Auschwitz Research

By Maxwell Adelman

Auschwitz I

Auschwitz I was, for the most part, a concentration camp- that is, until October of 1944, when the camp was evacuated to avoid the Soviet offensive. The sign on the front says "Arbeit Macht Frei", or "Work will make you free."

Each building containing prisoners was built to contain around 800, but held closer to 1200 in practice. The barracks were unheated in the winter, had no sanitary facilities, and there was only one lavatory with 22 toilets on the ground floor. There were around 135,000 prisoners in the camp at its peak in 1944, which accounted for approximately 25% of all the people in the entire concentration camp system.

One of the important figures from this part of the camp was an SS physician named Josef Mengele, who conducted pseudoscientific research on infants, twins, and dwarfs, and also performed forced sterilizations and castrations on adults.

Auschwitz II, or Auschwitz-Birkenau

Auschwitz II had the largest total prisoner population out of the three camps. It was divided into 10 different sections, each for a different group of people, and all separated by electrified barbed-wire fences. It also contained gas chambers, among other facilities for mass murder, and was the main center for executions across the Auschwitz complex. Approximately 90% of all the deaths across the three camps were at Auschwitz II. Living conditions for prisoners were very similar to Auschwitz I, although most of them were murdered.