adolf hitler adolf hitler t h e   f i n a l   s o l u t i o n   |  a u s c h w i t z  ]
adolf hitler
[ 1 9 4 1 - 4 5 ]




the final solution

The front gate of Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp


introduction | operation barbarossa | the final solution: the decision
the final solution in the ussr | the fate of the german jews | the start of gassing
the wannsee conference | operation reinhard | economic considerations
auschwitz | end of auschwitz | other deaths | forced labour in germany | the situation in 1945 | conclusion
dvds on 2nd world war | shoah 4-disc dvd set


Holocaust - Complete
holocaust - complete 6 dvd boxset

buy/review: uk dvd
(shipped from uk)

t h e   f i n a l   s o l u t i o n  |  a u s c h w i t z  ]

1 9 4 1 - 4 5

the final solution

    The Final Solution Auschwitz | 1941-5

1 | 2 | 3 | 4

    Source:
    Anti-Semitism and the Holocaust


      Auschwitz


      the final solution

      Auschwitz-Birkenau was originally created as a camp for Polish prisoners in 1940. By the end of 1941 it had expanded into an enormous labour camp, mainly for the utilisation of Soviet prisoners. In the late summer of 1941 Rudolf Hoess, the camp commandant, was told by Himmler that Auschwitz was to be a principal centre for killing Jews. Hoess had no moral qualms. A fanatical nationalist and member of the SS from 1934, he had worked his way up the career ladder in Dachau and Sachsenhausen concentration camps. Proud to have been singled out by Himmler, he was determined to carry out his orders to the best of his ability. Fretting about the practical mechanics of mass extermination, he hit upon the idea of using Zyklon B, consisting of small pellets of prussic acid crystals, as the gassing agent. First tested on Soviet prisoners, it proved deadly poisonous, killing in half the time required by carbon monoxide.

      the final solution Given that the Auschwitz site was somewhat exposed, Hoess determined to shift the gassing to a new, more secluded camp, some three kilometres from the main site. This camp, known as Birkenau, was built around two old cottages. The windows of these were blocked up and airtight walls and doors added. Bunker 1 (the first cottage) began operations in early 1942. With good railway connections, Auschwitz-Birkenau was a convenient place to send Jews from most of Europe and quickly grew into the largest of the Nazi labour/extermination camps. It consisted ultimately of three main compounds: Auschwitz I, the original camp: Auschwitz II at Birkenau, the extermination camp; and Auschwitz III, the industrial centre at Monowitz. There were also dozens of satellite camps sprawling over a huge area.

      The process of killing was slick and stream-lined. The transports arrived at a rail platform, located half way between Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II. (In April 1944 a direct rail spur was built to Birkenau.) An SS doctor, with a simple wave of the hand, decided who was fit and unfit. The fit were sentenced to hard labour in Auschwitz I or III. The unfit - the old, sick, children and mothers with young children - were condemned to immediate death in the gas chambers. The numbers of fit and unfit fluctuated,'depending more on labour requirements than on physical health. But on average only about 30 per cent of each transport was seen as fit for work.

      the final solution The victims were marched, or taken by truck, to Birkenau. The killing apparatus at Birkenau changed somewhat over time. The two gas chambers in Bunker I could accommodate 800 people at one go. Bunker 2, which contained three gas chambers holding 1,200 people, began operations in the summer of 1942. That summer Himmler also gave Hoess permission to build a new complex with four killing centres, containing a total of six gas chambers and 14 ovens, for cremating up to 8,000 corpses a day.

      On reaching Birkenau, the victims were usually addressed in a friendly way and asked to undress quickly so they could take a bath. After undressing, they were herded into a gas chamber into which gas pellets were emptied through vents in the ceiling. The young and old usually died first as the gas saturated the lower part of the chamber. Stronger victims often struggled upward to better air, climbing over layers of bodies. But within 20 minutes all were dead. The SS doctor (who watched events through a peephole in the steel door) then gave the signal to switch on the ventilators that pumped the gas from the chamber and the Sonderkommando went in to clear the bodies.

      the final solution Those prisoners pronounced fit for work were taken to Auschwitz I or III. While Jews formed a significant percentage of the population, the majority of the labour camps' inmates were non-Jews. By 1944 there were some 40 branch camps to which Jews might be sent. These camps supplied labour for some of the most famous German firms, including Krupp and Siemens-Schuckert. The largest industrial plant was a synthetic fuel and rubber complex, established by I.G.Farben, the petro-chemical combine, at Monowitz. Other work camps were run directly by profit-making SS agencies. For purposes of identification, prisoners (as in all other camps) were forced to display markings of different colours on their uniforms. This consisted of a number and a coloured triangle. A red triangle denoted a political prisoner, green a criminal, purple a Jehovah's Witness, black a 'shiftless element', pink a homosexual, and brown a Gypsy. Jews displayed a Star of David.

      As in labour/concentration camps throughout German-occupied Europe, inmates of Auschwitz and its associated camps were stripped of their individuality and shorn of self-respect. Fed on watery soup and an ounce or two of bread, they endured primitive sanitary facilities and had practically no medicines, despite epidemics of typhus and other diseases. Prisoners were awakened at dawn and had to report for a roll call which might last for hours. They were then marched out to work. Most had to do hard manual labour at a murderous tempo and were subject to brutal punishment for the slightest breach of regulations or simply at the whim of the guards. Most of the managers of the German firms adopted SS methods and mentality. Given the conditions, few prisoners survived for more than a few months.

      the final solution Some Auschwitz inmates were selected to serve as human guinea pigs for medical experiments. In 1942 Himmler, eager to find a method of mass sterilisation, sent Dr Carl Clauberg, a leading gynaecologist, to direct a research programme at Auschwitz. Clauberg's experiments involved injecting various chemicals into the ovaries of Jewish women. Other doctors subjected both men and women to massive doses of radiation which produced burns and effective sterilisation. Research papers, detailing the experiments which inflicted maiming or death on hundreds of prisoners, were then presented at medical meetings in Germany. The most infamous Auschwitz doctor was Josef Mengele - the 'Angel of Death'. Mengele was aged 32 when he arrived at the camp in 1943. He volunteered for duty at Auschwitz in order to pursue his research interest - the biology of racial differences. Selecting for study about 1,500 sets of identical twins, he used one of the twins for control while the other was used for experimen- tation purposes - as a laboratory researcher might use rats. Fewer than 200 twins survived his 'research'. (Similar experiments were conducted in other concentration camps. At Dachau, for example, prisoners were dumped into icy water, some naked and others dressed, to observe how their bodies would react and to see what might be done to revive them.)

      The End of Auschwitz

      By 1944 most Jews in German-occupied Europe had been killed. Only the Hungarian Jews had so far escaped the Holocaust. However, in the spring of 1944 Eichmann and his staff arrived in Budapest and mass deportations to Auschwitz began in May 1944. In less than a month some 289,000 Hungarian Jews were transported. Most (up to 12,000 a day) were killed immediately on arrival. In these circumstances, there were soon problems with the disposal of the corpses and the maintenance of secrecy. Hoess recalled:

        In bad weather or a strong wind the smell of burning spread over several kilometres and caused the whole population of the surrounding area to start talking about the burning of Jews.... Furthermore, the air defence authorities complained about the fire at night, which could clearly be seen from the air. However, we had to keep cremating at night in order not to have to halt the incoming transports.

      In the summer and autumn of 1944, Himmler, working under the threat of imminent defeat, intensified German efforts to make Europe Jew-free. He combed some of the districts and camps previously overlooked, including Theresienstadt, the model concentration camp near Prague, which housed some 140,000 'privileged' Jews, among whom were prominent artists, intellectuals, and First World War veterans. By 1945 only 17,320 Jews remained at Theresienstadt: the rest had been sent to Auschwitz. Throughout October 1944 some 1,000 died each day in Auschwitz's gas chambers. Then on 2 November Himmler issued an order forbidding the further annihilation of Jews. Exactly why this order was issued remains uncertain. It may be that Germany was so short of labour that even Jewish workers were needed. Although the gassings stopped, the dying continued as the Germans squeezed the last ounce of productivity from the camp inmates. Meanwhile the Nazis tried to hide all traces of the killings, blowing up the gas chambers in the process.

      the final solution On 17 January 1945 the last roll call at Auschwitz was held. The Germans counted 67,012 prisoners - less than half the total in August 1944. With the Russian army closing in, the Germans ordered the evacuation of all but about 6,000 inmates who were too young or infirm to move. The journey west for most of the 60,000 or so evacuees was dreadful. Those on foot received little food and were shot by the guards if unable to keep up. One march lasted 16 weeks and claimed the lives of all but 280 of the 3,000 who began it. Hundreds of those left behind in Auschwitz - without food or fuel - also died. When the Russians finally entered the camp on 27 January 1945 only 2,800 people remained alive. Many were so emaciated they died soon after liberation.

      After the war, Hoess estimated the numbers of Jews killed at Auschwitz as follows: from Upper Silesia and the General Government - 250,000; from Germany - 100,000; from Holland - 95,000; from Belgium - 20,000; from France - 110,000; from Greece - 65,000; from Hungary - 400,000; and from Slovakia - 90,000.


      Other Deaths

      the final solution The Jews were by no means the only group to suffer at the hands of the Germans. The Nazis planned to rid Germany and the occupied territories of all racial undesirables. In December 1942 Himmler signed an order by which all German Gypsies were to be deported to Auschwitz. Here they had their own special camp which soon had a population of over 10,000. The Gypsies initially fared better than the Jews. Few were immediately gassed and families were allowed to live together. However, in 1944 thousands of Gypsies were sent as labourers to other camps. In August 1944 the remaining 3,000 Gypsies at Auschwitz were gassed. Altogether some 200,000 Gypsies across Europe are thought to have been murdered during the war.

      6,000 Jehovah's Witnesses, regarded as agents of a foreign power, were killed. So were large numbers of habitual criminals who were seen as being genetically preconditioned to a life of crime. (As many as 40,000 'criminals' may have been killed between 1939 and 1945.) The Nazis were also responsible for the deaths of colossal numbers of ordinary Poles and Russians. At least 10 million non-Jewish Russian civilians (and possibly as many as 25 million) died. Some of these deaths resulted from bombing and other military operations. But many died as a direct result of German occupation, reprisal and deportation policies. Of the 5.7 million Soviet prisoners captured in the war some 3.3 million died in German custody. ...cont.

1 | 2 | 3 | 4


dvd


introduction | operation barbarossa | the final solution: the decision
the final solution in the ussr | the fate of the german jews | the start of gassing
the wannsee conference | operation reinhard | economic considerations
auschwitz | end of auschwitz | other deaths | forced labour in germany | the situation in 1945 | conclusion
dvds on 2nd world war | shoah 4-disc dvd set

Holocaust - Complete
holocaust - complete 6 dvd boxset

buy/review: uk dvd
(shipped from uk)

rudolf hess
adolf hitler | josef goebbels | triumph of the will | leni riefenstahl | josef mengele | martin bormann

the final solution


[ h o l o c a u s t   s h o p   b o o k s ]


[ h o l o c a u s t   s h o p   d v d s ]


[ h o l o c a u s t   s h o p   v i d e o s ]




adolf hitler | josef goebbels | triumph of the will dvd | leni riefenstahl | josef mengele | martin bormann


the final solution