Auschwitz Research

by Molly Jones

Auschwitz I

When Auschwitz was first founded in 1940 it was mainly used as a concentration camp for political prisoners and the first deportees from Poland. These prisoners were slowly killed by inhumane treatment and starvation. By 1944, it was considered an extermination camp for many groups like Jews, Poles, and Gypsies. During this time it was the largest center for immediate, mass killings of Jews. The three main functions of Auschwitz I were: to imprison and confine enemies, to provide workers, and to eliminate small, specific groups of people. Housing consisted of 28 two-story blocks that mostly held prisoners. At first they were only provided with straw beds, but eventually gave them mattresses for the large amounts of people held in each block. There were two wells for water and outdoor latrines, that eventually upgraded to the ground floor of each block. Punishments were given for various reasons such as: getting extra food, working lightly, smoking, using the restroom at the wrong time, wearing the wrong clothes, and attempting suicide. Many prisoners were used for medical experiments; especially infants, twins, and dwarfs. Most adults were sterilized and castrated so they could not reproduce more of their kind. Two of the most famous physicians were SS Oberfuhrer Joachim Mrugowsky and SS Captain Dr. Josef Mengele.

Auschwitz II - Birkenau

Birkenau was the largest of over 40 parts of the Auschwitz Concentration Complex. It was constructed for 125,000 prisoners of war. It served as a center for mass extermination of Jews and concentration of prisoners before being sent to German labor camps. Concentration included the withdrawal of all necessities to living that made long-term survival impossible. The Zyklon B gas was used to kill prisoners in mass amounts before being sent to crematoriums. About 90% (one million) of Auschwitz Concentration Camp victims were killed in Birkenau. About 90% of these were Jews. Birkenau was composed of women, children, and family units. A survivor, Jack Oran, tells about how food was so scarce he had to search the bodies of the people who died each night for food. Water was difficult to get to and too rare to shower with.