By: Mark DeChant
Auschwitz Camp 1
Auschwitz is the most commonly known about concentration camp today. It had the highest death toll over the other camps, and was the largest one too. In fact, as it became more and more commonly used by the Nazis for various horrific and inhumane activities, it also began to have "subdivisions" or "sub-camps". In other words, because of the sheer size of the camp, several locations within this massive pit of evil became well known camps of there own, each serving their own individual purposes.
The main Auschwitz camp, located in Oświęcim, was officially founded in 1940. The inital purpose of the camp was a quarantine camp, according to Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum.
At first, Auschwitz functioned as a prison, or holding camp, for POW's (prisoners of war) as well as political prisoners. It was during the first few months of the year 1942 that Auschwitz began functioning as a true concentration camp. In other words, it was during the start of 1942 that Auschwitz began to carry out the annihilation of it's unwilling inhabitants by means of starvation, and the deprivation of the basics that are needed to survive.
At it's peak activity, Auschwitz camp 1 held around 16,000 prisoners. Among those 16,000 prisoners, there were about 10,000 Jews, 4,000 poles, and 3,000 prisoners that had different racial or ethnic backgrounds.
In 1940, Rudolph Hoss pointed out the site that Auschwitz was built on, and was the one who suggested the camp be built in Oświęcim. He would later become the first Commandant of the camp, one of the major officials who resided at the camp.
Prisoners in these camps would be given very little food, and be forced to perform various types of labor. These types of labor could both be useful in advancing the German military and it's assets, or simply pointless acts designed to weaken, exhaust, and often times, kill a prisoner.
The Buildings of Auschwitz
The space outside of these barracks were often used for role call, or punishment. Prisoners might be called to stand out in these areas for different periods of time, doing different things, which were based on the whim of the Nazi officers in charge.
Auschwitz Camp 2: Birkenau
Initially, the camp was meant to hold roughly 125,000 prisoners of war. The construction for this camp began in 1941, and by the time it was functional in 1942, it also served as a center of extermination for Jewish prisoners.
Near the end of it's operation, during 1944, it started to serve more as a funnel, or transition-camp. In other words, it began to serve more as a holding camp, where prisoners would be sorted or separated into different groups, to be sent into labor camps, or to be sent onward to the main camp of Auschwitz, to be exterminated. However, this camp still had by far, one of the highest death tolls overall, which meant that unfortunately, not many of this camps prisoners survived past the cruel sorting process.
People Left to Die in the Evacuation of Auschwitz
In Birkenau, many of the prisoners were either exterminated, or sent off into different fields of labor. These included work in chemical industries, farms, and even on working on something known as the SS 'Utopia'.
Heinrich Himmler was one of, if not the key man behind the functionality, and operation of Birkenau. He oversaw many of their operations, and was responsible for the orders given for prisoners to be sent off to perform forced labor in various parts of Germany and Europe.
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