Auschwitz Camp 1 - Page 3

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
HOME PAGE : Colin Day's Links

The story of the Auschwitz gas chambers begins with the experimental gassing of prisoners using Zyclon-B which reportedly took place in the underground cells of Block 11 within the main camp in August 1941 and on and after September 3, 1941.

Details of the use of Zyclon-B in Auschwitz I are given on the next page (Page 4) of this website.

In the washroom pictured below prisoners sentenced to death were stripped before being shot either in this room or at the 'Wall of Death' which is described at the bottom of this page.

Off the main corridor are a number of openings leading to smaller corridors. Here are rooms which include one (Number 22) which contains four 'standing cells'.

A hatch leading to a standing cell is seen in the room. (Picture with acknowledgement to Wikipedia)

Below is a picture the walls above the entry hatch and between two cells have been cut away to reveal the cell sizes (Picture with acknowledgement to www.blogspot.com.au) .

A standing cell is one constructed so as to prevent the prisoner from doing anything but standing. The 'stehbunker' was used for punishment in Nazi concentration camps during the time of the Third Reich. Some standing cells were large enough for only one person but others held as many as four people.

There were four standing cells in the basement of Block 11, each measuring about one yard square and into which four persons could be crammed. In these a prisoner was able only to stand. There was just a two inch opening for air in order to prevent the prisoners from suffocating. Punishment in these cells was said usually to last for about 10 days.

However, Auschwitz survivor, Josef Kral, testified at the Auschwitz Trials that he had been held in one for six weeks with just three meals during that time. One prisoner was so hungry, he said, that he ate his shoes.

Commander Rudolf Höess, the Camp Commander, later stated that punishment in the standing cells was limited to just three nights but this was disputed by prisoners. Artur Liebehenschel, Höess' successor at Auschwitz in 1943, later removed the standing cells.

The end of the main corridor in the basement of Block 11 is shown on the right.

The small room (Number 21) is a 'Starvation Cell'.

Execution by starvation was a particularly horrific punishment. In the event of a prisoner escaping from Auschwitz, the camp commandant would, during roll call, choose ten or more prisoners from the block in which the escapee had lived or the commando in which he had been working who would then be locked up in one of the cells, such as No. 21 pictured, in the basement of Block 11. Having been given nothing to eat or drink they would die either within a few days or, at the latest, a fortnight. (Prison cell No. 21 is similar to that in which the Zyklon-B experiments were carried out.)

In July 1941 a man living in the barrack in which Father Maximilian Kolbe, a Polish missionary, was being held had vanished, prompting the Lagerführer, SS-Hauptsturmführer Karl Fritsch, to choose ten men from the same barrack to be starved to death in Block 11 in order to deter further escape attempts.

One of the men chosen, Franciszek Gajowniczek, became extremely upset, predominantly because he would no longer be able to anticipate rejoining his family. Franciscan Father Maximilian Kolbe, a Polish missionary stepped forward and asked the Lagerfuhrer Karl Fritzsch, to be included instead of Gajowniczek in the group intended for death by starvation.

After surviving nearly two weeks in cell No. 18 in Block 11 and also seeing the deaths of most of his nine companions, Father Kolbe was killed on 14 August with a phenol injection. He was later canonised by Pope John Paul II in 1982.

BLOCK 10 (right) AND BLOCK 28 (below)

Germany professors and doctors performed so-called medical experiments on living men, women, and children in the camp. Auschwitz camp by far exceeded all previously known death camps in the refinement of its methods i.e. in technical organisation, in the number of victims, and in the cruelty of the means with which the people were treated and killed.

Sterilization experiments were performed on women in the camp hospital division of Auschwitz camp. Four hundred women prisoners were housed in Block 10 of the camp and simultaneously subjected to sterilization experiments with x-rays, and then by removal of the ovaries.

In other experiments the neck of the uterus was infected with cancer and experiments were performed to induce premature birth artificially and also to test the effects of x-ray exposure on the uterus.

In Block 28 (below) doctors tested how the skin might be affected by kerosene, oil and various salts, pastes and powders.

They also studied artificially induced liver problems leading to jaundice.

'THE WALL OF DEATH' (above and below)
The edited description below is part of a report by SS man Perry Broad, one of Maximilian Grabner's subordinates.
Perry Broad (April 25, 1921 - November 28, 1993) was a Brazilian non-commissioned officer (SS-Unterscharführer) working at Auschwitz from April 1942 - 1945 as a translator and stenographer at the Auschwitz headquarters :

"In the face of inevitable death, the prisoners behaved with calm dignity. They were shot singly or in pairs in the back of the head. The place of execution was the yard between Blocks 10 and 11, which was sealed off by two walls. Up to the end of 1942 the condemned had their hands tied with wire, but later this was abandoned, as cases of resistance were rare.

"Here there was a wall, specially painted black, built of wooden logs, sand and insulating board. At the foot of the wall, sand was sprinkled to soak up the blood of the victims. The wall was known as the 'Wall of Death' or 'Black Wall'. Regardless of the time of year, the latter were shot naked and barefoot, first the women, then the men.

"The still bleeding bodies were then taken by van to the crematorium. As the vans passed along the camp streets, they would leave trickles of blood behind them."

The SS man responsible for a significant number of deaths at the 'Wall of Death' was Rapportfuhrer Gerhard Palitzsch using a small-bore rifle from a Katowice slaughterhouse. He admitted killing 25,000 people, but there is no evidence to confirm or refute this claim.

A contemporary artist's impression of the 'Wall of Death' (below) Note the unusually sealed windows of Block 10, also the gallows - both on the left hand side of the picture.

In view of the practice of executing civilians and prisoners not entered in the camp files and the fact that most of the camp records were destroyed, it is impossible to establish exactly how many persons were executed in the camp.

The original wall was removed after Arthur Liebehenschel replaced Rudolf Höess as the camp commander in November, 1943 and ordered the executions at the wall to stop. So what is now displayed is a replica and not the original black wall - hence there are no bullet holes in it.

In the case of particularly intrepid escapes from the camp the recaptured prisoners were executed by hanging. These executions were performed in public so as to indicate to the camp population that attempted escapes would not be tolerated. The hangings were often carried out during roll call so that everyone could view them. Mobile gallows (a rail fastened to three upright posts) were used, two of which were kept in the courtyard between Blocks 10 and 11.

Other sites in Auschwitz I where prisoners were shot were inside Block 11, in the gravel pit outside the barbed wire near Block 11, and close to the crematorium.

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