Auschwitz, the mother camp, is the symbol of all camps. It was not only the largest mass death factory in history, but the death toll
exceeds the combined population of several European nations. The record stated the 4,000,000 deaths in an area of 39 square
kilometers in less than five years since its opening on June 14,1940.
Located next to a main railroad, Auschwitz was intended to contain thirty-nine camps divided into three main groups: Auschwitz I, the main camp, included the central administration and various armament firms; Auschwitz II, also know as Birkenau, served as the killing center inside the camp; Auschwitz III, or Buna, dedicated to be a labor camp for rubber and petrol industries.
The construction of Birkenau began in 1941. By October 1941, its basic structure was ready. Like Majdanek, Auschwitz built first as concentration camp before killing machinery provided for it an extermination purpose. Throughout its existence, Auschwitz succeed in both extermination of the Jews and the exploitation of labor. In Birkenau, Hilter's largest camp, the SS doctors and officers separated the young and healthy arrivees for labor purpose. The others were sent directly into the gas chambers.
The condition in Birkenau was inconceivable. The prisoners were packed into huts with twice their possible capacities. The wooden stables had no windows. Light came only from the roof. In good times an inmate could have about 8 square feet. There was neither a lavatory nor a washbowl. Until 1943 prisoners of the entire camp drank from a single tap in the lavatory. Later in November 1944, Birkenau disappeared from the public list of Nazi camps, for the Nazis wanted to camouflage Birkenau's existence. The nameless camp murdered its inmates by starvation, disease, injections of acid, beatings, torture, and execution. They died from working and despair. The SS gassed most of them.
The first attempts to kill the prisoners effectively occurred in the summer of 1941. The SS packed 250 disable inmates and 600 Soviet war prisoners into the cellar of one Auschwitz block. After they sealed the windows with soil, an SS man wearing a gas mask poured Cyclone B on the floor. They waited for a long time to open to the door. However, as the door opened, some prisoners were still alive. They pumped in more Cyclone B and killed everyone in a much short period of time. After the experiments, the SS converted a small peasant cottage into a primitive gas chamber. They gassed 800 victims at a time.
Construction of the Birkenau extermination plant began in the summer of 1942. Within half a year, the construction was finished. The extermination plant included two large crematoria and gas chambers and two smaller ones. The whole system could gas and burn 8,000 prisoners in a day. In Birkenau, officers told the victims the same thing as some other camps - that the Jews were going to take disinfection baths. An orchestra of women played various kinds of music. The dressing rooms had numbered clothing pegs driven into the walls. The SS ordered the victims to undress and remember their numbers. Then they drove the victims to the gas chamber where 2,000 inmates were packed into the room. The gases being used, Cyclone B, or hydrogen cyanide, is a very poisonous gas that causes internal suffocation. The crematoria could not handle the number of death each day. Thus, the authorities ordered the burning of bodies in the opening pits. Oil, alcohol, and large quantities of boiling human fat were added to keep the pits burning.
In addition to the killing of prisoners who were not capable of working, children were the other target of execution. The SS men killed children by bending them over their knees and breaking their spines, then throwing them into ditches. They gassed all children under 1.2 meters tall. The adults also suffered from the brutal tortures used in the camp. The Nazis sometimes placed iron bar on the victims' throats and stood on the bar with feet placed on the ends. Inside the Auschwitz' starvation cell, prisoners were so desperate that they ate their own companions' organs. The SS extracted nails from fingers, inserted needles into sensitive parts of the body and on women's breasts, poured water down the throats.
With human guinea pigs, Auschwitz provided excellent experimental facilities. Doctors removed sex organs from men and women and sterilized them by various methods. In one of the doctors' lab, he murdered twins, dwarfs, and hunchbacks to provide institution with human organs. He was obsessed in finding a foolproof method to enable German mothers to bear twins. He would stood patiently at the selection ramp and picked out twins for his study. Most of the twins were murdered and dissect for the purpose of finding similarities.
The Nazis profited greatly from confiscating prisoners' properties. They built thirty-five special huts to store clothings and other and other articles. They sent valuables as gifts to German families. A gold-melting room was set in the plant. The dental technicians soaked the teeth for hours in acid to remove bone and flesh. They used a blowtorch to melt the gold into molds. Just the gold teeth added up as much as 5 to 10 kilos a day.
Auschwitz had several resistance movements. Polish Socialist lawyer Josef Cyrankiewicz led an international committee. The organization planned an escape for two Auschwitz inmates. They brought with them a report from the organization. The report reached the Allied governments. It asked the Allies to bomb Auschwitz and to rescue the prisoners. It also proposed that the report should be publicized so that the Nazis would know the world was informed about their deeds. Unfortunately, few people accepted the crucial facts. Not much action was taken to prevent the Nazis in continuing their murders. Another revolt occurred on October 7, 1944. David, a French Jew, led the special squad that were assigned to aid the extermination. They knew well about their destiny and decide to fight for their lives. Four Jewish women delivered explosives for grenades. On that day, the Jews blew up a crematorium, killed several SS men, and wounded others. However, the other explosive did not go off. After they cut the barbed wire and tried to escape, the chasing soldiers pursued them and kill almost all. Documents listed only one survivor.
On November 26, 1944, an order was made to destroy all evidence of the mass murders. Soon after New Year, the authorities sent 58,000 inmates off on their death march. The remaining were sent to German camps in the interior, where 80,000 inmates died in those camps in the last two months before the end of the war. When the Soviet troops reached Auschwitz, only 5,000 sick prisoners were left behind and stayed in the camp.