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.]

The Auschwitz Extermination Camp
Part II

Part I
Part III

The work

VI. The fate of the Soviet prisoners
VII. Punishments

VIII. Housing conditions

IX. Food Rations



The process of admission into the camp is described by witnesses as follows: the unloading platform at Auschwitz and the whole road to the camp was heavily guarded by SS men, who also lay in the ditches along the roadside with their guns ready. All the SSmen were armed as well with sticks and had police-dogs. Amidst constant beating the prisoners were driven to the place of roll-call, where they were paraded before SSman standing on a table, and beaten by others standing around. On the opposite side the newcomers were ranged in rows of ten: There were the Capo, consisting of the first 30 professional criminals brought from Germany in the character of supervisors, who took rings, watches, and tore from the necks of the prisoners their chains and medallions, beating in the process some prisoners into unconsciousness. 

In the group, in which the witness Michal Kula came to the camp on August 15th 1940, there was a young priest from Warsaw. The SSmen and Capos turned his hat upside down, put round his neck a loop of a string, and tied the other end of the string round his waist. They gave him a broom to hold. In this guise he was obliged to run around the whole group, while it was being driven from the place of the roll-call on the yard between blocks XV and XVI. The SSmen and Capos tortured him mercilessly and beat him with sticks until he fell unconscious.


On the yard between the XVth and XVIth blocks the prisoners were obliged to undress completely and give up their clothes. Afterwards their hair was cut and they received their numbers. Then the whole group was driven amid constant blows to the baths. There was no possibility whatever of bathing, it was only possible to splash some cold water on oneself. In the same building there was also a medical inspection, which consisted of the physician asking the prisoner if he was well, and whatever his answer, he was instructed to go further. From the bath the prisoners were driven to the next yard, on which lay two big heaps of prisoners’s clothes made of striped ticking. The prisoners were obliged to put these c1othes on while running and were afterwards obliged to line up at the place of roll-call. By such a method of out fitting a stout man often got a blouse which covered only half of his breast, while a small prisoner got clothing too big for him. It was the same, with the shoes. After such a fitting-out the prisoners who arrived in the same group of ten could not recognise each other.

Those prisoners were lucky whose admission procedure was completed in one day, as they had the chance to spend the night under a roof. If, however, the transport arrived at Auschwitz in the afternoon, they were obliged sometimes to spend the whole night naked in the open air after their things were taken away regardless of the season of the year or the weather. As a result of this, for instance out of a transport including the prisoner Wolken, 42 prisoners did not live through the night until the morning. Others spent the night naked in the bath house, where with a temperature of about 20 degrees below zero cold water was poured on them from time to time.

Late in the evening of Dec. 5 th. 1943, there arrived at Auschwitz a transport containing 1200 prisoners from Flossenburg. Eighty of the most weak the Commandant of the camp


left lying in the snow. At the order of the Commandant water was poured on them to speed up the freezing process. A part of these victims were carried by the prisoners to the blocks, the remaining 32 died by morning. Only one man survived that night by remaining under the corpses of three others, but even he died the following day (witness Wolken). 

During the whole period of admission there was no possibility whatever of eating or drinking. In Summer prisoners died of thirst.

After the formalities of enrolment were completed and after being tattooed the prisoners were driven into quarantine camp, where some victims had to stay for 8 weeks. It was a period of testing the physical endurance of the future slaves, organized in such a way, that only the healthiest could endure it. From statistics of the quarantine block in Birkenau (B IIa) which contained an average of 4,000 to 6,000 prisoners, it is seen that during the period from September 1943 to November 1944 4023 prisoners were so seriously ill that they were obliged to go to hospital, 1902 died and 3233 prisoners were selected for gassing as unfit for further work. The numbers of sick did not include prisoners cured in the infirmary, who were in many instances seriously ill but afraid to go to hospital on account of possible selection. They averaged about 500 persons daily. 

These figures become understandable only when the conditions in the quarantine hospital are taken into account. Hundreds of people were crowded together in stables built for 52 horses, and often more than a thousand people were compelled to huddle on plank beds built in tiers one over the other. They slept without even straw mattresses and blankets on the bare boards. When there was no room in the huts they spent the night in the open air. During the day they were tormented by killing work of ditch-digging, draining swamps or standing idly barefooted from 4.30 in the morning till late in the evening, regardless of the season of the year and the


weather. What was perhaps the worst of all was the "sports" and "gymnastics".

During this period the prisoners were taught to lineup in rows of five, to take off their caps and to march in straight lines. They learned very quickly, for they were taught with a stick. During the hours of "sports" the prisoners were surrounded by the SS-men, and Capes and beaten. They were forced to crouch, to jump, to dance with uplifted hands, to run in a circle barefooted on the gravelled square. Many lost their strength and fell to the ground in the first hours of such "gymnastics". Those were dragged aside by the Capos, where often the senior of the camp, Leo, finished them off by putting a stick into their mouths. Those that were sluggish in running were often caught by an SS-man, taken behind the building of the VIIIth Block, and there killed. The slightest effort to straighten the body during the crouching exercise produced kicks and blows. The prisoners were ordered to roll in their underclothes, and afterwards they were told to have clean and washed linen within half an hour although no soap and water were provided.

At 12 o’clock the prisoners were lined up for roll-call, which lasted 45 minutes. After a further 15 minutes which were allowed to the prisoners for eating soup, they were lined up by the SS-men and the seniors of the camp on the place of the roll-call and taught to sing vulgar German songs, such as "O du mein Bubikopf" or "Im Lager Auischwitz war ich zwar so manchen Monat so manches Jahr". All the Jews were herded together and forced to sing a derisive German song ("O du mein Jerusalem"). Such a choir was often conducted by a Catholic priest. Those prisoners who did not know German could not understand and memorize the text of the song, so the Capos, displeased with the singing, ordered them to sing in a crouched position or lying on the ground beat them face downwards. Prisoners, lying in such a position, were beaten and trampled on. The singing lasted until 3 p.m., then 


the prisoners were trained in "gymnastics" till 6,30 p, m. Later came the ordeal of the evening roll-call, ,which lasted about 2 hours. Some groups of prisoners were compelled to stand at attention from 9 in the evening until noon the following day with their hands behind their heads. Reflectors shone on them at night, the SS-men keeping close watch to see that no prisoner dropped his hands. If it so happened that the weaker among them did so, they were beaten and tormented. In consequence of this treatment, out of a particular group of 265 only 60 stuck it till the end; the rest fell unconscious, only to be revived by having water thrown on them, and beaten. 

Others were driven away to the place of roll-call where they received the commands of the Unterscharführer: "Fall, stand, crawl, wallow", and forced to crouch four-time. If one raised himself from a pool of water in which he was told to roll, the Unterscharführer forced him with his heel to the ground. Dr Kruczek was a victim of this "sport".

One day 50 prisoners were ordered to climb a very slender young tree. According to the order they were to climb all at once to the top of this tree, which was, of course, impossible, as the tree broke at once after the first few people had climbed it. During these "gymnastics" the prisoners were beaten firstly because they were not yet up the tree, and secondly for having broken the tree. During the "sport" many prisoners died. The rest were injured, and their feet swelled up from the constant running without shoes on the gravel, nails and barbed wire.

The sick and wounded were allowed to go to the doctor, who in many cases gave them a card stating they were only fit for sitting down work. Such prisoners were employed in cleaning old mortar from bricks. This work was carried out by the prisoners sitting on the sharpened end of a wooden stake which was buried in the ground. The Capos and SS-men watched closely to see that the prisoner worked the whole day long sitting down. If anyone raised himself or fell down he was


beaten till he lost consciousness then he was left without any help.

After returning to the Block the prisoners were only allowed to go to the latrines after the distribution of rations. In the latrines thousands of people crowded and there they were also beaten. In such conditions the quarantine camp was a succession of torments. The people did not know what to do, and where to hide themselves as they were tortured everywhere and all dreamt of being transferred to the working camp from the quarantine in the hope that things there would be easier to endure.

The work

They did not realise that the same ill treatment would meet them there. .

Among the camp authorities there existed a special section (Arbeitseinsatz) for exploiting the labour of the prisoners of the Auschwitz camp. This section divided the prisoners into special working gangs and posted them to work in industrial plants and mines, scattered over the whole of Silesia. In the immediate vicinity of Oswiecim the Germans constructed a big chemical factory in Monowice (Buna) and established a Krupp "Union". Through this work people were reduced to an extreme state of exhaustion by work in draining swamps and marshes, in the mines and on road construction. Some working groups were obliged to walk 7-8 km. to their work. The SS-men ranged the prisoners in units, and surrounded by an escort armed with sticks, hounds and overseers, they were driven to work. During the work, which was carried on in complete silence, and as rule running, the prisoners were beaten under the slightest pretext. One for not straightening his back, another for not taking enough earth in his 


shovel and another for going aside, suffering from dysentery, to attend to the wants of nature. 

Any attempt to rest during the hours of labour, or an accident during work resulting in material loss to the camp was treated and punished as sabotage.

Those who fell from fatigue were shot on the spot. The place of labour was at the same time a scene of mass murder. 

A prisoner's day began with reveille at 4.30 a. m and finished at varying times up to late in the night according to the distance from the camp of the labour site.

The working gangs went to their labours to the tune of the camp orchestra, in which prisoners were playing standing at the gate. In the evening they came back from all parts of the Auschwitz camp bleeding, exhausted, carrying the corpses of their comrades on wooden stretchers, on their backs, or dragged in carts. The camp orchestra also played to this procession of ghosts and corpses. The corpses of the murdered comrades were also laid out for the roll-call in order to be counted, as the number of prisoners must always correspond to the camp lists. The fact that they were dead or alive was a matter of indifference.

Some of the camp regulations were an obvious encouragement to murder prisoners. Of such a character was the payment of a premium to the SS-men for shooting prisoners who left their work. The prisoners were first ordered by the SS-men to run on in front and then were shot as "runaways". A short report "shot while escaping" was the end of the matter ("auf dar Flucht erschossen") and the premium was duly paid for preventing the flight of a prisoner. It is seen from Orders 33/34, 88/43 and a series of others that the SS-men were rewarded for such exploits by several days leave also.

The Jews and priests were set to do the hardest work. Huge rollers were brought in on the work of extending the base camp, to the two shafts of which were harnessed Jews and priests. They had to drag the rollers all day long to the accompaniment


of blows. The driver was a German prisoner, Krankenmann. Those who fell from exhaustion were killed under the blows of this executioner’s stick. He murdered in this way nearly all the priests and numerous Jews. Some prisoners dragged carts loaded with earth and stones, while others were forced to carry loads exceeding their strength. In the stores containing material for construction work 10 prisoners had to unload 480 sacks of cement in two hours. This worked out at 48 sacks of 50 kilograms each per prisoner. As the stores were located 150 metres from the railway track they had thus to travel 15 kilometres in two hours, carrying for half this distance a load of 50 kilograms.

The unloading of potatoes from the train went on in the same conditions. Near the wagons stood stretchers loaded with about 150 kg. of potatoes, which two prisoners were obliged to carry running to the mounds. The road, was guarded by a file of Capos and overseers, who forced the prisoners to hurry with sticks. This work was done running. After several hours the stretchers were falling from the hands of the prisoners, and the elders dropped from fatigue. Such weaker workers were regarded as saboteurs and were forced to continue working with blows under which they died. Their corpses were thrown into a nearby ditch, from whence they were taken before finishing the work by a special "Fleischwagen", or motor car for collecting the corpses from the place of work.

The bored SS-men often beat the working prisoners for amusement and women, dressed in the uniforms of the S.S. accompanied them for pleasure. The witness Walman told us about the following incident: a group of SS-men accompanied by dogs and German women approached a group of prisoners who were digging a deep ditch for burning the corpses near the crematoria. The SS-men ordered them to load 60 wheelbarrows with earth and to push them along a high earthen wall over the edge of the hole. They then released their dogs


to chase them. The ,prisoners, nervously and physically exhausted, fell down with the wheelbarrows into the hole, and most of them were killed. The SS-men shot those prisoners who remained alive. The same performance was repeated by the SS-men the same afternoon. The women who accompanied them were very amused.

During the digging of the basements for the XVth block in the base camp, the following scene took place: The German prisoner Reinhold, being the Capo of a group which was working there threw an old Jew into a hole filled with water in the presence of his son who was working in the same group. When the father lifted himself from the water and tried to get out of the hole, Reinhold and the SS-men ordered the son to descend into the ditch and to drown the father. The son was compelled to fulfil this order, he descended into the ditch seized his father by his neck, put his head into the water and held it under as long as his father showed signs of life. The SS-men ordered the son to climb back to the edge of the ditch, where Reinhold and another prisoner, a German, seized him by his hands and feet, swung his body and threw him into the ditch, where other Jews working in the water digging for gravel were forced to drown him.

VI. The fate of the Soviet prisoners

The Russian prisoners of war, who, according to a secret order of the Chief of Official Group D, issued from Oranienburg on Nov. 15 th. 1941, were directed to the concentration camp for extermination were treated in a specially barbaric way. The contents of this or,der are as follows: The Reichsführer FF [sic-ed.] and the Chief of the German police gave in principle his consent for the postponement of the extermination of those Russian prisoners who were strong enough to work in the quarries. It is necessary therefore to obtain the per-


mission of the Chief of the Security Police and the SD Service. In order for this purpose; that the commandant of camp (E) and the camp physician should choose, after the arrival of the transport meant for execution, those physically fit Russians able to work in the quarries, a list of the selected Russians must be sent to me in duplicate. The camp doctor must state on this list, that he agrees to the use of these people for work. After receiving the permission of the Chief of the Security Police and SD Service these prisoners may then be sent to the quarries. 

Sixteen thousand numbered Soviet prisoners passed through the camp at Auschwitz, out of whom, according to the camp roll of Jan. 17 th 1945 only 96 were left alive. Immediately after their arrival at the camp the Russians were completely stripped and driven into blocks, where in the cold autumn days in 1941 they huddled together for warmth. Afterwards they were clothed in stripped ticking, some in wooden shoes, and so dressed they worked in penal companies, and later on at the construction of the camp at Birkenau.

Amidst constant chicanery, beating and kicking they had to wallow in mud, digging ditches and constructing the roads. Half dressed, hungry and frozen every day weaker and weaker, they were punished for even the shortest pause in their labour by being locked in a shed naked, where frost and exhaustion finished them off. The conditions were no better in the blocks. The naked prisoners were forced to do gymnastics in a hard frost. They washed themselves once in a week under constant beating. In such conditions death reaped a rich harvest. Those that were half dead after verification by the SS Raportführer Stiwitz with hot iron that they still lived were killed with sticks.

A list of about a hundred causes of prisoners deaths came to be gradually written down on death certificates and in registers. From the register of deaths preserved until now (Totenbuch), including the period from Sep. 7 th 1941 to Feb. 28 th


1942, it transpires ,that during this period, i.e. 144 days (on Feb. 23 rd 1942 no deaths were recorded) 8,320 prisoners were murdered. The highest number of 352 dead is noted down under the date Nov. 4 th 1941. This book is closed by a pencilled calculation of a SS clerk, who multiplied the number of the dead written on one page (36) by the number of pages (234) and he divided the figure obtained by the number of days (144), getting in this way the number 58 as an average of the daily deaths. From analysis of the inscriptions in this book, in which the number of the blocks is given in which the prisoner allegedly died, the hour, and the cause of death, the result is, that during 137 days the victims "died" between the hours of 6 and 10 in the morning, and only on three days during night during 4 days the hours were not inscribed, that during the period between 7-10 a, m, 5,744 prisoners died, and that the majority died not in the hospital, but exclusively in the living quarters. From the column "causes of death" it appears that those who died in the living quarters were sick among other things with peritonitis and pneumonia, during which as a rule walking is impossible. It proves that both the diseases and the causes of death were falsely inscribed.

From the comparisons of the causes of death it appears that 653 people died of heart attacks, 989 from deficient circulation of blood, 806 persons from catarrh of the bowels, 484 persons of general exhaustion, 512 of the inflammation, of the kidneys, 551 of inflammation of the lungs, 137 of heart failure 1214 of tumours, 317 of heart disease, 806 of bronchitis, and the rest of about twenty other diseases. The description of numerous deaths of young militarily fit people as being due to heart failure and deficient circulation of the blood as well as the fact that, for instance, on the 13. I. 1942 9-42,persons died in one block only in the 10 minutes from 8.50 to 9 o’clock proves that the causes of death given are false. In about 20 cases (Nos. 692-711) description of the real reasons of death is given in the appropriate column as "überstellt" without


giving the place to which the prisoner was transferred. According to a uniform account by the prisoners employed in the camp offices, this cryptogram signified that the said prisoner was murdered.

This fact was also noted in the camp register book by the sign SB (Sonderbehandlung), by a cross, or by the word "entlassen".

From the seoond register preserved containing the numbers 9794-25,5000, it appears that of 15706 prisoners who arrived at Auschwitz Camp in the period from August 7 th 1943 to July 19th 1944, 12341 were certified as released (entlassen) and 766 were marked with a cross. As almost all the ostensibly released were Jews and it is well known that the Jews were never released from the Nazi camps the sign "entlassen" written in this book beside the name of the Jew undoubtedly signifies death.

VII. Punishments

Besides the beating by the SS-men and overseers at the place of work the following punishments were applied to men and worsen, with the aim of maintaining working discipline among the prisoners: flogging, (penal gymnastics (Strafexerzieren), work under supervision on Sundays and holidays, transfer to a penal group, standing, kneeling with hands up, stones holding, and finally incarceration in a dark narrow cell (Stehzelle).

 Punishment was based on report by an SS-man, overseer at the place of work or block leader. The punishment was prescribed by the Commandant of the Camp in a written order, by virtue of the disciplinary authority which was given him by the regulations for concentration camps. In the printed form of this regulation the following penalties are laid down: Threat of punishment, work under the supervision of an SS-man during normally free time, a ban on writing or


receiving letters, deprivation of dinner with work as usual, transfer to a penal company, and a hard bed in a cell after his daily work.

Deprivation of freedom was marked by three grades of arrest. During arrest the prisoner received daily only bread and water, and full diet every fourth day. Third grade had to be endured by the prisoner in a dark cell, so arranged that he could neither lie nor sit. Third grade was known in the language of the camp as "Bunker". It was endured in small dark cement cells, in which the prisoners were so squeezed that they could not move and were obliged to stand the whole time. At Birkenau these cells were entered by a small opening like a dog kennel. This punishment was administered practically in all cases where "hard bed" was ordered. Officially it was called "Stehzelle", and in practice was enhanced by ingenious tortures, such as pouring of water into the ears, beating the heels, pulling out finger nails, or starving for several days after which the prisoner was given vegetable salad specially seasoned with salt for producing a great thirst.

A starvation cell was instituted with special sadism by Lagerführer Fritsch, where prisoners were kept who were caught trying to escape. In this cell there were instances of cannibalism. One of the prisoners who was in this cell told of the following scene: "When the door was opened, a horrible smell of decaying corpses was noticeable. After accustoming myself to the darkness, I noticed in a corner the corpse of a prisoner, with his intestines pulled out, and beside him in a half recumbent position- second body, also of a prisoner. He was holding in his hand the liver he had taken from the body of his dead companion. Death struck him in the act of devouring this liver".

According to the regulations concerning the administering of punishment by flogging (Körperliche Zuchtigung) the prisoner first had to undergo a medical inspection, and then the punishment was to be applied with a leather whip, with blows


following swiftly upon each other. Beating was allowed only on the buttocks, which had to be clad. Further down on the form there is a printed medical certificate form, to the effect that the prisoner underwent a medical inspection before flogging and that from the medical point of view there were no objections to his receiving such a punishment. Afterwards the confirmation of the extent of the punishment by the Chief of ,the Official Group D in Berlin, was included, and a protocol that the punishment was administered, with the names of the prisoners who flogged the delinquent, and the signature of four officers of the SS (the Commander and three functionaries). Flogging was administered publicly during the evening roll-call on a specially constructed whipping block which is seen on the photograph below.

Regardless of the above-mentioned regulations the prisoners were beaten on naked buttocks, which as a rule were cut till the blood flowed. Usually this punishment caused tumours on the buttocks sometimes as big as a fist. If the delinquent fainted, he was restored to consciousness and the punishment was continued. The smallest punishment amounted to 10 blows. It was an official punishment. Unofficially the blockleaders flogged the prisoners for the slightest offence usually ordering the prisoners to put their heads into the opening of the stove, and afterwards beating them on the buttocks with a rod. The standing punishment consisted of standing at attention at the camp office near the exit gate of the camp. This punishment was applied in the women’s camp, and lasted from three hours to a whole day, and even several days following each other without a break. During the time it lasted the woman-prisoner did not get anything to eat. If in the punishment of kneeling the woman-delinquent dropped her stone-filled outstretched hands, she was beaten till she lost consciousness. The duration of the punishment by kneeling ,depended on the whim of the authorities, and lasted from two to several hours.


The prisoners who formed the penal company always worked in the open air, always on the hardest work, often in water to the waist, and lived in an isolated Block No. XI, at the far end of the camp and in the XI Block of the B II Section in Birkenau. They worked in winter and in summer without socks, in Dutch cloys, clad only in ticking. They received food or not according to the whim of the blockleader. They spent in most cases sleepless nights owing to constant shouting and blows. They were lying without even straw mattresses on the bare floor, and left their rags in prescribed order in the corridor. This Block was not heated. It is obvious that people in such conditions fell ill wholesale. Up to 1943 it was not permissible however to take sick from the penal company into hospital. So the seriously ill, deprived of medical assistance, were doomed in Block XI to death.

The greatest percentage perished, however, at the hands of the blockleader of the XI Block-Krankenmann. He used to line up the prisoners by a wall, struck their jaws with his hand, so that they split, and the other side of the head struck the wall and was smashed.

In winter 1942/43 a Giant-Jew, specially kept for killing people was prowling in XI Block in the penal company. He did no work, was well fed, stood at the place where the prisoners were working leaning against a great thick pole and shouted without ceasing "Bewegung". When he disliked one of the prisoners, he called him up to him and killed him with a blow on the back of his neck. A second method of killing was strangulation. The prisoner was ordered to button and hook his tunic under his neck and then the executioner gripped the collar from behind and pressed the head of the prisoner downwards, so that the collar and the hook pressing against the larynx of the victim caused strangulation. Finally he flung the prisoners on the floor with their faces upwards, put earth or bricks under their necks and then placed his pole across


their throats, standing with his feet on both sides of the pole. He stood thus until his victims died.

Punishments were administered for the slightest offence against the camp regulations, such as not making one’s bed properly, for finding potatoes on the prisoner, who wanted to cook when in his Block or at his place of work, for having in one’s possession family photographs or letters, and particularly for writing and receiving letters from other prisoners within the camp area.

VIII. Housing conditions

Even if there had been no physical and moral torturing of the prisoners at Oswiecim, even if they had not been tormented and murdered wholesale, still the mere living conditions and lack of hygiene, and the deficient food which they received would have caused a high mortality-rate. 

The scheming and exactness both in the construction of the living quarters and the starvation level of rations is striking. 

The prisoners lived in huts without windows, used only by the German army as stables for horses, officially called: Pferdestallbaracken Type 260/9 with dimensions of 40.76 X 9.56 X 2.65 metres constructed on posts, with walls made of thin boards, and roofs made of tarred boards through which water was constantly leaking. The only furniture of these huts consisted of 3-storey bunks 1.80 metres in breadth, in which 30 prisoners were cabined on litter, and in most cases on bare boards. There was a primitive stove whose pipes ran through the whole length of the barracks and heated the interior with carbon monoxide. These stoves were called officially "Russenofen". 

Such huts were regarded as living accommodation for 300 prisoners. On each litter, consisting of two straw mat-


tresses slept from 6 to 10 prisoners. From a letter of the manager of the clothing stores one learns however, that in reality, often 1000-1200 prisoners lived in them at once, and after deducting the area of the senior Blockleader’s and Capo's rooms and of the foold-store, it amounted for one prisoner to an ,area of about 0.28 m2 and about 0,75 m3 of air. It is characteristic of the camp authorities that they found such huts unsuitable even for keeping the camp cows in, and after the reconstruction of Type 260/9 as a cow-shed, ventilation and a cement floor were added (plan No. 1433 of the 3th VII. 1942). The authorities showed the same care for the health of the animals when constructing dog kennels. By order from Berlin of Oct. 16th 1942. a luxuriously arranged kennel was built at cost of 81.000 RM. at Birkenau calculated to contain 250 police dogs. From the files of this building construction (BW 77) it is seen that when the kennel was being planned a professional camp veterinary surgeon was asked for advice, and everything was done to build it in accordance with modern sanitary requirements. They even thought about an adequate grass plot, a specially arranged dog-hospital, and a kitchen. In connection with a delay in mending the roof of the kennel, the head of the dogs’ section threatened to resign, saying that he could not take the responsibility for disease among the dogs caused by leaking roofs. When comparing the sanitary conditions in the prisoners, huts and those in the dog kennels it must be said that the dogs at Auschwitz were a hundred times better off.

All the prisoners' huts were constructed on muddy ground in the swampy Birkenau area with no drainage. During practically the whole of the camp's existence they were deprived of regular water supply, were without drainage, had no ventilation whatsoever, had clay floor, which got very dusty in the dry season, and which in rainy periods, owing to the leaking of the roofs was transformed into one big swamp. It served as an incubator of flies, lice and rats which were


one of the greatest scourges of the prisoners and a hotbed of different epidemic diseases, the principal one being typhoid fever.

Violent epidemics of the worst type of spotted typhus were the scourge of the prisoners, especially in winter, and confirm the inhuman hygienic and sanitary conditions which were found in the camp, It was impossible to wash or to change one’s underwear. The huts were overcrowded in an unheard-of manner.

The prisoners who were heard as witnesses stated with one accord, that they did not receive water either to wash in or drink. They washed themselves in the imitation coffee which was supplied to them ,as nourishment, or in pools of rain, or in ditches which also served their physiological needs. From a letter of the manager of the construction authorities, Bischoff, of Dec. 16th 1942 (Erläuterungen zur Ausführung der Wasserversorgung) it is shown that the camp authorities knew just how bad these sanitary conditions were, and particularly the lack of water as the cause of epidemic diseases which exterminated the prisoners, and notwithstanding this, they did nothing to prevent this calamity.

IX. Food Rations

When considering the problem of food rations, the difference between the official rations foreseen in the bill of fare, in portions distributed in the kitchen store, and those rations which actually reached the prisoners in the hut must be taken into account.

The daily portion of bread amounted to 350 gr. but in reality the prisoner got as a rule at best only 300 gr. as the block leaders, when cutting bread, stole from each loaf1 (1 At Birkenau (camp for men) a loaf of bread (1400 gr) was divided in 6 even in 8 portions! in 19421943 during many months.) at least  


...50 gr. It must be remembered that bread was distributed in the evening and the famished prisoner ate the whole 300 gr at once, so that he had no more bread for brealkfast. 

For breakfast he received half-a-litre of coffee or tea made of herbs: 3 kg. of sugar was prescribed for a kettle containing 300 litres, then 5 gr. for a half litre portion, but in practice, the coffee was sweetened but rarely, and in such a way that 5 gr. of sugar was for a portion used only exceptionally. 

For dinner two kinds of soup were given: meat soup four times a week, and vegetable soup three times a week.

  A portion of soup with meat ought to contain: 150 gr. of potatoes, turnips, cabbage, greens and beetroots 150 gr., 20 gr. of flour or Avo, 5 gr. of salt and 20 gr. ,of meat with bones.

In reality such a portion shrank in the kitchen store to the following dimensions. There were only 50 gr. of potatoes and turnips for a portion owing to the necessity of throwing away large quantity of rotten vegetables, and as meat with bones was systematically taken from the store for the SS-men’s kitchen, instead of 20 gr. there remained for a prisoner’s por tion only 10 gr. (with bones).

A portion of the second type soups should have contained: 500 gr. of potatoes or turnips 500 gr.,or 250 gr each of potatoes, turnips, psomrridge, groats, (pearl barley, rye, mlillet, macaroni) 40 50 gr. of flour or Avo, 5 gr. of salt, 2040 gr. of margarine (40 gr. only twice a week as extra for heavy work). In actual fact this soup’ wa.s already in the kitchen store invaria!bly delprivsd of many essential ingreldientis. Instead of 500 gr. of ‘potatoes or beets ‘per portion there was only 100150 gr. (there were always so many rotten potatoes and beets) and half the margarine disappeared in the same way as meat in the kitchen for the use of the SSmen. The result was that instead of 2040 gr. per portion ‘of soup the prisoner actually got only lo20 gr. of margarine.


Twice a week a huge five-ton lorry carried from the prisoners’ food store sacks of sugar, groats, sausage, flour etc., products destined for the kitchen of the SS-men. Hauptscharführer Werner Hendler supervised this activity (Annie Franz in the women’s kitchen), and in the kitchen of the SS-men these products were received by Unterscharführer Paschke. 

The prisoners should have received a litre of soup, but the portion of soup in reality amounted as a rule to ¾ litre. In the kitchen a 300 litre cauldron was not filled up to the brim owing to the technical’ difficulties of adequately mixing it) It contained usually only 260-270 litres of liquid. Afterwards part of the cooked soup was wasted during its passage from the kitchen to the place of work or to the huts (lack of can lids caused the soup to be spilled). Finally, durirrg the disstribution the capo or the block leader distributed the soup unequally, keeping a certain number of portions for the German prisoners and for their assistants from among the prisoners extra.

In this way instead of one litre of soup the prisoner usually got for dinner ¾ litres at best.

Attention must be drawn to the fact, that in the years 1940, 1941 and up to the middle of 1942, by obvious command of the camp authorities, soup was distributed in the blocks at midday, and poured into the canteens immediately so the prisoners who returned from their work at 6 o’clock in the evening were obliged to drink their soup quite cold. It was a time of serious diseases of the alimentary canal, of diarrhoea, and typhoid, which undoubtedly resu1ted to a large extent from the eating of cold soup by the prisoner (The prisoner was deprived completely of hot food from morning)!

When speaking of the supper portions, it is necessary to distinguish carefully between the official bill of fare, the portions distributed to the kitchen stores, and finally the por- 


tions which the prisoner actually got in the huts. The comparison given below ,shows the difference between the three stages to the disadvantage of the prisoner according su’pplied prisoner the menu gr to the kitchen received


  According to the 
Menu      gr
Supplied to the Kitchen Prisoner Received
Sunday Sausage  40 30 15-20
Monday Sausage  40 30 15-20
Tuesday Margarine 40 40 25-30
  Jam           50 50 25-30
Wednesday Sausage   40 30 15-20
Thursday Margarine 50 40 25-30
Friday Margarine 50 50 30-40
  Jam           50 50 30-40
Saturday Cheese      50 50 30-35

In a similar way out of the quantities of meat and margarine destined for dinner, large amounts constantly found their way to the kitchen of the SS-men, as did portions of sausage and margarine meant for supper, and even in the kitchen-store a part of these products was set aside for the fattening of the SS-men. Each portion of sausage and margarine was cut down by at least 10 gr. even during the distribution of rations in the kitchen store, to the detriment of the prisoner. The final stage of the distribution of portions in the barrack was invariably connected with a new diminution of the already starvation ration: here the block-leaders for their own benefit reduced the portions of the prisoners, stealing sausage and margarine for themselves and for their closest pals. As a result the prisoners got instead of 40 gr. at most only 15-20 gr. of sausage, and instead of 40 gr. of margarine only 25-30 gr. 

It must be emphasized, that with the consent of the camp authorities every attempt at complaint ended in tragedy for


the prisoner to whom injustice had been done; this recurred constantly during the whole existence of the camp. Such were the supper rations, to which half a litre of black coffee was added1. (1 Since 1942 the prisoners were to receive twice a week half a litre of Mehlsuppe (20 gr meal or groats, and 5 gr salt - one portion). This supper was distributed in the morning.)

On Tuesdays and Fridays supplements were allocated for those who worked extremely hard, the so called Schwerarbeiterzulage for prisoners working in the field in the woods in the crematoria. These additional portions should have amounted to 700 gr. of bread and 100 gr. of sausage, but in reality the prisoners got only 70 gr. of sausage and 700 gr. of bread.

On Thursday the prisoners working inside the camp in the clothing stores, in the laundry, in the shoe-makers, tailor workshops a. s o. should have received in addition 460 gr. of bread and 50 gr. of sausage. They were getting however at least 10 gr. of sausage less.

An accurate evaluation of the nutritional value of the food consumed by the prisoners at Auschwitz, its energy value in calories is difficult owing to the fact that the investigators did not have any specimens of bread, margarine or other products which were given to the prisoners. It is certain however, that according to the evidence. of all the witnesses heard, these products were of a much worse quality than the average given in the tables on which the calorific value of the consumed nourishment is based. The data below given concerning calories is based on the calculations made during the Inquiry in accordance with an official German publication "Nährstoff ,und Nührungswert von Lebensmitteln. Bearbeitet im statistschen Reichsamt in Verbindung mit dem Reichsgesundheitsamt" (Leipzig 1943 J. A.Barth), which took into account the average products eaten by 


the German population. So if in the calculation of the caloric value of bread, we were obliged here to base it on "Kommisbrsot" it must not be forgotten that in the Auschwitz camp bread which was given to the prisoners was of a much worse quality and that its worth in calories was less owing to a serious increase of flour substitutes. If the calorific value of the sausage was according to data concerning the average sausage it must be remembered that at Auschwitz in most cases a sausage specially poor in calorific value was given to the prisoners, such a sausage as is not seen in normal conditions, with very little proteins and fat. The same thing applies to the margarine and marmalade, etc.

In this way the data given below relate to average products, more valuable from the point of view of nutrition than the products which were distributed to the prisoners in the Auschwitz camp. In reality the amount of calories calculated ought to be much less. If we are satisfied with the data obtained by calculations based on official German tables, we do it only because the evaluation must be done on a strictly defined basis.

Using data contained in official German tables, we get the following striking figures: 

[ When studying the table it should not be forgotten that in actual fact the great majority of prisoners described as on "moderate work" were doing just as "heavy work" as the others, so described. The actual arrangement was that the Aussenkommando, employed outside the camp precincts, were given extra rations, while those employed within the camp were not.]


Whereas according to the standards of the Physiological Commitee of the Section of Hygiene of the League of Nations a hardworking man ought to receive in 24 hours about 4,800 calories and an average working man more than 3,600 calories, the prisoners at Auschwitz were getting at most from 1302 up to 1744 calories for 24 hours! 1744 calories daily represent a little less than the basic conversion of food into energy of a grown man, or in other words a little less than the amount needed by a man resting in a lying position, covered and motionless. A man who works, nourished in such a way is burning up his own tissues in order to cover the amount of energy expended. This inevitably results in the wasting away of his organism in a manner dangerous to life.

The diet of the prisoners working very hard outside the camp possessed such a calorific value. The prisoners who were working in the camp and whose work was also undoubtedly hard were getting at most 1302 calories for 24 hours, which was much below the amount necessary for the preservation of life when lying in bed.

The above given data explains in full why the prisoners of the Auschwitz concentration camp were dying in masses after a short period of time, and only those who had the chance of getting stolen food, or were getting parcels of food from their families at home, could preserve their life. All the other prisoners were doomed to destruction.

When speaking about details, the great deficiency of protein in the food issued to the prisoners must be remembered, especially the lack of grade 1, animal protein which 


caused after a certain time a hunger-swelling. The lack of fresh vegetables in the diet and of milk and its products meant a serious deficiency of the so called protective foods, and especially of vitamins A, B and C. The need for mineral salts, and particularly for calcium, phosphorus and iron was also not satisfied. Pathological effects were the inevitable result of this, such as night-blindness, a ,lowering of resistance to infection, septicemia, scurvy and skin diseases, teeth and bone diseases caused through lack of calcium, inflammation of the nerves and so on. So the nourishment of the prisoners was deficient in both quantity and quality to such an extent that, overworked and overdriven as they were, it led very quickly to starvation, exhaustion and death.

The above calculations explain the attitude of the SS-men, who regarded any prisoner who survived in the camp for several months as a thief who stole food. "A prisoner has the right to live in the camp only three months" was a typical saying of the representatives of the camp authorities. When the commandant of the camp, Krause, saw prisoners with low numbers he reproached the SS-men for tolerating such as had learned how to "manage" and ordered their liquidation. Krause was convinced that a prisoner should not live in the camp longer than six weeks.

The general conditions of life in the camp, and in particular the scale of food rations, fully justify this belief.

Part I
Part III

Document compiled by Dr S D Stein
Last update 13/11/99
©S D Stein

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