Source: German Crimes in Poland. Volume 1. Central Commission for the Investigation of German Crimes in Poland. Warsaw, 1946
[Note on Source Material. The text contains numerous inaccuracies of spelling, hyphenation and grammatical usage, which have been left as in the original. Usage is also inconsistent. Page numbers precede text.]
I. The geographical,
geological and climatic situation of the Camp
VI. The fate of the Soviet
I. The geographical, geological and climatic situation of the Camp
The small, provincial Polish town of Oswiecim is situated far from the main railway centres and the more important lines of communication. It has grown famous not only in Poland but in the eyes of the whole world because of the German concentration camp called officially "Konzentrationslager Auschwitz", situated in the suburbs of the town.
The little town has about 12,000 inhabitants, and is situated 286 km. southwest of Warsaw, and 50 km. west of Cracow.
Oswiecim lies on the crossroads from East to West. Although it is close to the Tatra Mountains and the Gate of Morawy, a water shed of the Danube, Wisla and Osdra (Fig. 1) Oswiecim is situated on particularly flat, and even hollow ground, without any declivity.
It is sufficient to look at a topographical map (Fig. 2) to see that the place where Oswiecim is situated and the centre of the camp is like the bottom of a flat basin with no regular slope for draining away water. It is encircled by a series of fishponds, which permeate the whole land with damp, mist and mud.
The earth at the bottom of the basin is impervious to water owing to its geological structure, (Fig. 3) consisting of a 60 to 80 metres thick layer of marl, at the bottom of the basin. The surface consisting of sand and pebbles is always muddy, due 40 its underlying substances. Besides, the quality of this stagnant water is very bad due to the rotting of organic substances which poison the air. It could be improved only by in-
stalling very expensive purifying works. For all these reasons, Oswiecim and its surrounding are not only damp but also abound with malaria and other diseases, which endanger human life.
II. The beginnings of the Camp and its development.
Already in the first part of 1940 the Nazi authorities had organized a concentration camp in a part of the suburb of Oswiecim - Zasole, the so called Owsianka. At first the camp consisted of military barracks and several buildings of the Polish Tobacco Monopoly situated on the left bank of the river Sola. These barracks consisted of 16 low buildings and four one-storeyed buildings; they could not suffice for the future needs of the whole of Europe conquered by the Germans and formed the germ of the gradually constructed huge death camp. If the SS. authorities chose as a suitable place for the future big camp a place like Oswiecim and its surroundings, it was due to its situation and climate and to the character of the ground which qualified this place for its name as the most infamous of a long series of concentration camps constructed by the Nazi Germans in Europe. The lack of technical and housing facilities and the fact that the vicinity of Oswiecim corresponds in its geological and climatic conditions with the type of the "Dachauer Moos", with unlimited, constantly quaggy and damp moorland, dim with fog, situated on the heights of Bavaria to the North of Munich, proves, that the choice of Oswiecim for a place of punishment was not accidental, but that, on the contrary, Dachau became the topographioal model for the Nazi places of execution. Such places as Dachau and Oswiecim, in the opinion of Prof. Romer. were avoided by life for thousands of years, as death kept watch there. The German authorities used the climate and geographical character of Oswiecim with premeditation in their criminal design.
Numerous orders of the command of the Garrison SS in Oswiecim, have proved that the fact that the climate and water were poisonous was known to the camp authorities. Dr. Ing. Zunker Professor of the University of Wrocław (Breslau) investigated the qualities of the water in the camp at Oswiecim (by order of Himmler) and stated in a writtten report of the 26th. III. 1941 (p. 22) that the water used in Oswiecim was not even suitable for rinsing the mouth (...nicht eirimal zum Mudspülen verwendet werden kann).
This statement was handed by the Berlin Centre (Der Reichsführer SS, Amtsgruppe C) to the authorities of the camp at Auschwitz, who forbade all the SS men to use this water without boiling, for drinking and washing the kitchen utensils; giving as a reason that the use of such water was most dangerous and might cause most serious infection. In many other orders the SS men were instructed to take different precautions, with a view to avoiding malaria and typhoid fever. All these measures were thought over and applied to maintain the good health standard of the camp SS personel. Nothing of the kind was done for the prisoners.
The sanitary conditions in which they lived were during the whole time of the existence of the camp disastrous, ruining the health of the prisoners, and causing among them a high rate of mortality. The huts which served as a prison and were overcrowded were considered by the camp authorities as a hotbed of infectious disease. The authorities ordered the members of the SS staff, when escorting the prisoners, to keep away from them because of the danger of infection. Order Nr. 3/43 of the 14th II 1943 isolated the SS men who were in direct touch with the prisoners in separate buildings, where they underwent a daily disinfection (order Nr. 15/43 of the 7th VII 1943). Motor-cars were disinfected after each journey carrying prisoners or their clothing (Order Nr. 8/43 of the 20th IV, 1943).
After the trial of the first transports in June, 1940, the extension of the camp premises was begun at once. The premises at first consisted of the military barracks, the so-called base camp (Stammlager) during the whole of its existence. From this centre it grew until it became a series of buildings known to the world as "Konzentrationslager Auschwitz", which included 39 subsidiary camps (Nebenlager, Aussenlager, Zwerglager, Arbeibslager) scattered throughout Silesia. The camp at Brno was situated beyond its boundaries.
The accompanying drawing of the camp at Auschwitz (4) illustrates all the branches of this network and the extent to which its influence reached.
A special group called "Zentralabteilung der Waffen SS und Polizei Auschwitz" was organised among the camp authorities for planning and extending this immense combination of camps. This group was subordinate through the Command of the camp, to the Main Economic and Administrative Board in Berlin (Wirtschafts- und Verwaltungshauptamt) at the head of which stood SS Obergruppenführer and General Oswald Pohl. Several hundred engineers, specialists chosen from the prisoners and civilian employees and a similar number of SS-men were working only in this group. This group was particularly answerable to the official group C (Amtsgruppe C) of this board, directed by SS-Gruppenführer and General, Lieutenant SS Dr. Ing. Kammler. At the head of the central construction authorities was SS-Sturmbannführer Karl Bischoff. For his activities Kohl was decorated with the German Silver Cross (Deutsches Kreuz in Silber- Order Nr. 26/43 of the 16th VII. 1943), and Bischof with the War Cross of the First Class with Swords (Kriegsverdienstkreuz erster Klasse mit Schwertern-Order Nr. 8/44 of Feb. 25th. 1944).
The size of the camps and the activity of the authorities. who constructed them are shown by the fact that in 1942 an average of 8,000 prisoners were working daily, carrying out
the plans sent out by the Berlin Centre. (e. ,g. on August 31 st 1942 8,353 prisoners were working). In the year 1943 the number of days Worked by prisoners amounted to 2,976,380 and by civilians 293,887. And in the year 1944 the construction authorities employed over 4,000 prisoners and 200 civilian prisoners a day on building works (e. g. on .June 28th 1944 4,717 prisoners were employed. These data have been taken from authentic specification and employment charts.As a result of this activity the base camp at Auschwitz grew so much that already by the end of 1941 it could accommodate 18,000 prisoners, (letter of the Chief of the II Board of June 18th 1941), and in the year 1943 it could hold .30,000 prisoners (Aktenvermerk SS-Untersturmführer Dejaco). The original status of this camp and the gradual stages of its development and plans for its future extension are shown in Figs. 5, 6, 7, 8.
III. "Sonderbehandlung" and "Sonderaktion"
To understand the proper character of the camps at Auschwitz and Birkenau, attention must be drawn to the-following facts:
In the autumn of 1941 on the moor of Brzezinka (Birkenau) 3 km. away from the base camp, the construction of a special camp was proposed, ostensibly for prisoners of war (Kriegsgefangenenlager - Official abbreviation K. G. L.) According to that the original plan of the Berlin Centre it was calculated to contain 200,000 prisoners (order of construction of Nov. 1. and Dec. 16. 1941 - assignment of credits and allotment of funds Jan. 9th 1942).
Within the administrative framework of the construction authorities a special section called Sonderbauleitung was organized, and in the official correspondence it is clearly stated that in the constructed camp it was intended "to carry out
a special treatment of the prisoners" (Durchführung der Sonderbehandlung).
According to Notice No. 32,269/43 a railway track was constructed to serve this camp (Privatgeleisanschluss), the unloading platform of which was situated opposite the gate leading to the crematorium. This track was meant to carry special transports (Sondertransporte).
On the 16th VI. 1944 Pohl allowed (Aktenvermerk Nr. 8580/44) for the construction of three huts of a specia1 character for Jews. (Baracken für die in den letzten Tagen van allen SS-Angehörigen geleistete Arbeit anlässlich der Sonderaktion...) According to the evidence given by the former ,prisoner of the concentration camp in Auschwitz Nr. 128823, Dr. Otto Wolken, in the days immediately preceding the issue of the above order Nr. 31/43, - 50,000 French Jews were gassed and burnt in the crematoria at Auschwitz.
An authentic key to the reading of this code gives the Bischof's letter of the 13th I. 1943 No. 21242/43, according to which the crematoria are an indispensable arrangement to carry out a special treatment. He wrote in this document as follows: "So sind vor allem die bestellten Türen für das Krematium K. G. L., welches zur Durchführung dar Sondermassnahmen dringend benötigt wird, umgehend anzuliefern".
The contents of this letter, and the fact that on the camp area at Birkenau four modern crematoria with huge gaschambers were constructed, which were in writing on Dec. 16th 1942 called "Spezialeinrichtungen" and in writing on Aug. 12th 1942 (Aktenvermerk Nr. 12115/42 "Badenstalt für Sonderaktion", prove that under the cryptograms: Sonderbehandlung, Sondermassnahme and Sonderaktion the German authorities were concealing the mass murder of millions of people, and that the special camp constructed for the carrying on of this Sonderbehandlug was already by assumption a huge extermination camp (Vernichtungslager).
According to this assumption it grew in practice into the largest extermination camp, not only in Poland, but also in the whole of Europe, in which only those were left alive among the prisoners who were indispensable to the munition factories and other industrial establishments working for the Army and for the war at Auschwitz and in the whole of Silesia.
The highest authorities of the IIIrd Reich as well as those who carried out orders on the spot at Auschwitz were conscious of the purposes of the camp, and did everything to enable this camp to fulfill completely its mission of extermination of the conquered nations of Europe with the Slav nations and the Jews in first order of importance.
The only bui1dings calculated for longlasting and constant use were the four big crematoria with gaschambers, and the barracks for the SS men who staffed the camp. The rest of the settlements, and particularly the huts for the prisoners, were destined from the beginning for the short and transitory existence in them of a constantly changing tide of prisoners.
IV. Arrangements and organization of the Camp
Both centres of the camp i. e Stammlager and Birkenau (Lagergebiet) were enclosed with a fence made of barbed wire four metres in height, through which ran an electric current of high tension. On the poles of the fence searchlights burned at night with their beams turned to the interior of the camp. Along the fence were high watchtowers in which the SS men kept guard during the day and in the night, armed with quick-firing machineguns. In the base camp a second line of barbed wire (Drahthinderniss), was constructed later, and on both sides of it were constructed wire safety barriers (Sicherheitsdraht). From the direction of the road and from the east the base camp was protected by a high wall of concrete blocks, with barbed wire at the top, and from the west with
buildings housing the camp authorities and administration. The entrance gate to the base camp, above which hung the inscription "Arbeit macht frei", was at the back of the camp, inaccessible and invisible to non-authotised persons, A view of the entrance gate, the fence and other safety arrangements are shown in Fig. 12, 13, 14.
The enclosure at Birkenau was based on the same system, with the one difference that the whole area of the camp was divided into three sections, divided from each other by internal barbed wire fences through which electric current ran, and cut by deep trenches (Ringgräben). The area of the camp, with a surface of about 175 ha, was enclosed and cut all over by a network of trenches, of 13,000 metres in length, and with a chain of fence more than 16,000 metres in length. Both centres were ringed around by a large chain of sentries (Grosse Postenkette) for a distance of one km. around both camps, and guarded by armed SS men and patrols of a "Hounds Company". (Sperrgebiet). This company consisted only of SS men and was officially called Hundesstaffel. It was allowed to cross the boundaries of the enclosed area only by special permit. In case of alarm this whole area was completely closed. According to the Acts of BW 210, the camp authority intended to enclose the whole ground with a supplementary fence of barbed wire. This project was not realised, however, owing to the non availability of iron necessary for its construction. By order of the Berlin Centre, according to the plan BW 199, a velley was constructed of barbed wire at the end of 1944, the so called "corridor of lions" (Löwengang), leading from the main gate of the camp to the German munition plants (Deutsche Ausrüstgswerke) and to the bracnch of them producing at Auschwitz, under the firm "Union" grenade fusses. Although both factories were situated in an enclosure ringed around by sentries the arrangement of this valley of barbed wire was found to be useful.
Further means of preventing the prisoners flight were introduced after 1943, such as tattooing the prisoners, and immediate change of clothing after arrival at the camp into conspicuous prisoner’s dress. Notwithstanding all these precautions, there occurred instances of escape of prisoners from the camp, and so the system of "collective responsibility", and the responsibility of the prisoner’s family was introduced. In the former case, by an order of Fritsch, 10 prisoners, companions of the runaway, were shot, and in the latter case the family of the deserter were brought into the camp, and had to stand at roll-call with an inscription that they were in prison in place of their sons, husbands or brothers who had escaped, and that they would stay in the camp until the runaway had been re-captured.
A whole section of the land round the camp comprising more than 40 km. was occupied and laid out as the economic area of the camp (Interessengebiet). The inhabitants of Zasole, a big suburb of Oswiecim, were expelled as well as those in 10 villages situated between the rivers Wisla (Vistula) and Sola so that this economic expanse embraced the whole area from the islet on the Sola near Bielany up to where the estuary of the Sola flows into the Vistula near the village of Broszkowice. These lands were regarded as the property of the SS and the German State (Reichseigenesgebiet).
In the office of the Political Department forms were found containing a printed statement to the effect that everything that was alive, was born and grew at Auschwitz was the unquestionable property of the SS.
As the area of Auschwitz and its vicinity was incorporated in the Reich, the local legislation in force in the concentration camp was laid down by the Gestapo H. Q. Centre in Berlin (§2 Act 4 regul. 10. II 1936 GS p. 22), and particularly by the Chief of the Official Group D (Amtsgruppe D) of the Main Economic and Administrative Board located in Oranien-
burg. The full name of this office was: Der Reichsführer SS-Wirtschafts- Verwaltungshauptamt Amtsgruppe D-Konzentrationslagsr (Organisationsbuch, 7th edition p. 420). In July 1943 this name was changed, and the supplement: Konzentrationslager (Order No 26/43 of the 16. VII. 43) was omitted.
At the head of the camp stood a Commandant, who was simultaneously in chief command of the SS garrison at Auschwitz and Chief of the armed force of the camp, consisting of 12 lookout companies (SST-Totenkopfsturmbann). This function was successively performed by SS-Obersturmbannführers: Rudolf Hös, Liebehenschel and Richard Baer. The First Director Manager of the camp1 (1 Schutzlagerführer) was directly liable to the Commandant. This post was occupied by Langner, Fritsch, Aumeier, Schwarz, Hoffmann und Hessler, all SS-men with the rank of officer. Prisoners were in the first instance in direct contact with the report-managers (Raportführer) and managers of the block (Blockführer).
During the construction of the camp at Auschwitz the base camp was marked as camp A I, the newly constructed part of the camp (Schutzhaftlagerweiterung) as Camp A II, the first section at Birkeaau - as canrp B I, divided into Fields A, and B; the men's section of Birkenau - as camp B II, divided into fields A, B, C, D, E, F, G, and finally a third constructed section in Birkenau was known as Camp B III (order Nr 14/43 of the 18. V. 1943).
By a garrison order of the 12. XI. 1943 Nr. 53/43 signed by Himmler, Liebehenschel carried out the division of the whole camp into three, namely: concentration camp Auschwitz-I Stammlager, concentration camp Auschwitz-II Brzezinka and concentration camp III-secondary camps (Aussenlager).
These later were organised by mining and other industrial, forestry and agricultural establishments, to whom the camp authorities sold the working power of the prisoners at the
rate of 6 RM for a day for ‘an unskilled worker (files of the oil refiners in Trzebionka). The camp authorities calculated their own costs of maintaining a prisoner at 30 pfennigs a day (letter of the Ing. Lhotzky p. 17). The above figures show that the camp authorities made heavy profits from slave labour. From the files of the foil refinery at Trzebionka, in which 600 prisoners from Auschwitz were working it is shown that the net profit to the concentration camp from this activity amounted in a period of two months to 106.789,60 RM.
At the head of each main camp stood a commandant and managers of the camp for prisoners’ affairs. The secondary camps were managed by directors (Lagerführer). The general administrative medical, political and ,other work concerned with the employment of the prisoners was carried out centrally for all the camps from the base camp, where special central sections existed for the handling of these problems.
On Nov. 25 th 1944 the camp of Birkenau was incorporated with the base camp, which was officially named Konzentrationslager Auschwitz, and the camp at Auschwitz III was transformed into Konzentrationslager Monowice (order Nr. 29/44). This transformation caused no real change in the organization. The object was to minimise deceitfully the camp by the centralization of its administration, and to create in this way the appearances of two camps independent of each other; one at Auschwitz and the other at Monowice. In this locality huge establishments were constructed for the firm I. G. Farbenindustrie producing synthetic benzine and other chemical products. These establishments employed 25,000 prisoners of Auschwitz, about 100.000 civilian workers and about 1,000 English prisoners-of-war.
Through such an artifice the name of the camp at Birkenau disappeared from the list of the Nazi concentration camps, disgraced in the eyes of the whole world as the largest of the extermination camps. Similar frauds had been carried out in
Auschwitz already by the changing of the name F. K. L. (Frauenkonzentrationslager) to F. L. = Frauenlager (Order Nr 7/43 of the 30. III. 1943 and the name K. G. L. (Kriegsgefangenlager), to ,Lager II (Aktenvermerk, as from the 31 III. 1944). New names ought to prove that women did not live in the concentration camp and that in the Ausschwitz camp there were no prisoners-of-war. Both one and the other were obvious lies, as the regime in that part of the camp in which the women were imprisoned, was the same as in the remaining parts of the camp, and as far as the prisoners of war were concerned, 96 Russian prisoners of war are inscribed in the list of the prisoners in the camp on the day of the 17th I 1945 (bring the surviving remnants of 16,000 murdered prisoners registered in the camp).
Such was the appearance and thus was organised the concentration camp at Auschwitz, through which millions of people passed and from which only an insignificant percentage came out alive.
Himmler personally supervised the establishment of this camp (‘see figs. 15 and 16) during his inspection of the camp at Oswiecim.
The first prisoners in the concentration camp at Auschwitz were 30 professional German criminals, who were brought to Auschwitz at the beginning of June 1940, after having spent many years in other concentration camps in Germany. SS-men had chosen them as the executors of their criminal plans, and in the first place as instructors in the laws and regulations of the camp. They had received special instructions on how they must treat Polish political prisoners. They could beat and torture them and were not responsible to anyone. These prisoners filled the posts of camp seniors (Lagerälteste) foremen of wor-
king companies (Blockälteste) roomorderlies (Stubendienst) Capo and Obercapo and Foremen (Vorarbeiter). They did not disappoint the hopes which had been placed in them, and they grafted their ideas of morality upon whole series of other keepers, whom they chose from among the most brutal individuals and professional criminals.
On the 14th VI. 1940 the first transport of Poles arrived at Auschwitz. Innumerable others followed which in the first period of the existence of the camp brought Poles exclusively, and later on Poles and citizens of all the conquered nations, and citizens of other countries, found in the occupied countries during the German invasion.
From the fragments of records which were found, and particularly bundles of questionnaires amounting to about twenty undestroyed by the Germans it appears that the following nationals were found among the prisoners: Americans, Austrians, Belgians, Bulgarians, Chinese, Croats, Czechs, French, Greek, Dutch, Spaniards, Serbs, Lithuanians, Latvians, Germans, Norwegians, a Persian, Poles, Russians, Roumanians, Slovaks, Swiss, Turks, Hungarians, Italians, Jews from Palestine and one Egyptian.
Among the citizens of so many different countries mentioned here indubitably the most numerous group was formed by Polish citizens (Poles and Jews) next the Russians, Serbs and French, but in general the majority of the prisoners were of other nationalities than Polish - prisoners of Jewish origin, Especially numerous among the Jews from abroad were Hungarian, Czech and Slovak Jews, and Jews from Germany, Greece and Holland.
To the camp in Auschwitz people were brought of both sexes and various ages, belonging to different social groups, professions and religions, and being as a rule quite innocent people whose guilt even the Germans did not try to prove. The vast majority of prisoners were recruited from people who had nothing in common with any political activity, people brought
to the camp only because of their nationality or of their race. They were doomed for slave labour or to extermination simply because they were Poles, Jews, Gypsies, Soviet prisoners, etc.
The requisite number of prisoners was regulated according to the size of the concentration camp and to its power of absorption. The prisoners were captured by the Gestapo during specially organised manhunts, by arresting whole loads of passengers in trains, by raids on public premises, and on whole areas of towns, and finally by mass arrests in their homes of thousands of people, and the expulsion of whole districts of the country side (the region of Zamosc).
All these were imprisoned in the concentration camp as a safeguard (Schutzhaft) according to an order of the Nazi Government of the Reich of the Feb. 8th 1933 regarding the defence of the nation and State issued after the mystery of the burning of Reichstag, although this order never was in force in the countries occupied by the Germans. This lawlesness was all the more glaring in that people were included in this "security arrest" whose alleged guilt was never put to the test by trial.
Destruction of the Jews
For the Polish Jews Oswiecim was as a rule an extermination camp, as it was for the Jews of other European countries 1) (1 A special small group was composed of Jewish prisoners-of-war, who had fallen into German hands with arms in their hands. They were taken from the camps where they were interned as prisoners-of-war and confined like the criminals in concentration camps. (In the EC. at Majdanek a card index with 6000 names of such prisoners was found). At Oswiecim .prisoner No 85512 was an English doctor Sperber, who had been taken from a torpedoed British ship, where he had been serving as doctor with officers rank, and had at first been placed in an officer-prisoners’camp for British, but on December 19. 1942 was transferred to Oswiecim.
The Jews, morally and physically ill-used by insults and treatment not fit for human beings, ruined by the extortion of heavy financial contributions and constant removal from place to place in Europe, were lured to Auschwitz by false promises of transfer to various jobs in Poland and the Ukraine. In this way they were tricked out of their property which they were told to take with them to begin life with in new lands and of which they were robbed immediately they left the train at Auschwitz. The Gestapo even concluded contracts with the Greek Jews for the purchase of small-holdings and shops in the Ukraine. Others were promised that they were to be exchanged for German prisoners of war interned in England and asked when they arrived at Auschwitz how far it was to the English Channel. They were advised before departure to the camp to take with them a suit of working clothes and everything they possessed of value, and told that they would need these things in their new homes as each would be able to work in his own trade or profession. By this subterfuge a huge store of different tools, medical instruments and other useful and valuable things was accumulated at Auschwitz.
After their arrival at Auschwitz, at the moment the train stopped at the railway siding, the Jews were driven out from the wagons and their belongings thrown on the loading platform, from whence a special working party of prisoners carried them into huge stores called "Canada" (this name being given by the prisoners to the stores because the wealth deposited in them, was afterwards taken by the camp authorities and used officially).
At the same time the SS doctors chose from amongst those who had arrived only a small number of young Jews fit for work, and the rest were sent directly from the unloading platform to the gas-chambers, where they were all suffocated by gas. So the first victims of murders were the sick, old, pregnant women, women with infants and children. If the cre-
matoria could not absorb all the victims, they were placed in the camp as a deposit (the official name Depot Häftlinge), and were not registered in the record of the prisoners, but after emptying the crematoria they were gassed and burnt. The same happened to the healthy, young and strong people who were not needed by the camp authorities as a working strength at the moment of the arrival of the transport. Only those were taken into the camp who were needed to fill up the gaps which arose in the working gangs. Because of this system a great number of transports did not pass through the camp, at all, and the victims went directly from the unloading platform to the gas chambers after being robbed. The number of prisoners taken into the camp from Jewish transports amounted to an average of about 10% of all the people who were brought to Auschwitz. According to statistical data collected only from one field "A", being a section of the B II camp in Birkenau, there arrived at this field from Oct. 21st 1943 to the Oct. 30th 1944 only 7,253 men, in 76 railway transports and the rest, i. e. 24,688 men, all the women and all the children went directly from the trains into the gas-chambers. These reports are completed by the evidence of the following prisoners, cross-questioned as witnesses: prisoner No. 102160, Adam Ciechanowieoki, ,stated that from a transport of 1,200 persons who came to Auschwitz on March 9 th 1943 from Drancy, near Paris, only 140 persons were taken into the camp, and the rest, i. e. 1060 persons were directed straight to the gas-chambers. The witness Szlama Dragon arrived at Auschwitz on Dec. 7 th 1942 in a transport of 2,500 persons, of whom only 400 were saved, and Jakob Gordon from Wilno arrived on June 22nd 1943 in a transport consisting of 3,650 persons of whom only 345 persons were taken into the camp. The rest, among them Gordon's wife, his little son of 4 years and a half, his father of 73 and his mother of 64 were gassed and burnt immediately after their arrival at Oswiecim.
Plunder of the victims‘ property.
All the belongings of the victims were stored in special huts. In the Canada Stores there were separate compartments for men’s, women’s and children’s clothing, and for different articles of value. Objects were discovered by the help of a specially constructed X-ray apparatus (BW 160) in search of concealed valuables, and afterwards sorted for transmission to the Reich. These were gifts of the SS to German families, and valuables were sent to the Treasury of the German State.
A member of the military staff of Auschwitz, SS-Untersturmführer Fritz Bergmann, said in the presence of the witness Artur Mayer, that the SS took valuables from the Jews in Auschwitz amounting to the value of about 1,000,000,000 Reichs Marks, but that in reality the value of those things was much higher. According to a report of the witness, Bergmann then said literally the following: "jetzt nahmen wir dem Saujudenpack ca 1 Milliarde RM in Brillianten ab, welche ich nach Berlin brachte, aber ausserdem sorgten wir auch für uns selber". A confirmation of the report that the SS men, when getting hold the belongings of deported persons, did not forget about themselves, is the order of the Commandant of the Garrison Nr. 51/43 of NOV. 16 th 1943, in which he said literally as follows: "Ich habe Veranlassung, letztmalig daruf hinzuweisen, dass das Eigentum der Häftlinge, ganz gleich, um was es handelt (Kleidungsstücke, Gold und Wertsachen, Esswaren und sonstige persönliche Gegenstände), auch ganz gleich, wo es sich befindet oder gesichtet wird, unangetastet bleibt. Über die Verwendung des Eigentumes der Häftlinge entscheidet der Staat und es wird somit dieses Eigentum Staatseigentum. Wer sich an Staatseigentum vergreift, stempelt sich selbst zum Verbrecher und schliesst sich von selber aus der Reihen der SS aus". This order was quite explained by the behaviour and conduct of the SSmen and is confirmed by the fact, that SS-Rotten
führer, Lubusch Edward ordered the prisoner Kula to construct for his private use a machine to roll gold in ingots.
The distribution of things robbed from prisoners, and particularly the distribution of clothing and the despateh of parcels into the Reich, was forbidden by the Berlin Centre, the Tearson for this Ibeing that the parcels on their way might be damaged, and the uninitiated might get to know that in these parcels was clothing stained with blood, and full of bullet holes, (order of the ‘Amtsgruppe D of the 11th VII. 1942).
The extent of this robbery is proved by the fact that on the site of the camp at Auschwitz there were 35 special stores to sort and pack clothing and other articles. The Germans before their evacuation burnt 29 stores together with their contents. In the remaining 6 stores there were found: 348,820 complete men‘s suits of clothes, 836,255 women‘s complete outfits, 5,525 pairs .of women‘s shoes, 38,000 pairs of men‘s shoes, 13,964 carpets and large number of tooth-brushes, shaving-brushes, spectacles, artificial limbs, all kind of kitchen utensils and also children’s clothing. From the report of SS-Oberscharführer Reichenbach among the records of the camp, it appears that during for instance, days from Dec. 1st 1944 to Jan. 15th 1945, 99,922 suits of clothing and children’s underwear, 192,652 suits of clothing and women’s underwear and 222,269 sets of men’s suits of clothes and underwear were sent to Germany from the camp at Auschwitz. The trade marks on the things found in these stores prove strikingly that their owners, murdered in Oswiecim, belonged to the nationalities of all the countries conquered by the Germans.The photographs below represent some of the stores with the things found there, which the Germans did not succeed in carrying away from Auschwitz to the Reich.
The working prisoners.
What happened to the transports of prisoners who were destined for slave-labour? (among whom the Jews amounted to only a very small percentage).
The prisoners who were not at once condemned to death were strictly surveyed, registered and given numbers. From the moment of passing through the camp-gates and getting his number a man ceased to be a personality and became a cypher without freewill. 400,000 passed in this way through the camp and were registered in turn. Under the general series for men and women came subsections, i. e. series A. and B classified male and female Gipsies, series R Russian prisoners while series E comprised prisoners brought in from "educational" motives.
The prisoner wore the camp number sewn on his clothing and at the beginning of the year 1942 it was also tattooed on the left forearm. Since the introduction of tattooing all the prisoners, with the exception of the Reichs and Volksdeutsche, were tattooed. The full distinguishing mark of the prisoner consisted of the number written on a white linen band, with coloured triangles signifying the type of prisoner, with the initial letter of the prisoner’s nationality. This sign was worn by the prisoners on the left breast of their blouse or jacket and was also sewn on the outside seam of the right trouser leg. Triangles were in use: red for political prisoners, black for prostitutes and perverts, green for professional criminals, pink for the homosexuals and violet for the clergy and Investigators of the Holy Bible. The Jews wore at first a star of David, and afterwards above the triangle a yellow stripe. The initial letter of the name of the nationality was written with black Chinese ink on the triangles.
The destiny of these cypher-prisoners was slave labour until their strength was exhausted, when death was their release. Before harnessing them into the yoke of one of the 300 la-
bour gangs, amounting to 50-1200 prisoners, they all were obliged to pass through the procedure of being enrolled into the camp. The aim of the process was to change a free man into an obedient number without his own will, to kill in him the feeling of human dignity and to make him a servile labouring unit.
compiled by Dr S D Stein
Last update 12/07/2000
©S D Stein
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