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At the mention of the word ‘Auschwitz’ eyebrows become raised as the noun carries with it great significance as far as history is concerned. Just as history denotes a continuous, systematic narrative of past events that concerns a specific people, country and period, history of Auschwitz means the systematic narrative of past events regarding the same. The term Auschwitz is used to refer to a network of Nazi concentration which was formed near the city Oswiecim. According to Olga, Auschwitz brings up feelings of terror, implications of genocide and the holocaust. The notice should be taken that the network herein was divided into three main areas, developed in the year 1940 and was in operation till the time when Allied liberation occurred in 1945. This day, at the Auschwitz site there is the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum which is characterized by partial destructions that were caused by the Nazi’s who were retreating in 1945. Records at this site indicate that there were systematic killings that were guided by the German SS that are estimated at 960,000 being Jews, 74,000 Poles, 21,000 Romans, 15,000 prisoners that were Soviet and a minimum of 10,000 people from other nations. The site is established as a museum to make it clear to the generations what happened. This pape therefore seeks to explore the history of Auschwitz in relation to its origin, formation and the purpose to it, operations and its liberation.
Auschwitz was formed in the year 1940 as the largest Nazi concentration and death camp and was established at the southern Poland on the former military base near Krakow. When the camp was being constructed factories that were in the neighbourhood were appropriated and families and individuals that were living in the nearby areas were evicted to pave way for the said development. It was used as a centre for detention of political prisoners in the first instance and later developed into clusters of camps that worked towards exterminating the Jews and other people that were considered enemies of the Nazi state. According to Laura These enemies were in most cases confined in gas chambers and they were used for provision of slave labour. Moreover, they were also used as specimens for barbaric medical experiments that were championed by Josef Mengele (1911-79).
Rudolph Hoss-the first commandant of Auschwitz in April 1940 selected Silesian of Oswiecim in Poland as an area for establishment of the concentration camp. The object for the formation of the cap was major to intimidate the Poles so that their resistance to the German rule would be suppressed. The camp would be used as a prison for confiding those who would try to resist the German rule. It was intended to be a pillar of the policy that would be implemented to re-colonize Upper Silesia. So the plans were well organized and when they were approved, the Nazi’s resorted to changing the name to Auschwitz.
Following the above happenings, more than one million people died at Auschwitz during the Second World War of 1939-1945 (Laura 2006). Then the emergence of the Soviet army led to the issuance of an order by the Nazi officials to abandon the camp and a subsequent sending of approximately 60,000 prisoners to march forcibly to other locations.
Auschwitz- the origin of death camps
Adolf Hitler (1889-1945), a Germany Chancellor who ruled between 1933 and 1945 after the commencement of the Second World War led the implementation of a policy referred to as the ‘Final Solution’ He was committed to ensuring that the Jews were isolated in Germany as well as countries that were annexed by the Nazis, forcing them to abide by regulations that disrespected human rights and even acts of violence. Hitler believed that the problems that he had regarding the Jews would be done away with by evicting all of them including artists, teachers, communists, homosexuals, those who opposed Nazi activists, resistance members, the people who are faced with metal and physical challenges as well as all other individuals that were considered not to be fit to survive in the Nazi Germany.
It is stated that in 1944 some Auschwitz “Sonderkommando”-the youthful male Jews that were charged with the duty of removing corpses from the crematoriums and gas chambers put up a revolt. They carried out several destructive acts ranging from assaulting guards, use of tools and makeshift explosives to demolishing a crematorium. Hitler issued an order to the effect that death camps be constructed immediately. However, these camps were not put up for the purposes like those of the concentration camps but they existed for the major purpose of killing the Jews and the rest of people considered to be unfit for survival. This process was known as the Holocaust.
The first commandant to the said camp was known as Rudolf Hoss (1900-47) who earlier on managed Sachsehausen construction camp in Oranienburg in Germany. The Final Solution initiated by Hitler became official Nazi policy and Auschwitz the perfect location for the death camp. This camp was set up next to the centre of all countries that were occupied by Germans on the continent of Europe. Also, the centre was located in an area that was within reach of rail lines that were then used for transportation of detainees to all bother camps of Nazi.
Expansion of the camp
In March 1941, Himmler visited Auschwitz and issued a command that it be expanded to have a capacity of prisoners to the tune of 30,000. In doing this, the camp was located at the centre with convenient transport network that was enhanced by ensuring that access to the rail lines was easy so as to start deporting people from throughout Europe. Before this expansion, there existed only the main camp that was later named Auschwitz I. Later another camp was established on the order of Himmler and it was called Brzezika. This camp was developed with an initial objective of holding Russian POWs who were intended to provide slave labour for construction of SS “utopia” in Upper Silesia. IG Farben then took up the responsibility of ensuring that the construction was done. It is on record that more equipment of the destruction were developed and increased the number of deaths.
Auschwitz and its subdivisions
Auschwitz had various divisions at the time of its maximal operation. These were as follows:-The initial camp that was referred to as Auschwitz I held a capacity of approximately 20,000 prisoners who were of the political orientation. Then Auschwitz II that was placed in Birkenau otherwise known as Brzezinka and established in the year 1941 as a result of the order issued by Heinrich Himmler. Himmler was the commander of the Schutzstaffel, a division that carried out all operations of Nazi concentration camps together with death camps. Birkenau was the biggest division of Auschwitz facilities and had the ability to hold 90,000 prisoners. In addition to this, the division also had crematory ovens used for purposes of burning bodies. It was the major reason for having majority of the Auschwitz victims perish at Birkenau. Nonetheless, there were other more than forty facilities that were smaller known as sub-camps. They were significant on the landscape and were used as slave labour camps. Of these sub camps, the largest was Monowitz which was also mainly known as Auschwitz III that started operating as from 1942. It had a capacity of holding 10,000 prisoners. The factory for production of the synthetic rubber was followed by establishment of the sub- camp of Buna which became the dwelling place for the commandant of the camp. All sub-camps and camps were then isolated from the rest by the Germans and then they were surrounded by a fence of barbed wire so as there was no contact with the outside world completely. The area being manned by the commandant and was supervised by the SS camp garrison was more than the area surrounded by barbed wire. This comprised of an additional area of about 40-kilometer square. This saw to the growth of the population of the main camp from about 18,000 in December 1942 to beyond 30,000 by March 1943. A camp for women was also established in 1942 at Auschwitz with the capacity of holding 6,000 inmates that were later in August moved to Birkenau. An increase of the number of women in the camps was observed whereby in January 1944 the number was recorded at 27,000 women. The section of Gypsies was also established in February 1943 at Birenau, the area that was later set aside for Czech Jews who were deported. This was in other way referred to as the Family Camp or BIIb.
The process of ‘Final Solution.’
In 1941, Himmler had already talked to Commandant Hoss regarding the “Final Solution”. Auschwitz-Birkenau grew into a centre for great destruction of the Jews in Europe by the year 1942. The act of the Jewish exterminations was facilitated by the Nazi with the help of the Soviet POW at the Auschwitz camp. Some techniques were employed in doing this including use of poison gas-Zylon-B that was produced by Degesch Company which was then owned by Germany. This was the best way of killing many people at one time. In this case, the POW was gassed in underground cells marked as Block 11 and also known by the name ‘Death Block’. The said execution would be done by accomplished by setting up one gas chamber outside the man camp and two temporary ones at Birkenau. All the Jews that were living in Europe were marked by the Nazis for purposes of their total extermination. This did not put into consideration their sex, what they do, nationality, age or/ and political opinions. The main reason for the Jew’s extermination was that they were Jews. As for the Jews who were put on board train, when the said trains would arrive, selections on the rail board would be carried out. The new arrivals that would be labeled as not fit for labour by the SS physicians would be taken to the chambers of gas. Those who were subjected to this option were the sick, the elderly, expectant women and children. Note should be taken that these people were not registered in the campo records neither did they receive serial numbers and therefore this justifies the reason for only have had their estimated numbers and not their exact numbers. Those that were regarded as suitable for provision of slave labour were registered with immediate effect, had their bodies marked with tattoos of their serial numbers, undressed, shaved, washed and their cloths were subjected to disinfection by Zyklon-B gas. The acquired slaves would then taken to the camp through a gate with the re-known inscription ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’ meaning “Labour will set you free’’ (115). It is said that about 2.5 million people that faced deportation to Auschwitz, 405,000 were initiated to the state of being prisoners and given serial numbers, of the above-said number, it is further said 50% of the people constituted the Jews, 50% the Poles while all other nationalities.
Camp Reorganization & worsening conditions
Reorganization of the Camp was done as a result of a corruption scandal that occurred in autumn 1943. By this time, the population of prisoners had greatly increased. More than 50,000 prisoners were then scattered among the 51 sub camps causing the situation at the camps to be worse than the main camp’s situation. At about mid-1944, Auschwitz was allocated a SS-run security region that had an area measuring beyond 40 square kilometer miles. The camp population by 1944 had shot to 105,168 while the last roll call done on the 18th day of January 1955 indicated 64,000 prisoners. Throughout the existence of the Auschwitz, the population and composition of the camps have been shown to have been varying greatly. For instance, it is provided that initially, inmates were mainly Polish, then from April 1940 to March 1942 around 30% of the inmates were Poles while 57% were Jews. This was followed by an observation that within a year from March 1942, out of 162,000 prisoners, 60% were Jews.
History informs that there developed resistance that was illustrated by individuals as well as collective efforts all geared at fighting back inside the Auschwitz. The Poles, communists and all groups that existed then formed partnerships in the main camp then some Jews managed to run away from Birkenau. The resistance was also done through of assaults on the Nazi guards and this was so serious to the extent that this could be even done at the entry points to the death camps. A significant illustration of the said resistance is the ‘Sonderkommando” revolt of October 1944.
Liberation of Auschwitz
When the year 1944 started approaching, there was no doubt that the Nazi Germany would be defeated by the allied forces and this prompted the Auschwitz commandants to start the process of destruction of evidence of the inhumane acts that had been committed there. As a result, buildings were destroyed as well as the destruction of all records could be availed. Consequently, about 60,000 detainees in the company of the Nazi guards were compelled to march to either Gliwice or Wodzislaw, towns of Pole in an operation that was named as the Auschwitz death march. By the time the Soviet Army invaded Auschwitz on the 27th day of January 1945, around 7,600 detainees were sick and they had been abandoned. It is believed that an estimate of between 1.1 million and 1.5 million people, majority being the Jews perished at Auschwitz at this time. That about 70,000 people of the Pole orientation, 19,000 and Gypsies and a lesser number of prisoners from Soviet with other persons too died at the camp.
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