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Eight hundred children are gassed to death at Auschwitz

Eight hundred children are gassed to death at Auschwitz


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On October 10, 1944, 800 Romani children, including more than a hundred boys between 9 and 14 years old, are systematically murdered.

Auschwitz was really a group of camps, designated I, II, and III. There were also 40 smaller “satellite” camps. It was at Auschwitz II, at Birkenau, established in October 1941, that the SS created a complex, monstrously orchestrated killing ground: 300 prison barracks; four “bathhouses,” in which prisoners were gassed; corpse cellars; and cremating ovens. Thousands of prisoners were also used as fodder for medical experiments, overseen and performed by the camp doctor, Josef Mengele (“the Angel of Death”).

READ MORE: Horrors of Auschwitz: The Numbers Behind WWII's Deadliest Concentration Camp

A mini-revolt took place on October 7, 1944. As several hundred Jewish prisoners were being forced to carry corpses from the gas chambers to the furnace to dispose of the bodies, they blew up one of the gas chambers and set fire to another, using explosives smuggled to them from Jewish women who worked in a nearby armaments factory. Of the roughly 450 prisoners involved in the sabotage, about 250 managed to escape the camp during the ensuing chaos. They were all found and shot. Those co-conspirators who never made it out of the camp were also executed, as were five women from the armaments factory—but not before being tortured for detailed information on the smuggling operation. None of the women talked.

Romani people, too, had been singled out for brutal treatment by Hitler’s regime early on. Deemed “carriers of disease” and “unreliable elements who cannot be put to useful work,” they were marked for extermination along with the Jews of Europe from the earliest years of the war. Approximately 1.5 million Romani people were murdered by the Nazis. In 1950, as Romani people attempted to gain compensation for their suffering, as were other victims of the Holocaust, the German government denied them anything, saying, they "have been persecuted under the Nazis not for any racial reason but because of an asocial and criminal record.” They were stigmatized even in light of the atrocities committed against them.


Children in the Holocaust

During the Holocaust, children were especially vulnerable to death under the Nazi regime. According to estimations, 1.5 million children, nearly all Jewish, were murdered during the Holocaust, either directly or as a direct consequence of Nazi actions.

The Nazis advocated killing children of unwanted or "dangerous" in accordance with their ideological views, either as part of the Nazi idea of the racial struggle or as a measure of preventive security. The Nazis particularly targeted Jewish children, but also targeted ethnically Polish children and Romani (also called Gypsy) children along with children with mental or physical defects (disabled children). The Nazis and their collaborators killed children both for these ideological reasons and in retaliation for real or alleged partisan attacks. [1] Early killings were encouraged by the Nazis in Aktion T4, where children with disabilities were gassed using carbon monoxide, starved to death, given phenol injections to the heart, or hanged.

1,500,000 children, nearly all Jewish, were killed by the Nazis. A much smaller number were saved. Some simply survived, often in a ghetto, occasionally in a concentration camp. Some were saved in various programs like the Kindertransport and the One Thousand Children, in both of which children fled their homeland. Other children were saved by becoming Hidden Children. During and even before the war many vulnerable children were rescued by Œuvre de Secours aux Enfants (OSE).


The SS Garrison

The number of SS men and female SS overseers was increased in proportion to the number of prisoners and the spatial expansion of the camp: the garrison numbered about 700 in 1940, about 2,000 in June 1942, 3,342 in August 1944, and 4,480 SS men and 171 female SS overseers on January 15, 1945. A total of over 8,000 SS men and about 170 female SS overseers served in Auschwitz over the period during which the camp operated.

Initially, the camp administrators and sentry garrison were recruited from the garrisons of other concentration camps. Over time, the ranks began to be filled as well by members of the Waffen SS (frontline units) and, from 1944, by older or disabled soldiers from the Wehrmacht and the Territorial Riflemen (Landesschützbataillonen - a total of about 500 men), who were incorporated into the SS after undergoing training.

The ethnic makeup of the garrison, however, remained unchanged. The whole time, the garrison was, aside from a few exceptions, entirely German (including Austrians, who were acknowledged and treated within the Third Reich as Germans and who, in many cases, and especially among the active Nazis, regarded themselves as Germans). At first, the garrison was made up of Germans from Reich territory. Over time, ethnic Germans from satellite and occupied countries began to be recruited in numerical order, they came from Hungary, Romania, Croatia, Poland, Slovakia, Lithuania, and Estonia. No attempt at organizing non-German sentry units ever succeeded. The creation of a Ukrainian sentry company (8-U-Kompanie) was indeed attempted in March 1943. When the Ukrainians discovered in July 1943 what the function of the camp was, they deserted.

In sociological terms, the SS garrison represented all strata of German society they were, in a certain sense, a representative sample in terms of education and occupation. About 70% of the garrison had elementary education, 20% had secondary schooling, and 5.5% had higher education. The average age of garrison members was 36. After the war, only about 800 former SS men from Auschwitz were put on trial.


Contents

Established in late 1941, the Theresienstadt ghetto functioned in part as a transit center for Jews from Czechoslovakia, Germany and Austria on their way to extermination camps and other mass killing centers. [1] The first transport of Jews from Theresienstadt to Auschwitz occurred on 26 October 1942, after 42,005 prisoners had been deported elsewhere. [a] Of the 7,001 people who were deported to Auschwitz from Theresienstadt in January and February 1943, 5,600 were immediately gassed and only 96 survived the war, despite the fact that the transports targeted able-bodied individuals who were intended as a labor detachment. [4] [5] [6] For the next seven months, transports from Theresienstadt were halted on SS leader Heinrich Himmler's orders. Previously and apparently for different reasons, the SS had established a "Gypsy camp" at the BIIe section inside Auschwitz II-Birkenau where Romani and Sinti families were kept together and non-productive individuals were temporarily allowed to remain alive. [7]

There is no surviving document indicating the SS reasoning for establishing the family camp, and it is a subject debated by scholars. It is probable that the family camp prisoners were kept alive so that their letters could reassure relatives in Theresienstadt and elsewhere that "deportation to the East" did not mean death. At the time, the SS was planning a Red Cross visit to Theresienstadt, and may have wanted to convince the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) that deported Jews were not murdered. [8] [9] [10] The family camp also served as a destination for those deported from Theresienstadt to ease overcrowding, which the ICRC inspectors would have noticed. [11] [12] Israeli historian Yehuda Bauer suggests that possibly the prisoners of the family camp were being used as hostages pending a successful outcome of Nazi–Jewish negotiations, similar to a transport of 1,200 children from the Białystok Ghetto, who were held at Theresienstadt for six weeks before being murdered on 7 October 1943 at Auschwitz, but the only evidence of this is circumstantial. [13] [b]

Some researchers have suggested that the SS planned an ICRC visit to the family camp at Birkenau to deceive the outside world about the true purpose of Auschwitz. When Himmler granted permission for ICRC representatives to visit Theresienstadt, he also granted permission for a visit to a "Jewish labor camp", believed by Czech historian Miroslav Kárný and Israeli historians Otto Dov Kulka and Nili Keren to refer to the family camp at Birkenau. [10] [16] Kárný, who witnessed the "beautification" of Theresienstadt prior to the Red Cross visit, wrote that the Nazis could have concealed the nature of Birkenau from Red Cross visitors. [c] However, others believe that the poor physical condition of the inmates would make it clear that they were being mistreated. [8] [9] [10]

During August 1943, rumors circulated in Theresienstadt of a resumption in deportations. [12] On 3 September in the "Daily Orders" of the Jewish self-administration, [17] it was announced that 5,000 people would be deported three days later—the largest number so far on a single day. Unlike previous transports, the selection was not done by the Transport Department of the Jewish self-administration, but by SS commandant Anton Burger directly. [12] Prisoners who had previously held exemptions from deportation, such as the Aufbaukommando, the work detail that arrived at Theresienstadt first, as well as 150 members of the disbanded Ghetto Guard were included on the transport. [12] The bulk of the transport consisted of young Czech Jews whom Himmler feared might organize an uprising inside the ghetto, as had already occurred in the Warsaw Ghetto, and their families. [4] [12] [18] The transport was almost entirely Czech out of 5,000 deportees there were 124 German, 83 Austrian and 11 Dutch Jews. [12] Previous transports had departed to an undisclosed location in the "East", but in this case the Jews were told that they were to be sent to Birkenau to establish a work camp supposedly called the "Arbeitslager Birkenau bei Neu-Berun". Leading figures in the self-administration, including Leo Janowitz, secretary of the Council of Elders, and Fredy Hirsch, deputy leader of the Youth Welfare Office, were included in the transport to help govern the new camp. [19] [20] [21]

On 6 September, two transports carrying 5,007 Jews [22] departed at 14:00 and 20:00 from Bauschowitz train station [12] they arrived at Auschwitz II-Birkenau two days later. [d] There was no selection no one was sent to the gas chambers. All were tattooed and registered into the camp by the Political Department, but in contrary to standard procedure, they kept their clothes and were not shaved. The inhabitants of the family camp were required to write to their relatives at Theresienstadt and to those not yet deported in order to mislead the outside world about the Final Solution strict censorship prevented them from passing on accurate information. [4] [24] [25] They had to give up their luggage and clothing, but were given civilian clothes that had been stolen from previous arrivals. [4] The prisoners' records were marked "SB6", which meant that they were to be murdered 6 months after their arrival. [16] [26]

In December, two additional transports carrying 5,007 people [e] arrived from Theresienstadt the new arrivals were treated in the same way and held in the family camp. These transports also carried targeted the same demographic as the previous transport 88.5% of its victims were Czech Jews. [29] Several leaders in the Theresienstadt self-administration were in the December transport, having been deported as punishment for allegedly aiding escapees or committing other misconduct. The accusations were leveled by Anton Burger, the commandant of Theresienstadt, who disliked Jakob Edelstein, the Jewish elder. Deported to Auschwitz on 15 December, Edelstein was held at Block 11 in Auschwitz I. [4] [10] [30]

The SS leader in charge of the section was SS-Unterscharführer Fritz Buntrock, who was known for his cruelty and sentenced to death after the war. [4] The Lagerältester (head kapo) in the camp was a German convicted murderer named Arno Böhm. [4] [31] When Böhm joined the SS in March 1944, he was replaced by another German criminal named Wilhelm Brachmann. [32] Brachmann was also a criminal prisoner, but his offense was petty theft and he attempted to help the Jewish prisoners where he could. [33] Initially, the block leaders in the camp were Polish prisoners who were brutalized from having spent years in Auschwitz. Later, when the September arrivals had learned to be cruel to each other, the most brutal were appointed block leaders. [34]

Miroslav Kárný noted that the camp's conditions were described favorably by Auschwitz prisoners in other parts of the camp, but very harshly by prisoners of the family camp itself. He believes that the latter perception is more accurate because the overall mortality rate from "natural" camp deaths was the same at the family camp as the rest of Birkenau. [10] The mortality was to the same causes: hunger, disease, poor sanitation, hypothermia, and exhaustion. Of the September arrivals, 1140 (about 25%) died in the first six months. [8] [32] [35] BIIb was only 600 by 150 metres (1,970 by 490 ft), "a narrow, muddy strip surrounded by an electric fence", in the words of the Terezín Initiative. [9] Unlike other Jewish prisoners at Auschwitz, they were allowed to receive packages, which they received from the ICRC in Switzerland, as well as friends and relatives in the Czech lands. However, few packages reached their intended recipients, having been stolen by the SS. [36] [37] A few children were born at the camp. [38] Sanitary conditions were particularly poor, since there were only three latrines, each with three concrete slabs with 132 holes. The latrines were also used as clandestine meeting places for families, as it was the only place to get away from the SS. [36]

Although BIIb was only a few hundred meters from the gas chambers and crematoria, these were not actually visible from the section. [10] [39] Of the 32 barracks, 28 were used for housing barracks 30 and 32 were infirmaries 31 was the children's barracks and one barrack was used for a weaving factory in which women were forced to sew machine-gun belts. Women were housed in odd numbered barracks and men in even numbered barracks, which were located opposite the path that led down the center of the section. When the September transports arrived, the barracks were not complete, and most inmates worked inside the camp on construction. Prisoners were awoken at 5 AM and had thirty minutes to get ready before the Appell (roll call) after work they had only an hour that they were allowed to spend with their families before the evening roll call. [40] Because the women in the camp were not shaved and wore better clothing, they were more attractive to SS guards, and some coerced relationships developed. [25]

Hirsch persuaded Arno Böhm to allocate a barracks, Block 31, for children younger than fourteen, and became the overseer of this barracks. [36] [41] In this arrangement, the children lived with their parents at night and spent the day at the special barracks. Hirsch persuaded the guards that it would be in their interest to have the children learn German. [42] Based on the children's homes at Theresienstadt, Hirsch organized an education system intended to preserve the children's morale. Children were awoken early for breakfast and calisthenics, and received six hours of instruction daily in small groups, segregated by age, [43] [44] led by teachers recruited from youth workers at Theresienstadt. The subjects taught included history, music, and Judaism, in Czech, as well as a few German phrases to recite at inspections. [36] [42]

Because there were only twelve books and almost no supplies, the teachers had to recite lessons from memory, [36] [42] often based on imagination and storytelling. [45] The children's lack of education [46] —they had been excluded from school even before their deportation [47] —made their task more difficult. [46] A chorus rehearsed regularly a children's opera was performed and supplies were scrounged in order to decorate the walls of the barracks, which were painted with Disney characters by Dina Gottliebová. [48] [49] [50] A production of Five Minutes in Robinson's Kingdom, an Czech adaptation of Robinson Crusoe written by one of the carers, was rehearsed and performed. [49] [51] Children played concentration camp-related games, such as "Lagerältester and Blockältester", "Appell" (roll call), and even "gas chamber". [50] [52] Because the block was so orderly, it was shown off to SS men who worked in other parts of the camp. [46] SS men who directly participated in the extermination process, especially Josef Mengele, visited frequently and helped organize better food for the children. [49] [53]

Using his influence with the Germans, Hirsch obtained better food for the children, including food parcels addressed to prisoners who had died. [49] [54] The soup for the children was thicker than for other prisoners allegedly it was from the Gypsy camp and contained semolina. [55] SS men provided the children with sugar, jam, and occasionally even white bread or milk. [49] [56] He also convinced the Germans to hold roll call inside the barracks, so the children were spared the hours-long ordeal of standing outside in all weather. [57] After the arrival of the December transport, there were about 700 children in the family camp. [50] Hirsch was able to obtain a second barracks for children aged three to eight so that the older children could prepare a performance of Snow White, which the SS had requested [58] it was performed on 23 January with many SS men, including Mengele, in attendance. [49] [59] By imposing strict discipline on the children, Hirsch made sure that there were no acts of violence or theft, otherwise common in concentration camps. [54] He required that the children perform calisthenics each morning and organized soccer and softball games. [49] Hirsch's strictness about the children's hygiene—he insisted that they wash daily even in the frigid winter of 1943–44 and carried out regular inspections for lice [57] [60] —reduced mortality rates almost no children died before the liquidation. [54]

Hirsch, who died in the first liquidation of 8–9 March, had appointed Josef Lichtenstein as his successor the educators attempted to restore a sense of normality to the remaining children despite their knowledge of what would happen to them. In April 1944, children celebrated an improvised Passover Seder. A mixed choir of 300 children and adults sang sections of Ludwig van Beethoven's Symphony No. 9, including the lyrics that "all men are brothers". By May, children lived separately from their parents. [61] [62]

First liquidation Edit

In February 1944, a delegation visited from the Reich Main Security Office and the German Red Cross. The visitors were most interested in the children's barracks, the only attempt to organize education at Auschwitz. The most notable visitor, Adolf Eichmann, commented favorably about the cultural activity of the children at Birkenau. [63] [64] The Auschwitz resistance informed Hirsch and other leaders at the family camp in advance that liquidation was imminent. [58] [65] Before the liquidation, there were about 8,000 surviving prisoners in the family camp, of whom the September arrivals were a bit less than half. [66]

The commandant of Auschwitz II-Birkenau, SS-Obersturmführer Johann Schwarzhuber, visited the camp on 5 March and told the September arrivals that they were soon to be transported to Heydebreck to found a new labor camp. The prisoners were ordered to fill in postcards dated 25 March for their relatives in Theresienstadt the postdating was a routine practice allowing for the time required for censorship. In these letters, they requested that their relatives send them packages with food. [63] [67] On 6 March, Schwarzhuber ordered the registration of all September prisoners for assignment to work details the heads of each detail were even appointed. Contradictory rumors circulated, either that the prisoners would all be killed or that the Nazi promises were real. The next day, the SS ordered the prisoners to stay in their barracks after the morning Appell to separate the September from December arrivals. In the meantime, the prisoners of the adjacent quarantine block (BIIa) were removed, except for an Austrian doctor, Otto Wolken, and the block clerk, Rudolf Vrba. [68]

From the family camp, first the men and later the women were moved to the quarantine block they were allowed to bring all belongings and it appears most were deceived into thinking this was simply another move. [69] [70] December prisoners aided the elderly and ill during the move, which was completed by 17:00. Patients in the infirmary were not moved to the quarantine block because the Nazis wanted to maintain the deception and avoid panic. [71] [72] Erich Kulka managed to hide his wife and son Otto Dov Kulka there, saving their lives. [73] Some SS men also saved their Jewish girlfriends by moving them temporarily to other parts of the camp. [74]

Vrba visited Hirsch on the morning of 8 March to inform him about the preparations for the liquidation of the family camp and to urge him to lead an uprising. [75] Hirsch asked for an hour to think, and when Vrba returned, Hirsch was in a coma. It is disputed if he committed suicide, or was poisoned by doctors who had been promised survival by Mengele. [76] [77] The Nazis entered the quarantine block to remove eleven pairs of twins (for use in Nazi human experimentation), doctors, and the artist Dina Gottliebová on the afternoon of 8 March. [50] [78] About 60 [25] or 70 [35] [36] people from the September transports were not killed 38 of these survived the war. [10] At 8 PM on 8 March, a strict curfew was imposed and the quarantine block was surrounded by half a company of SS men and their dogs. Two hours later, twelve covered trucks arrived and the men were ordered to board them. They left their belongings behind, assured that the possessions would be transported separately. In order to maintain the deception, the trucks turned right, towards the train station, instead of left, towards the gas chambers. After the men were driven to Crematorium III, the women were trucked to Crematorium II. [50] [79] This process took several hours when frightened Jews in one barracks began to sing at 2 AM, the SS fired warning shots at them. Even the undressing rooms were camouflaged so that the Jews did not realize their fate until they were given the order to undress. [79] According to Sonderkommando prisoners, they sang the Czech national anthem, Hatikvah, and the Internationale before entering the gas chambers. [9] [79] In total, 3,791 [50] [79] or 3,792 [80] people were murdered.

Further developments Edit

After the liquidation, the remaining prisoners expected that they would be murdered in a similar fashion. [9] By this time, it was evident to the prisoners that the Germans were going to lose the war and some hoped for a swift Allied victory before their six months had elapsed. [58] [65] The caretakers of the children continued with the lessons only to give them one more day of happiness and distract the children from their eventual fate. [81] According to survivor Hanna Hoffman, the rate of suicide increased as the date of liquidation approached for the December arrivals people killed themselves by approaching the electric wire, at which point they were usually shot by SS guards. [82] One notable event during this period was the escape of Siegfried Lederer, a Czech Jew and block elder in the family camp, with Viktor Pestek, a Romanian Volksdeutscher SS guard, on 7 April. Lederer attempted to alert the outside world to the plight of prisoners in the family camp and to organize armed resistance at Theresienstadt, but both efforts failed. [83] [84]

News reports Edit

The family camp was mentioned in an article on page nine of the Jewish Chronicle in London on 25 February 1944: "There are also 7,000 Czechoslovak Jews in the camp. They had been deported to Birkenau last summer." [85] On 9 June, the official newspaper of the Polish government-in-exile reported prominently that 7,000 Czech Jews had been murdered in the gas chambers at Auschwitz, and that they had been forced to write postdated postcards to their families. [86] These allegations were confirmed days later by the dissemination of the Vrba–Wetzler report, which provided more detail on the Jews in the family camp and their fate. [87] On 14 June, Jaromír Kopecký, a Czechoslovak diplomat in Switzerland, passed a copy of the report to the ICRC the report mentioned the first liquidation of the family camp and that the remaining detainees were scheduled to be murdered on 20 June. [88]

The Czechoslovak government-in-exile pressed the BBC and American radio to publicize news of the family camp in the hope of preventing the murder of the remaining inmates. [10] [88] The BBC European Service broadcast the information on its German service's women's programme on 16 June 1944 at noon, warning the Germans that they would be held responsible: [89]

News has reached London that the German authorities in Czechoslovak [sic] have ordered the massacre of 3,000 Czechoslovak Jews in gas chambers at Birkenau on or about June 20th. . 4,000 Czechoslovak Jews who were taken from Theresienstadt to Birkenau in September 1943 were massacred in the gas chambers on March 7th.

The German authorities in Czechoslovakia and their subordinates should know that full information is received in London about the massacres in Birkenau. All those responsible for such massacres from top downwards will be called to account. [89]

Michael Fleming writes that there was probably a broadcast before 16 June too, because the BBC's news directive that day said: "Report again our warning the Germans about the massacres of Czech Jews." [90] According to Polish historian Danuta Czech, these reports probably delayed the liquidation of the camp until July. [91]

ICRC visit Edit

In November 1943, the ICRC had requested permission to visit Theresienstadt. [92] In preparation for the visit, the SS ran a "beautification" program that included deporting an additional 7,503 people to Auschwitz in May 1944 to ease overcrowding. [11] Most of the new arrivals were German-speaking only 2,543 were from the Protectorate. [36] [f] These new arrivals were treated in the same way as the earlier arrivals had been, but the family camp became very crowded and there was not time to integrate the new arrivals before the second liquidation. [81] On 23 June 1944, ICRC representative Maurice Rossel and two Danish officials visited Theresienstadt. Their visit was carefully choreographed by the SS, and Rossel reported erroneously that Theresienstadt was the final destination of deported Jews. As a result, according to Kárný and Kulka, the ICRC did not press for a visit to Birkenau and the SS no longer had a use for the family camp. [10] [93]

Second liquidation Edit

Late in June, the December arrivals expected to be taken away to be murdered, but nothing happened, except to relatives of Jakob Edelstein, who were removed. [81] On 20 June, Edelstein witnessed the murder of his family before being killed himself. [10] [94] [95] The summer of 1944 was the height of mass murder at Auschwitz, and the liquidation of the family camp coincided with the murder of more than 300,000 Hungarian Jews from May to early July 1944. [96] [97]

The increasing need for labor for the German war industry prevented the later transports from being completely liquidated as people of the September transports had been. [98] On 1 [61] [99] or 2 [100] July, Mengele returned to the camp and began to conduct a selection. The prisoners stripped to the waist and passed one-by-one past SS doctors. Healthy individuals between the ages of 16 and 45 were selected to live and removed to other parts of the camp. SS men forced girls and women to undress and jump up and down to prove their fitness many claimed to possess useful skills such as gardening or sewing. Mothers could live if they separated from their children, but, according to Ruth Bondy, almost all chose to remain behind. Some older children got through the selection by lying about their age or returning to be selected a second time after being sent to the left. Others chose to remain behind with their parents. [101]

Later, Johann Schwarzhuber held a selection in the boys' barracks to separate those between fourteen and sixteen years of age, although some younger boys managed to get through. Hermann Langbein credited Fredy Hirsch for posthumously bringing this about, stating that the SS visits to the children's block had caused them to become sympathetic to the children. Even brutal SS guards who were later convicted of murder tried to spare the children's lives, because they had attended the theater performances. Otto Dov Kulka, then eleven, was saved by Fritz Buntrock, a guard notorious for beating inmates. [102] About eighty [100] or ninety boys were selected to live. [103] However, efforts by SS guard Stefan Baretzki and others to spare some of the girls were blocked by the SS physician Franz Lucas. [104] In all, about 3,500 people were removed from BIIb [10] the remaining 6,500 inmates were murdered in the gas chambers between 10 and 12 July 1944. [10]

Of those who survived the selection, 2,000 women were sent to Stutthof concentration camp or camps near Hamburg while 1,000 men were sent to Sachsenhausen. [100] The boys remained at Auschwitz, in block BIId of the men's camp. [105] Two-thirds later died by extermination through labor or during the death marches [10] only 1,294 prisoners of the family camp survived the war. [9] In September and October 1944, the block was used to house Polish prisoners who had been transported from a transit camp in Pruszków, mostly civilians captured during the Warsaw uprising. From November, it housed female prisoners from BIb. [50] [106]

The liquidation of the camp on 8–9 March was the largest mass murder of Czechoslovak citizens during World War II. However, for many years the story of the family camp was almost unknown outside the Czech Jewish community, receiving much less attention than crimes against non-Jewish Czechs, such as the Lidice massacre. [107] Some survivors claimed that the liquidation had actually occurred on 7 March, on the birthday of Czech statesman Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, or even that the SS had chosen the date for that reason. However, the fact that the event actually occurred on 8 March is "indisputable" according to Kárný, who doubted that the SS commandant would have known about Masaryk's birthday. [6] On the fiftieth anniversary of the crime, the Terezín Initiative organized an international conference, publishing the conference papers as a book. [g] In 2017, the Parliament of the Czech Republic officially recognized 9 March as a commemoration of the massacre. [108] [109] [h]

Reflecting on the final selection at the family camp, Israeli psychologist Deborah Kuchinsky and other survivors commented that instead of teaching children decency and generosity, the educators should have taught their charges to lie, cheat, and steal in order to survive. [101] The family camp has been the focus of several literary memoirs by child survivors, including Ruth Klüger's Still Alive, Gerhard Durlacher [de fy it nl] 's Stripes in the Sky, and Otto Dov Kulka's Landscapes of the Metropolis of Death. [73] [110]

Source: Adler (2017, pp. 613–614, 616) and Czech (1990, pp. 483, 548, 551, 627–628) unless otherwise specified.

Departure Arrival Transport code Number of prisoners Survivors
6 September 1943 8 September Dl 2479 38 [10]
6 September 1943 8 September Dm 2528 [d]
15 December 1943 16 December Dr [111] 2504 262
18 December 1943 20 December Ds [111] 2503 [e] 443
15 May 1944 16 May Dz 2503 119
16 May 1944 17 May Ea 2500 5
18 May 1944 19 May Eb 2500 [f] 261
Total 17,517 1,294 [9]

  1. ^ Prior to the 26 October 1942 transport, 42,005 Theresienstadt prisoners had been deported to ghettos and extermination, especially the Minsk Ghetto, Treblinka, and the Lublin Reservation (from which most were sent to Bełżec and Sobibór). [2] Only 356 of these deportees survived. [3] After 26 October, 46,101 people were deported from Theresienstadt to Auschwitz and only 90 to other camps. [2]
  2. ^ Early in 1943, Swiss diplomat Anton Feldscher forwarded a British proposal to the German Foreign Office to allow 5,000 Jewish children to relocate from the General Government to Palestine via Sweden. Himmler agreed to this in principle but demanded the release of young German prisoners of war, which the Allied governments could not agree to, so the proposal was shelved. [14] Simultaneously, the Working Group, an underground Jewish organization in the Slovak State, was engaged in large-scale efforts to bribe Nazi officials into allowing the rescue of Jews. [15] According to Bauer, it is possible that the family camp was connected with the efforts of Feldscher or the Working Group, and the circumstantial evidence suggests this, but there is no proof. [7]
  3. ^Miroslav Kárný observes that the SS did not stop the operation of the gas chambers for the 29 September 1944 visit of ICRC representative Maurice Rossel to Auschwitz I. On that day, more than 1,000 people were gassed and their bodies subsequently cremated Rossel later said that he did not notice. [10]
  4. ^ ab From the September transports, one person died in transit. The remaining 2,293 men and 2,713 women were given the numbers 146694–148986 and 58471–61183 respectively. [23] Of the deportees, 918 were older than 60 and 290 children younger than 15 years. [12]
  5. ^ ab Of the 5,007 people deported in December, 43 died on the Holocaust trains before arriving at Auschwitz. [4] 2,491 people arrived at Auschwitz on 16 December 981 males were assigned the numbers 168154–169134 while 1,510 females were assigned the numbers 70513–72019 and 72028–72030. [27] 2,473 prisoners arrived on 20 December: 1,137 males, who were assigned the numbers 169969–171105 and 1,336 females, who were assigned the numbers 72435–73700. [28]
  6. ^ ab Victims from the 15 May transport were given the numbers A-76–A-842 (to 707 men and boys) and A-15–A-999 and A-2000–A-2750 (to 1,736 women and girls). The 16 May transport was given the numbers A-843–A-1418 (the 576 men and boys) and A-1000–A-1999 and A-2751–A-3621 (the 1,871 women and girls). The third transport received the numbers A-1445–A-2506 (the 1,062 men and boys) and A-3642–A-5078 (the 1,437 women and girls). [112] The composition of the three May transports:
  • By age: 511 children fourteen and younger, 3601 adults up to sixty, 3,391 elderly
  • By nationality: 3,125 German Jews, 2,543 Czech Jews, 1,276 Austrian Jews, 559 Dutch Jews.
  1. ^Jahn 2007, p. 112.
  2. ^ abAdler 2017, p. 45.
  3. ^Kárný 1999, p. 9.
  4. ^ abcdefghJahn 2007, p. 113.
  5. ^Adler 2017, p. 46.
  6. ^ abKárný 1999, p. 12.
  7. ^ abBauer 1994, p. 114.
  8. ^ abcBondy 2002, p. 2.
  9. ^ abcdefgTerezín Initiative 2011.
  10. ^ abcdefghijklmnoKárný 1994.
  11. ^ abAdler 2017, p. 123.
  12. ^ abcdefghKárný 1999, p. 10.
  13. ^Bauer 1994, pp. 114, 118–119.
  14. ^Bauer 1994, p. 113.
  15. ^Bauer 1994, p. 80.
  16. ^ abKeren 1998, p. 429.
  17. ^Yad Vashem 2018.
  18. ^Adler 2017, p. 116.
  19. ^Bondy 2002, p. 1.
  20. ^Adler 2017, pp. 41–42.
  21. ^Kárný 1999, pp. 10–11.
  22. ^Adler 2017, p. 48.
  23. ^Czech 1990, p. 483.
  24. ^Piper 2009, p. 210.
  25. ^ abcTsur 1994, p. 137.
  26. ^Paldiel 2017, p. 386.
  27. ^Czech 1990, p. 548.
  28. ^Czech 1990, p. 551.
  29. ^Kárný 1999, p. 11.
  30. ^Adler 2017, pp. 129–130.
  31. ^Kulka 1965, p. 187.
  32. ^ abStrzelecka & Setkiewicz 1999, pp. 112–114.
  33. ^Hájková 2018.
  34. ^Langbein 2005, p. 174.
  35. ^ abLangbein 2005, p. 47.
  36. ^ abcdefgJahn 2007, p. 114.
  37. ^Kulka 1965, pp. 187–188.
  38. ^Langbein 2005, p. 236.
  39. ^Kulka 1967, p. 198.
  40. ^Jahn 2007, pp. 113–114.
  41. ^Keren 1998, pp. 430–431.
  42. ^ abcBondy 2002, p. 4.
  43. ^Paldiel 2017, pp. 387–388.
  44. ^Keren 1998, p. 430.
  45. ^Paldiel 2017, p. 387.
  46. ^ abcLangbein 2005, p. 245.
  47. ^Bondy 2002, p. 9.
  48. ^Nendza & Hoffmann 2017, p. 31.
  49. ^ abcdefgPaldiel 2017, p. 388.
  50. ^ abcdefgJahn 2007, p. 115.
  51. ^Keren 1998, p. 435.
  52. ^Keren 1998, pp. 437–438.
  53. ^Langbein 2005, p. 353.
  54. ^ abcBondy 2002, p. 8.
  55. ^Nendza & Hoffmann 2017, p. 29.
  56. ^Keren 1998, p. 431.
  57. ^ abBondy 2002, p. 6.
  58. ^ abcLangbein 2005, p. 246.
  59. ^Bondy 2002, p. 10.
  60. ^Keren 1998, p. 432.
  61. ^ abPaldiel 2017, p. 390.
  62. ^Keren 1998, pp. 436–437, 439.
  63. ^ abKulka 1965, p. 188.
  64. ^Czech 1990, p. 591.
  65. ^ abBondy 2002, pp. 2–3.
  66. ^Kárný 1999, p. 16.
  67. ^Kárný 1999, pp. 15–16.
  68. ^Kárný 1999, pp. 16–17.
  69. ^Lasik 2000, p. 228.
  70. ^Czech 1990, p. 593.
  71. ^Kárný 1999, p. 17.
  72. ^Fleming 2014, p. 366.
  73. ^ abHájková 2014.
  74. ^Tsur 1994, p. 139.
  75. ^Paldiel 2017, p. 389.
  76. ^Bondy 2002, p. 13.
  77. ^Kárný 1999, pp. 30–31.
  78. ^Kárný 1999, p. 18.
  79. ^ abcdCzech 1990, p. 595.
  80. ^Kárný 1999, p. 19.
  81. ^ abcBondy 2002, p. 14.
  82. ^Langbein 2005, p. 124.
  83. ^Kárný 1997, pp. 169, 171.
  84. ^Keren 1998, p. 437.
  85. ^Fleming 2014, p. 199.
  86. ^Fleming 2014, pp. 214–215.
  87. ^Fleming 2014, pp. 215–216.
  88. ^ abFleming 2014, pp. 231–232.
  89. ^ abFleming 2014, pp. 215, 366, note 190, citing the BBC Written Archives Centre (BBC WAC), C165, 16 June 1944.
  90. ^Fleming 2014, pp. 215, 366, note 191, citing BBC WAC, E2/131/17, 16 June 1944.
  91. ^Milland 1998, p. 218.
  92. ^Farré & Schubert 2009, p. 70.
  93. ^Blodig & White 2012, p. 181.
  94. ^Rothkirchen 2006, p. 261.
  95. ^Adler 2017, p. 130.
  96. ^Langbein 2005, p. xi.
  97. ^Bauer 1994, p. 156.
  98. ^Kárný 1997, p. 172.
  99. ^Keren 1998, p. 439.
  100. ^ abcCzech 1990, p. 656.
  101. ^ abBondy 2002, p. 15.
  102. ^Langbein 2005, pp. 83, 247, 324, 358, 424.
  103. ^Bondy 2002, p. 16.
  104. ^Langbein 2005, p. 357.
  105. ^Czech 1990, p. 660.
  106. ^Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum 2004.
  107. ^Frankl 2013, pp. 166–167.
  108. ^Kropáčková & Svoboda 2018.
  109. ^ abCzech News Agency 2017.
  110. ^Gaita 2013.
  111. ^ abTerezín Initiative 2016.
  112. ^Czech 1990, pp. 627–628.
  113. ^Adler 2017, p. 616.
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Yad Vashem's database entries for transports Dl (6 September 1943), Dm (6 September 1943), Dr (15 December 1943), Ds (18 December 1943), Dz (15 May 1944), Ea (16 May 1944), and Eb (18 May 1944), including links to passenger lists.


Yes, the Allies Had Multiple Chances to Bomb Auschwitz

Many historians have wondered ever since, “Why wasn’t Auschwitz bombed by the Allies?” This is one of the most controversial and hotly debated topics among historians who study World War II. Did the Allies know about Auschwitz? If so, could it have been bombed or was it too far away? Would bombing Auschwitz have taken away from the war effort? Lastly, if it was possible, would it have been effective or would it have done more harm than good?

In considering the feasibility of bombing Auschwitz, one needs to know if the Western governments knew about the world’s largest killing center. The answer is a definitive yes. As historian Tami Davis Biddle has discovered, the first report about Auschwitz was made as early as January 1941—only six months after it had opened and before the gas chambers were installed. A report from the Polish underground was sent to the Polish government in exile in London, where it was forwarded on to Sir Charles Portal, the chief of the British Royal Air Force. The report said Auschwitz was one of the Nazis’ “worst orgainized (sic) and most inhuman concentration camps.”

In November 1942, the Polish underground reported to the Polish government in London that tens of thousands of Jews and Soviet POWs were shipped to Auschwitz “for the sole purpose of their immediate extermination in gas chambers.”

The American public was first introduced to the horrors of Auschwitz on November 25, 1942, when the New York Times published an article on page 10 that stated, “Trainloads of adults and children [are] taken to great crematoriums at Oswiencim [Auschwitz], near Cracow.” In March 1943, the Directorate of Civilian Resistance in Poland reported that 3,000 people a day were being burned in a new crematorium at Auschwitz.

Another report, from a Polish agent codenamed Wanda, was given to the American military attaché in London in January 1944. She claimed, “Children and women are put into cars and lorries and taken to the gas chamber…. There they are suffocated with the most horrible suffering lasting ten to fifteen minutes…. At present, three large crematoria have been erected in Birkenau-Brzezinka for 10,000 people daily which are ceaselessly cremating bodies.”

On March 21, 1944, the Polish Ministry of Information released a report to the Associated Press that “more than 500,000 persons, mostly Jews, had been put to death at a concentration camp” at Auschwitz. The report stated that most had been killed in gas chambers “but since the supply of gas was limited some persons are not dead when they are thrown into the crematorium.” The story was printed in both the Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post.

In April 1944, two men, Rudolf Vrba and Alfred Wetzler, managed to escape from Auschwitz. They in turn gave a detailed report of the camp, including maps and locations of the gas chambers and crematoria, to the Slovakian government. The report was forwarded to British intelligence, and its contents were broadcast over BBC radio in June 1944.

It was also discovered after the war that by the time Auschwitz had been liberated the Allies had photographed the camp at least 30 times during the course of the war. The photos, taken by the U.S. Army Air Forces, were stored at the Mediterranean Allied Photo Reconnaissance Wing in Italy, which was commanded by President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s son, Colonel Elliott Roosevelt. Some photos even showed inmates being marched to the gas chambers.

Were the Allies capable of bombing Auschwitz?

Once again, the answer is yes. In November 1943, the U.S. Army Air Forces (USAAF) created the Fifteenth Air Force based in Foggia, Italy. Auschwitz, which was 625 miles away in southwestern Poland, was finally within range of American Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress and Consolidated B-24 Liberator heavy bombers.

By May 1944, the USAAF had begun attacking the Third Reich’s synthetic oil plants located in Germany, Poland, and Romania. The goal was to bring Hitler’s war machine to a halt. On August 8, 1944, a raid numbering 55 bombers from the U.S. Eighth Air Force flew from airfields in the Soviet Union and dropped more than 100 tons of bombs on an oil refinery at Trzebinia, which was approximately 20 miles northeast of Auschwitz.

Two weeks later, on August 20, the Fifteenth Air Force attacked the I.G. Farben synthetic fuel refinery at Auschwitz, which was less than seven miles from the gas chambers. On September 13, a raid numbering 94 B-24 bombers dropped 236 tons of bombs again on the oil refinery at Auschwitz. A photo taken during this raid by an American bomber crew actually shows the gas chambers and crematoria underneath the falling 500-pound bombs. This compelling image was created because bomber crews were required to release their bombloads while accounting for airspeed, windage, and distance to the intended target to achieve maximum accuracy.

As historian Rondall Rice has written, “The evidence clearly shows the Fifteenth Air Force’s ability to bomb Auschwitz, in aircraft and in command discretion within the target priorities. By the summer of 1944, the command controlled ample aircraft those aircraft had sufficient range and payloads necessary for such a mission and bombing directives allowed commanders flexibility to direct attacks against special targets.”

Would bombing Auschwitz have detracted from the war effort?

In June 1944, John W. Pehle, the executive director of the War Refugee Board, appealed to the U.S. government to bomb the railways leading into Auschwitz. In July, Johan J. Smertenko, the executive vice chairman of the Emergency Committee to Save the Jewish People of Europe, sent a letter to President Roosevelt asking him to bomb the extermination camps, especially the “poison gas chambers of [the] Auschwitz and Birkenau camps.”

That August, A. Leon Kubowitzki, the head of the rescue department of the World Jewish Congress, asked the U.S. government to destroy the gas chambers “by bombing.”

The U.S government rejected all of these requests to bomb Auschwitz. Assistant Secretary of War John J. McCloy replied in letters dated July 4 and August 14, “Such an operation could be executed only by the diversion of considerable air support essential to the success of our forces now engaged in decisive operations elsewhere.”

In other words, with the D-Day invasion having occurred at the beginning of June 1944, the United States could not spare any aircraft to bomb Auschwitz as their main goal was to defeat the German Army in France. The U.S government believed that the best way to save the Jewish people being murdered at Auschwitz was to defeat the German Army and force Hitler to surrender.

However, American historian Stuart Erdheim has questioned the validity of McCloy’s assertion. Erdheim believes that the gas chambers and crematoria at Auschwitz could have been destroyed in one strategic strike using 100 planes. Erdheim writes, “Viewed against the backdrop of the Fifteenth AF operations, just how ‘considerable’ would one raid of 80 fighters (half for escort) or 100 bombers (with escort) have been?… With the average number of sorties per day between 500 and 650, one mission of 80 fighter sorties represents one-seventh to one-eighth of one day’s total missions.” As Erdheim concludes, “The scale of such an air attack would not have affected the war effort in any appreciable way.”

Historian Richard G. Davis agrees with Erdheim. He states that the destruction of the extermination facilities at Auschwitz, however, would probably have required “a minimum of four missions of approximately seventy-five effective heavy bomber sorties each.” He states that in both July and August 1944, the American Fifteenth Air Force flew approximately 10,700 heavy bomber sorties per month. Davis writes, “Even if one assumes that the three hundred sorties … would all have come at the direct expense of the Fifteenth’s highest-priority target, the German oil supply, the effort expended on Birkenau would have amounted to about seven percent of that effort.”

Davis concludes that “three hundred sorties and 900 tons of bombs, or even twice that number, would not have been a substantial diversion of this total effort.”

The question then is whether bombing Auschwitz would have taken away from the war effort and thereby prolonged the war. The answer, according to Erdheim and Davis, is an emphatic no.

One of the arguments against bombing Auschwitz is that it would have probably killed many inmates in the process. In essence, the Allies would be just as guilty as the Nazis for killing innocent prisoners. However, many historians feel that an attack on the crematoria at Auschwitz would have been successful and should have been attempted. Using precision bombing to attack a concentration camp would have been difficult, but not impossible. In fact a precedent had been set when the U.S. Eighth Air Force attacked the Gustloff ammunition works located beside the German concentration camp at Buchenwald on August 24, 1944.

According to the Buchenwald report, the attack “completely destroyed” the armaments factory “in one single, well aimed blow.” Even though prisoners were killed in the attack, this was not because of errant bombs but because the prisoners were working in the factory areas and were not allowed to retreat to the safety of the concentration camp. In fact, one prisoner said, “The Allied pilots in particular did all they could in order not to hit prisoners. The high number of prisoners killed is to be charged exclusively against the debit accounts of the Nazi murderers.”

At Auschwitz the Nazis employed four gas chambers underneath four crematoria buildings. Two were located in the northwest corner of the camp, and the other two were in the southwest corner. According to Erdheim, very few inmates, if any at all, would have been killed if the U.S. Fifteenth Air Force had decided to bomb the gas chambers. The prisoners did not live anywhere near the crematoria, but instead their barracks were located east of the gas chambers. Therefore, Erdheim states that any misdropped bombs “would not result in bombs falling in the barracks area, but rather in: (1) open fields north or south of the crematoria (2) the second crematoria of each group and (3) the ‘Canada’ loot storehouse area between the two pairs of crematoria.”

Erdheim also believes that since many of the prisoners were used as forced labor outside of the camp and far away from the crematoria, the chance of killing innocent prisoners was lessened even more.

Rondall Rice writes that if the Fifteenth Air Force had used “a three-bomber front under clear weather, with each bombardier acquiring the target … and in view of the Fifteenth Air Force’s bombing accuracy for August and September 1944, the Allies stood a very good chance of destroying or damaging the Birkenau facilities while limiting the possibility of harm to those their efforts were designed to spare.”

Some historians have argued that bombing the gas chambers and crematoria at Auschwitz would not have mattered. The Nazis would have simply killed the prisoners anyway. However, this is mere conjecture. It took the Nazis eight months to build the crematoria and gas chambers in the first place at the height of Nazi power.

Erdheim writes that to rebuild the crematoria “would have been difficult, if not impossible” in the summer of 1944 with the demands of the war and a lack of skilled labor. Therefore, without crematoria, the Nazis would have had to revert to shooting the inmates and burning the dead bodies in the open air. However, Erdheim believes that “cremation ditches … were hardly a practical alternative due to the problems posed by the humidity as well as the threat of disease. It was for these very reasons, in fact, that Himmler had ordered the crematoria built in the first place.”

Transferring the prisoners to other camps such as Mauthausen and Buchenwald was not feasible as neither of these were extermination camps and they were not “capable of accepting a few hundred thousand inmates on short notice.”

Historian Richard Davis writes, “Given the six to eight weeks needed to accomplish the physical destruction of the gas chambers and crematoria … Auschwitz might have ceased to function by 1 September 1944…. Birkenau ceased its mass killing operations in mid-November 1944. For each and every day prior to this cessation, the complete destruction of its crematoria/gas chamber complexes might have saved more than a thousand lives…. The Allies could have bombed and destroyed Auschwitz. The Allies should have bombed and destroyed Auschwitz.”

If the Allies knew about Auschwitz and were capable of destroying it, then why didn’t it happen? It seems that when Auschwitz finally was within reach of U.S. air power by the late spring of 1944, the Allies were concentrating all their efforts elsewhere. As Tami Davis Biddle has written, “Military planners were consumed by a plethora of immediate war-fighting demands and problems…. The decision for nonaction [against Auschwitz] in the summer and fall of 1944 was made in the swirling vortex of competing wartime priorities…. Auschwitz was a distant and still poorly understood place that did not seem to have the same overriding claim on Allied resources as the Normandy invasion, the battle of France, the Nazis’ V-weapon launch sites, or the ongoing, costly ground battles in Italy.”

In a memo written in late June 1944 after the D-Day invasion, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the supreme Allied commander, listed the targets that the Allied air forces should bomb in order of importance. First were the V-1 and V-2 rocket launch sites and factories. The next priorities were “a. Aircraft industry b. Oil c. Ball bearings d. Vehicular production.” Bombing Auschwitz was not even a consideration.

However, the argument that the American air forces were too busy and overtaxed to bomb Auschwitz is not a wholly convincing one. After the Soviet Red Army had driven to within 10 miles of Warsaw in August 1944, the Polish Home Army rose up in the city and tried to overthrow the Nazi oppressors. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill urged Roosevelt to help the Polish rebels. The next month, as the U.S. Army was struggling to take the port city of Brest, V-2 rockets were slamming into London, and Operation Market-Garden was failing in Holland, the U.S. Eighth Air Force received a new order to fly to Warsaw and drop badly needed supplies to the Home Army, including guns, food, and medicine.

Against the wishes of General Carl “Tooey” Spaatz, the commander-in-chief of the United States Strategic Air Forces in Europe, 107 B-17 Flying Fortress bombers escorted by 137 North American P-51 Mustang fighters left England on September 18, 1944, and flew over Warsaw. After dropping their supplies the planes landed in Poltava in the Ukraine. This mission shows that, contrary to what Assistant Secretary of War McCloy wrote, considerable air support could be diverted from decisive operations elsewhere and still not hinder the success of Allied forces.

Historian Donald L. Miller has asked, “Why were the Warsaw Poles supported, and not the Jews at Auschwitz?” The answer is that the Poles had more influence than the Jews did. As Miller writes, “At the time the Poles had what the Jews did not, a government in London, one with influence with Churchill.”

Historian Henry L. Feingold perhaps comes closest to the truth writing, “The destruction of the Jews of Europe was largely ignored … [because] the Jews of Europe were not fully part of the ‘universe of obligation’ that informs the Western world.” In other words, the Allies felt obligated to help Poles in Warsaw there was no similar obligation to save Jewish women and children dying in gas chambers in Auschwitz.

The Allied governments knew about Auschwitz and what was happening there, Auschwitz was within striking distance of the U.S. Fifteenth Air Force in Italy, bombing Auschwitz would not have diverted substantial resources from the war effort, and the gas chambers more than likely could have been destroyed with minimal casualties. Erdheim concludes, “With the kind of political will and moral courage the Allies exhibited in other missions throughout the war, it is plain that the failure to bomb [Auschwitz] Birkenau, the site of mankind’s greatest abomination, was a missed opportunity of monumental proportions.”

Hugo Gryn was 13 years old when he was sent to Auschwitz. He lost both his mother and his younger brother in the gas chambers. After the war he said, “It was not that the Jews didn’t matter [it was just that] they didn’t matter enough.”

Brent Douglas Dyck is a Canadian teacher and historian. His article, “Hitler’s Stolen Children,” appeared in the December 2013 issue of WWII History.


Holocaust of the Romani (Gypsies)

“Like the Jews, Gypsies were singled out by the Nazis for racial persecution and annihilation. They were `nonpersons,’ of `foreign blood,’ `labor-shy,’ and as such were termed asocials.

To a degree, they shared the fate of the Jews in their ghettos, in the extermination camps, before firing squads, as medical guinea pigs, and being injected with lethal substances. Ironically, the German writer Johann Christof Wagenseil claimed in 1697 that Gypsies stemmed from German Jews.

A more contemporary Nazi theorist believed that `the Gypsy cannot, by reason of his inner and outer makeup ( Konstruktion), be a useful member of the human community.’

The Nuremberg Laws of 1935 aimed at the Jews were soon amended to include the Gypsies. In 1937, they were classified as asocials, second-class citizens, subject to concentration camp imprisonment. As early as 1936, some had been sent to camps.

After 1939, Gypsies from Germany and from the German-occupied territories were shipped by the thousands first to Jewish ghettos in Poland at Warsaw, Lublin, Kielce, Rabka, Zary, Siedlce and others.

It is not known how many were killed by the Einsatzgruppen charged with speedy extermination by shooting. For the sake of efficiency Gypsies were also shot naked, facing their pre-dug graves. According to the Nazi experts, shooting Jews was easier, they stood still, `while the Gypsies cry out, howl, and move constantly, even when they are already standing on the shooting ground.

Some of them even jumped into the ditch before the volley and pretended to be dead.’ The first to go were the German Gypsies 30,000 were deported East in three waves in 1939, 1941 and 1943.

Those married to Germans were exempted but were sterilized, as were their children after the age of twelve. Just how were the Gypsies of Europe `expedited’? Adolf Eichmann, chief strategist of these diabolical logistics, supplied the answer in a telegram from Vienna to the Gestapo:

Regarding transport of Gypsies be informed that on Friday, October 20, 1939, the first transport of Jews will depart Vienna. To this transport 3-4 cars of Gypsies are to be attached. Subsequent trains will depart from Vienna, Mahrisch-Ostrau and Katowice [Poland]. The simplest method is to attach some carloads of Gypsies to each transport. Because these transports must follow schedule, a smooth execution of this matter is expected. Concerning a start in the Altreich [Germany proper] be informed that this will be coming in 3-4 weeks. Eichmann.

Open season was declared on the Gypsies, too. For a while Himmler wished to exempt two tribes and `only’ sterilize them, but by 1942 he signed the decree for all Gypsies to be shipped to Auschwitz. There they were subjected to all that Auschwitz meant, including the medical experiments, before they were exterminated.

Gypsies perished in Dachau, Mauthausen, Ravensbruck and other camps. At Sachsenhausen they were subjected to special experiments that were to prove scientifically that their blood was different from that of the Germans. The doctors in charge of this `research’ were the same ones who had practiced previously on black prisoners of war. Yet, for `racial reasons’ they were found unsuitable for sea water experiments.

Gypsies were often accused of atrocities committed by others they were blamed, for instance, for the looting of gold teeth from a hundred dead Jews abandoned on a Rumanian road. Gypsy women were forced to become guinea pigs in the hands of Nazi physicians.

Among others they were sterilized as `unworthy of human reproduction’ (fortpflanzungsunwuerdig), only to be ultimately annihilated as not worthy of living. … At that, the Gypsies were the luckier ones in Bulgaria, Greece, Denmark and Finland they were spared.

For a while there was a Gypsy Family Camp in Auschwitz, but on August 6,1944, it was liquidated. Some men and women were shipped to German factories as slave labor the rest, about 3,000 women, children and old people, were gassed. No precise statistics exist about the extermination of European Gypsies.

Some estimates place the number between 500,000 and 600,000, most of them gassed in Auschwitz. Others indicated a more conservative 200,000 Gypsy victims of the Holocaust.”

Raul Hilberg, “The Destruction of the European Jews” (Chicago: Quadrangle Books, 1961), p.641 quotation by Staatsrat Turner, chief of the civil administration in Serbia, October 26, 1941, in ibid., p.438

Donald Kenrick and Grattan Puxon, “Destiny of Europe’s Gypsies” (New York: Basic Books, 1972), p.72

Jan Yoors, “Crossing, A Journal of Survival and Resistance in World War II” (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1971), pp. 33-34

Ruzena Bubenickova, et al., “Tabory utrpeni a smrti” (Camps of Martyrdom and Death) (Prague: Svoboda, 1969), pp. 189-190

Simon Wiesenthal, “The Murderers Among Us” (New York: Bantam, 1967) pp. 237-238

Hilberg, pp. 602, 608 the doctors were Hornbeck and Werner Fischer

Julian E. Kulski, “Dying We Live” (New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1979), p.200

Ota Kraus and Erich Kulka, “Tovarna na smrt” (Death Factory) (Prague: Nase vojsko, 1957), p.200

Yoors, p.34 Bubenickova, p. 190

Gilbert, Martin. “The Holocaust, Maps and Photographs” (New York: Mayflower Books, 1978. p.22

Extracted from – “WOMEN IN THE RESISTANCE AND IN THE HOLOCAUST: THE VOICES OF EYEWITNESSES” Edited (and with introduction) by Vera Laska.


Carted off to Auschwitz

Then, on June 14, 1940, Murray was told he was being transferred to work in a sock factory in Germany - which would turn out to be Auschwitz.

He was among the first eight Jews imprisoned at the camp - all of whom made a pact to help each other keep their Jewish identities hidden.

During the horrendous cattle train journey to Auschwitz, crammed in with hundreds of Polish prisoners, Murray witnessed people die around him.

Some lost their senses and collapsed. Others died from the heat or lack of food or oxygen. Before long, there was a pile of bodies in the corner.


Polish children simulate being gassed to death at Auschwitz-themed dance recital

A Polish elementary school held an Auschwitz-themed dance recital featuring children in concentration camp uniforms simulating being gassed to death.

During the event, which was held in the village of Łabunie on December 10, students lay on the floor as a smoke machine sent clouds of fake poison gas into the air, while other students dressed as Nazis, complete with swastika armbands, stood at attention nearby.

Some of the children were are young as seven, according to the Notes from Poland website, which cited several Polish-language press reports about the incident.

The site, which is run by Pedagogical University of Krakow historian Daniel Tilles, quoted a Newsweek Polska report stating that Łabunie’s mayor “told the children that they must defend Latin civilization.”

Another speaker, whose parents died at Auschwitz, was quoted as saying that lawmakers who opposed seeking German reparations deserved to have their heads shaved as if they were Nazi collaborators.

The event marked the renaming of the school as Dzieci Zamojszczyzny (Zamość Children), a reference to Polish children deported by the Nazis, some of whom were forcibly adopted by German families if found to be sufficiently Aryan.

Newsweek Polska reported that “thousands of schools” across the country have held such events, according to Notes from Poland, which called attention to a play in June in which first-graders dressed up in concentration camp uniforms in memory of a Polish priest who was murdered in Auschwitz.

First-grade pupils at a Catholic primary school dressed in Auschwitz prisoner uniforms while others dressed as guards pointed guns at them at a ceremony in a church.

They were recreating the story of Maximilian Kolbe, a Polish priest murdered at Auschwitz https://t.co/msiqA7MNT7 pic.twitter.com/7p0o6AA5lp

&mdash Notes from Poland . (@notesfrompoland) June 21, 2019

After Jews, more Poles died in Auschwitz than any other group.

Since the nationalist Law and Justice Party came to power in 2015, Poland has taken an increasingly hard line against what it sees as efforts to blame the country and its people for German crimes committing during the Second World War.

Critics, however, have accused Warsaw of seeking to revise the history of the Holocaust. This has led to significant tensions between Israel and Poland, with relations reaching a nadir in February with Poland’s decision to pull out of a much-touted diplomatic summit in Jerusalem in response to Foreign Minister Israel Katz’s comment that Poles “suckle anti-Semitism with their mother’s milk.”

However, despite the differences between the two countries, Israel came to Poland’s defense this week after Russian President Vladimir Putin accused the country of instigating the Second World War.

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Auschwitz-Birkenau: Crematoria & Gas Chambers

When larger Jewish transports were sent to Auschwitz concentration camp in the first half of 1942, the Nazis began using - in addition to the first operational gas chamber - two provisional gas chambers set up in farmhouses whose owners had been evicted from the village of Brzezinka.

Jewish men, women, and children, as well as Polish political prisoners selected by physicians in the camp hospital, were killed with poison gas in Bunker No. 1, which was also known as "the little red house" (because of its brick walls). The bunker contained two provisional gas chambers. It operated from the early months of 1942 until the spring and summer of 1943, when four new buildings with gas chambers and crematorium furnaces came into use in Birkenau concentration camp. At that time, Bunker No. 1 was demolished and the adjacent burning pits were filled in and landscaped.

Bunker No. 2

When larger Jewish transports were sent to Auschwitz concentration camp in the first part of 1942, the Nazis began using - in addition to the first operational gas chamber - two provisional gas chambers set up in farmhouses belonging to people who had been expelled from the village of Brzezinka.

Jewish men, women, and children, as well as Polish political prisoners selected by physicians in the camp hospital, were killed with poison gas in Bunker No. 2, which was also known as "the little white house" (because of the color of the plaster covering its walls). The bunker contained four provisional gas chambers, which operated from 1942 four new buildings with gas chambers and crematorium furnaces came into use in Birkenau concentration camp in the spring and summer of 1943. In the period when the Germans needed additional gas chambers for the destruction of the Jews deported from Hungary in 1944, they temporarily put Bunker No. 2 back into operation.

Crematorium II

The Crematorium II building, which contained a gas chamber and furnaces for burning corpses. Several hundred thousand Jewish men, women and children were murdered here with poison gas, and their bodies burned. The bodies of Jewish and non-Jewish prisoners who died in the concentration camp were also burned here. According to calculations by the German authorities, 1,440 corpses could be burned in this crematorium every 24 hours. According to the testimony of former prisoners, the figure was higher.

The gas chamber and Crematorium II functioned from March 1943 through November 1944.

At the end of the war, in connection with the operation intended to remove the evidence of their crimes, the camp authorities ordered the demolition of the furnaces and crematorium building in November 1944. On January 20, 1945, the SS blew up whatever had not been removed.

Crematorium III

The Crematorium III building, which contained a gas chamber and furnaces for burning corpses. Several hundred thousand Jewish men, women and children were murdered here with poison gas, and their bodies burned. The bodies of Jewish and non-Jewish prisoners who died in the concentration camp were also burned here. According to calculations by the German authorities, 1,440 corpses could be burned in this crematorium every 24 hours. According to the testimony of former prisoners, the figure was higher.

The gas chamber and Crematorium III functioned from June 1943 through November 1944.

At the end of the war, in connection with the operation intended to remove the evidence of their crimes, the camp authorities ordered the demolition of the furnaces and crematorium building in November 1944. On January 20, 1945, the SS blew up whatever had not been removed.

Crematorium IV

The Crematorium IV building, which contained a gas chamber and furnaces for burning corpses.

Thousands of Jewish men, women and children were murdered here with poison gas, and their bodies burned.

The bodies of Jewish and non-Jewish prisoners who died in the concentration camp were also burned here. According to calculations by the German authorities, 768 corpses could be burned in this crematorium every 24 hours. According to the testimony of former prisoners, the figure was higher.

The apparatus of mass murder in this building functioned, with interruptions, from March 1943 until October 7, 1944. The building was burned down on the day of the mutiny of the Jewish prisoners from the Sonderkommando.

Crematorium V

The Crematorium V building contained a gas chamber and furnaces for burning corpses. Thousands of Jewish men, women and children were murdered here with poison gas, and their bodies burned.


The horrors of the Kraków-Płaszów concentration camp

'When you saw Göth, you saw death.' Those were the chilling words of Kraków-Płaszów concentration camp survivor Poldek Pfefferberg when he was asked to share his memories of the camp’s psychotic commandant. It was an all-too-fitting description.

Constructed in 1943 on the site of two Jewish cemeteries, Kraków-Płaszów was a dreadful place, even by Nazi concentration camp standards. In charge of the camp was the terrifying, six-foot-four SS-Hauptsturmführer, Amon Göth. Originally from Austria, Göth had joined the SS in 1933. In the years before the war, he remained fiercely loyal to the Nazi cause, eventually fleeing to the Dachau SS training camp in Germany after the party was outlawed in his native Austria.

After the outbreak of the Second World War, Göth gained a reputation as a capable administrator, especially in the rounding up and relocation of Jews in Nazi-occupied territory. This led to him being transferred to the Polish city of Lublin in 1942. There, he helped establish the German extermination camps Treblinka, Sobibór and Bełżec.

Following the construction of these three death camps, it was decided that a new labour camp was needed close to the centre of the city of Kraków, and Göth was chosen as the man to not only oversee its construction, but also to run it. Work began on the camp in the Kraków suburb of Płaszów on the 11th of February 1943 and was completed just one month later.

The camp was to be populated with the Jews of the Kraków ghetto. Established in the Podgórze district of the city in 1941, the ghetto was home to 15,000 Jews at its height, though by the time Göth and his troops arrived to liquidate the ghetto for good on the morning of the 13th of March 1943, these numbers had dropped considerably due to previous ghetto clearances.

The liquidation of the Kraków ghetto was a brutal, inhuman affair. Eight thousand Jews were rounded up and deemed fit to be transferred to use as forced labour at the newly-established Płaszów camp. The rest of the ghetto’s residents – an estimated 2,000 people - who were judged unfit to work were rounded up and murdered in the streets. Any stragglers found after these murders were sent to Auschwitz, where they either died on the journey or were immediately gassed upon arrival.

Göth enjoyed humiliating, torturing and murdering people, and the rules he established in his own little fiefdom were among some of the harshest ever imposed

Now populated with prisoners, Płaszów started out as a slave labour camp before eventually being upgraded to full concentration camp status as the camp grew in size. Daily life in the camp was even more horrendous than in the other camps the Nazis established in their conquered territories, due mainly to the activities of its commandant. Göth enjoyed humiliating, torturing and murdering people, and the rules he established in his own little fiefdom were among some of the harshest ever imposed within the Nazi concentration camp system.

Prisoners could be executed for a whole wealth of reasons, ranging from being found with extra food hidden in their clothes to being related to a prisoner who had attempted to escape. Göth believed in collective punishment and wouldn’t hesitate to execute or severely beat prisoners who hadn’t actually done anything wrong. Executions took place on an almost daily basis on a large hill close to the camp known as Hujowa Górka. Trenches were dug on the hillside and prisoners were forced to stand naked in lines in the trenches where they were shot one after the other in the back of the head. Göth ordered that all prisoners of the camp had to watch these mass executions, including the children who lived in the camp. These children were eventually rounded up and sent off to Auschwitz to be gassed when Göth needed to make some room for incoming prisoners.

It wasn’t just the strict rules Göth imposed on the camp that left prisoners living in a permanent state of fear, however. The commandant’s psychotic behaviour made life in Płaszów almost unbearable. Prisoners who survived the war describe a huge, foul-tempered and often drunken man who liked to shoot at least one person dead every day before he’d had his breakfast.

Seasoned prisoners who knew of the delight Göth took from killing people would scatter and hide when they knew he was near. Those who didn’t hide were always in grave danger of being shot dead on sight. Göth would kill people simply for looking him in the eye he would kill people who he thought were walking around the camp too slowly, shooting them with a high-powered rifle from the window of his office he would kill people for making simple mistakes, such as serving his soup too hot or not cleaning his boots properly. Nobody was safe in the hellish world the commandant created.

And then there were Göth’s dogs. Rolf and Ralf were a Great Dane and a German Shepherd that Göth had personally trained to attack prisoners on command, tearing them limb-from-limb as their screams rang out across the camp. Not even the men who looked after Rolf and Ralf were safe. When Göth began to suspect the dogs preferred one of their handlers over their master, he had the man brought before him and shot.

'As a survivor I can tell you that we are all traumatized people,' recalled Helen Jonas-Rosenzweig, a young woman forced to work as Göth’s maid who witnessed firsthand his appalling sadism. 'Never would I, never, believe that any human being would be capable of such horror, of such atrocities.'

There was, however, a glimmer of hope for the prisoners who lived under Göth’s vile regime. That glimmer took the form of the German-Czech industrialist and Nazi Party member, Oskar Schindler. Schindler had come to Kraków to set up an enamel cookware factory in the Podgórze district of the city in 1939. Initially, he employed Jews at his factory because they were paid substantially less than Polish workers. As a businessman, it made sound financial sense to employ Jews over Poles. It also meant that Schindler was left with much more money to spend on himself and his many influential friends.

However, as the war years went on, Schindler began to realise that the Nazi Party he had once supported was an abomination, and his initial exploitation of a cheap workforce morphed into an overwhelming desire to protect his workers from monsters such as Amon Göth. The industrialist managed to ingratiate himself with Göth by showering him with flattery, gifts and bribes. So good was Schindler at laying on the charm that Göth would go on to believe they were the best of friends. In reality, Schindler despised the sadistic commandant.

Thanks to Schindler’s charm, ingenuity and willingness to hand over increasingly expensive bribes to officials such as Göth, he was able to successfully rescue his workers from being gassed in Auschwitz when the decision was taken to close down Płaszów in late 1944 as the Red Army drew ever closer. Schindler persuaded Göth to let him transfer his workers to a new, supposedly SS-run camp in Brünnlitz in his home state of Bohemia-Moravia. Unaware that Schindler was deceiving him and had no intention of running Brünnlitz as a typical concentration camp, Göth agreed, and Schindler was eventually able to save 1,200 Jews from almost certain death, though not without first having to lay out even more bribes to the commandant of Auschwitz when three hundred of his female workers were sent there instead of Brünnlitz by Göth’s successor.

Amon Göth’s reign of terror in Płaszów came to an end on the 13th of September 1944 when he was arrested and charged with the theft of state property, the mistreatment of prisoners (which was quite an achievement, all things considered) and allowing unauthorized access to camp records. By the time of his dismissal and arrest, thousands of men, women and children had died under his command in what was one of the most needlessly sadistic concentration camp regimes in the entire Nazi empire.

By the time the Red Army rolled into the suburb of Płaszów on the 20th of January, all that was left of this horrifying place of terror and death was a patch of scorched ground.

After Göth’s arrest, the camp passed into the hands of SS-Obersturmführer Arnold Büscher. Though no saint himself, Büscher immediately made life more bearable for the prisoners in his charge by upping their rations and stopping the random hangings and shootings that were a daily feature of camp life under Göth. Kraków-Płaszów was eventually closed in January 1945, with the remaining inmates marched off on foot to Auschwitz, where the majority of them died. The camp was completely dismantled, all bodies were exhumed and burned, and all records destroyed. By the time the Red Army rolled into the suburb of Płaszów on the 20th of January, all that was left of this horrifying place of terror and death was a patch of scorched ground.

And what of the camp’s sadistic commandant? After his arrest, Göth was found by a panel of doctors to be suffering from a mental illness and he was confined to a hospital in the town of Bad Tölz in Bavaria. He was arrested in the town in 1945 by US troops. At the time of his capture he was wearing a German Army uniform and was not immediately identified as an SS officer. However, survivors of Płaszów later identified him and he was tried and found guilty of imprisoning, torturing and killing thousands of people.

Amon Göth was sentenced to death for his crimes. He was hanged in the Montelupich Prison in Kraków on the 13th of September 1945, a short distance from the site of the notorious concentration camp where his sadism and utter lack of humanity had caused so much human suffering. In the annals of Nazi tyranny, Amon Göth was truly one of the regime’s greatest monsters.


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