Auschwitz Camp II Birkenau - Page 1

LINKS BELOW are to pages in the Auschwitz site and to the Colin Day Travelling Days series:

     1 : Auschwitz Introduction
     2 : Auschwitz I
     3 : Auschwitz II Birkenau
     4 : Aerial Photograph
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Much of the information contained in these pages was gained from 'Wikipedia', various Auschwitz websites and books mentioned in the text as well as the helpful guides at Auschwitz. To all of these due acknowledgements and thanks are given here.

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Construction on Auschwitz II-Birkenau began in October 1941 to ease congestion at the main camp (Auschwitz I). Himmler intended the camp to house 50,000 prisoners of war, who would be interned as forced labourers. Initially, plans called for the expansion of the camp to house 150,000 and, eventually, as many as 200,000 inmates.

An initial contingent of 10,000 Soviet soldiers arrived at Auschwitz I in October 1941, but by March 1942 only 945 were still alive, and these were transferred to Birkenau, where most of them died from disease or starvation by May of that year. By this time Hitler had decided that the Jews of Europe were to be exterminated and so the purpose of Birkenau was changed to be both a labour camp and an extermination camp.

The first gas chamber at Birkenau was the "red house" (called Bunker 1 by SS staff), a brick cottage converted into a gassing facility. It was operational by March 1942. A second brick cottage, the "white house" or Bunker 2, was converted some weeks later. These structures were in use for mass killings until early 1943.

Himmler visited the camp in person on July 17 and 18, 1942. He was given a demonstration of a mass killing using the gas chamber in Bunker 2 and toured the building site of the new IG Farben plant being constructed at the nearby town of Monowitz.

The map below shows the situation and size of the two camps, their railway connections, and the physical relationship of the camps to each other and to the local towns and villages.

Arrival at the main guardhouse and rail entrance to Auschwitz II-Birkenhau on a dull rainy morning this variation of the well known view appears to capture the true feeling conveyed by this building.

AN AERIAL RECONNAISSANCE PHOTOGRAPH above, taken in August 1944, shows part of the Auschwitz II-Birkenau camp i.e. the womens' camp, main guard room and railway entrance, prisoner disembarkation area and two of the four crematoria - Crematoria II and III.
Part of the men's camp is shown at the bottom of the aerial photograph and also in the foreground of the picture below.

A BOXCAR (COVERED VAN) that has brought prisoners to Auschwitz stands on the railway track in the disembarkation area (above). In addition to soldiers, the Germans transported prisoners in crowded boxcars throughout the Nazi regime.

A group of prisoners recently disembarked and identified as being on its way to the Crematorium II gas chamber (right) .

Crematorium III is visible in the background.

(Photograph with acknowledgement to scrapbookpages.com)

Other prisoners are transferred to the neiqhbouring living quarters surrounded by elecrified barbed wire and numerous guard towers (below) .

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