By: Dante Almeida

Auschwitz I

The Camp

Auschwitz consisted of three different camps. All three of the camps were labor camps. The three camps were Auschwitz I, established in April 1940, Auschwitz II (aka Auschwitz-Birkenau), established in October 1942, and Auschwitz III, established in October 1942. Auschwitz was 37 miles west of Krakow, Poland. 1.3 Million are estimated to have been evacuated to Auschwitz, of which 1.1 million died, the vast majority being Jewish.

Auschwitz I

Auschwitz I was built from the ruins of an abandoned Polish Army Barracks. The camp prisoners were forced to expand the camp. Auschwitz I served three main purposes:
  1. To imprison enemies of the Nazi Regime.
  2. To have a forced working force to construct the Regime's projects.
  3. To kill those who were deemed a threat to the Aryan race.

Prisoners got little food and water, just enough to keep them alive. Their meals consisted of a soupy substance, made of old vegetables and meat. They drank a sour beverage somewhat like coffee. Prisoners had to sleep in barracks, up to 500 in each one, packed in like animals. Forced to work every day, many were beat when unsatisfactory work is being done, or just whenever an officer felt like it. Prisoners were taken to Barrack 10 to be experimented on, some forced into sterilization and castration. Besides the fear of never having a child again, prisoners feared for their life, since at any time they could be taken to the crematoriums or be lined up and be executed.

Some important figures at Auschwitz I included:

  • SS physician Dr. Josef Mengele who performed experiments on prisoners.
  • Adolf Hitler who created the final solution.
  • Rudolf Hoss was camp commandant.

Auschwitz II

Auschwitz II

Of all three camps, Auschwitz II had the largest amount of prisoners in it. Ten sections separated by electrified barbed-wire fences were used to keep families in different areas. SS guards and SS dog handlers patrolled the camp, making almost impossible to escape. Auschwitz II served the same purpose as Auschwitz I, but had one more purpose. Prisoners were killed by the masses in Auschwitz II in gas chambers and four crematorium ovens. The sections to each crematorium included the disrobing area, the gas chamber and the actual crematorium. Auschwitz made up a large part of Hitler's plan to be rid of Jews.

The life of a prisoner in Auschwitz II was brutal. Woken up before dawn, a four hour roll call took place. Many died as this occurred. After that, breakfast was issued, the same meal as mentioned before, just enough to keep the prisoners laboring 11 to 12 hours per day, and also little enough for malnutrition. After breakfast, a second roll call was issued. 10 second bathroom breaks were allowed. When prisoners went back to bed, they slept on their wooden beds with one thin bed sheet. The prisoners shared their beds with insects and bed bugs. Life was harsh and cruel.

Important figures from Auschwitz II:
  • Heinrich Himmler ordered construction of the camp.
  • Rudolph Hoss was camp commander.
  • Karl Bischoff was the head of Auschwitz II.
  • Arthur Liebehenschel was the next commander of Auschwitz.
  • Dr. Josef Mengele experimented on the prisoners.
  • Maximilian Grabner was the Gestapo commander.