhus. The chemical used in the gas chambers was deliberately made without the warning odorant. In quantitative terms, more than 95% of the Zyklon B delivered to Auschwitz was used for delousing and less than 5% in the homicidal gas chambers.

In January or February 1940, 250 Gypsy children from Brno in the Buchenwald concentration camp were used as guinea pigs for testing the Zyklon B gas. On September 3, 1941, around 600 Soviet prisoners of war and 250 sick Polish prisoners were gassed with Zyklon B at Auschwitz camp I; this was the first experiment with the gas at Auschwitz. The experiments lasted more than 20 hours.

According to Rudolf Höss, commandant of Auschwitz, bunker 1 held 800 people, and bunker 2 held 1,200. Once the chamber was full, the doors were screwed shut and solid pellets of Zyklon B were dropped into the chambers through vents in the side walls, releasing the cyanide gas. Those inside died within 20 minutes; the speed of death depended on how close the inmate was standing to a gas vent, according to Höss, who estimated that about one third of the victims died immediately. Johann Kremer, an SS doctor who oversaw the gassings, testified that: "Shouting and screaming of the victims could be heard through the opening and it was clear that they fought for their lives." When they were removed, if the chamber had been very congested, as they often were, the victims were found half-squatting, their skin coloured pink with red and green spots, some foaming at the mouth or bleeding from the ears.