Auschwitz Camp II Birkenau - Page 2

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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THE MAIN GUARD ROOM, with the railway running beneath it to the prisoner disembarkation area (left) .

Pedestrians having passed through this guardroom area will find the Men's Camp by turning immediately to the right.

Several separate organizational units, also referred to as 'camps' (along with the mass extermination facilities), came into being in Birkenau between 1942 and 1945.

Each of these internal divisions of Birkenau was run by a camp director (Lagerführer). A non-commissioned report officer (Rapportführer) and block supervisors (Blockführer) reported to him.

As well as the Men's Camp other individual camps in this area included a Family Camp for Theresienstadt deportees, a Hungarian Jews' Camp, a Quarantine Camp, a Hospital camp and a Gypsy Camp.

Pictures of the MEN'S CAMP are to be seen below.

The following edited information is with acknowledgement to "Yad Vashem - The Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority" : The full 'Auschwitz Architecture Overview' to be found on http://www.yadvashem.org .

"Unlike the brick buildings in Auschwitz I, a considerable number of the buildings in Birkenau were uniform wooden huts (above and below - Ed.) that were unfit for human habitation. They did not have an efficient drainage system, or insulation against the bitter cold.

"They were originally intended to house some 550 prisoners each, but in practice, many more prisoners were crammed inside.

"The severe overcrowding in the huts caused unspeakable sanitary conditions, and led to a high death rate amongst the prisoners living in them.

"A former prisoner recalled the conditions inside the huts at Birkenau:

'On rainy days, the packed-earth floor of the huts turned into a swamp as a result of the lack of drainage.

'These huts were originally intended to house 500 people.   (However) building manager Dejaco's order to build a third lower layer of bunks increased the huts' capacity to 800-1000, and often, not 4 but 10-12 prisoners would lie on each bunk....'

"Living conditions were especially harsh in winter, and as a result, many prisoners fell ill and died.

"Renowned author, Roman Frister, writes the following about the conditions in the winter months:

'Unlike the factory, which was pleasantly warm, the huts in the camp had never been heated; the heaters inside them were used as tables. After the evening roll-call, which lasted forever, or more accurately, until the Germans got fed up, there was nowhere we could warm up.

'We went to sleep without undressing, sometimes without taking off our shoes. The nights brought suffering, but for me, the waking moments were the worst. They forced me to make a choice. Each morning at five, when the Blockaelteste's whistle woke us up, I had to decide, yet again, if I was going to fight, or give up.' "

The following excerpt from, and with acknowledgement to, http://remember.org/camps/birkenau/ :

"Wooden barrack at BIIa (Men's Camp, pictured right - Ed.) , and used throughout the camp, originally designed as a horse stable.

"People were forced to sleep as many as six, and sometimes eight on each hutch level. These barracks were locked at night and supplied with only buckets for toilets.

"In the middle is an ineffective brick heating duct, heated at both ends occasionally by a brick stove."


"There was no privacy, very little water for washing and little or no opportunity for personal cleanliness in Auschwitz-Birkenau. Prisoners were often afflicted with typhus and other diarrhea-producing illnesses.

"(Similar latrines to those seen above and right in one) barrack serviced seventeen barracks in BIIa quarantine block - approximately seven thousand prisoners."

The author, Terrence Des Pres, also described it as an 'excremental assault' and wrote: "How much self-esteem can one maintain, how readily can one respond to the needs of another, if both stink, if both are caked with mud and faeces?".

From Terrence Des Pres 'The Survivor : An Anatomy of Life in the Death Camps' (Pocket Books: New York, 1976)


The picture below shows part of the camp division with one of the huts shown above in the foreground. Behind the barbed wire are the remains of other huts (mainly just the heater chimneys are visible) which belonged to other individual camps mentioned above.

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