NAZI Death Camps


Figure 1.--Here in the summer of 1944 a transport of Hungarian Jews has just arrived at Auschwitz. You can see the notorious camp entrance in the background. The SS has organized women and children to the left and men to the right. You can also see Kapos in prison stripes the SS used to reassure the arriving Jews.

NAZI Germany established a huge net work of camps across first Germany and then occupied Europe. There were many different camps, set up for a variety of purposes. Many were used for forced labor. Five camps were created for the sole purpse of killing--primarily killing Jews. The five death camps were: Belzec, Chelmo, Maly Trostenets, Sorbibor, and Treblinka. The killing methods varied from camp to camp. The Polish camps were first used in Operation Heydrich, the destruction of Polish Jews. Large numbers of Jews and others were killed at the many other camps established throughout occupied Germany. Here the most notorious was Auschwitz. It was a huge camp originally created for slave labor, but a section of the camp at Birkenau was created to kill Jews. Some writers, including HBC, some times refer to these camps as the "Polish death camps". This is probably misleading. The camps other than the fact that the Germans built them in Poland (or in the Soviet Union in the case of Sorbibor), had nothing to do with Poland or the Polish people. A more correct desription, as Polish reader Jerzy Pankiewiczis points out, is German death camps in occupied Poland. Locating the camps in Poland was a conscious decission made by the NAZIs. The Germans were in total control in Poland and imposed harsh military rule. This it was easier to hide what they were doing than any where else in Europe. It also allowed them to keep the dirty details of the killing away from the German people. Many Germans did know about the killings and some did not want to know. Many Germans, however, did not know.

Death Camps

NAZI Germany established a huge net work of camps across first Germany and then occupied Europe. There were many different camps, set up for a variety of purposes. Many were used for forced labor. Five camps were created for the sole purpse of killing--primarily killing Jews. There were other camps where Jews were killed, but at the death camps, Jew were killed on an industrial basis, as soon or shortly after they arrived. As a result, the camps could be suprisingly small given the number of Jew jilled there. The NAZIs killed large numbers of non-Jews during the War. The vast majority of those killed at the death camps were Jews. And at the death camps, whole families were killed. Other NAZI killing operations, except for gypseys, did not normally include the children. The five death camps were: Belzec, Chelmo, Maly Trostenets, Sorbibor, and Treblinka. The killing methods varied from camp to camp. The Polish camps were first used in Operation Heydrich, the destruction of Polish Jews.

Auschwitz

Large numbers of Jews and others were killed at the many other camps established throughout occupied Germany. Here the most notorious was Auschwitz. It was a huge camp originally created for slave labor, but a section of the camp at Birkenau was created to kill Jews. Auchwitz was the largest and most deadly of the NAZI concentration camps. Richard Gluecks, head of the SS Concentration Camp Inspectorate informed Himmler on February 21, 1940 that he had found a site for a punishment camp where Poles who had defied the NAZIs in any way could be put to work under especially harsh conditions. The site was Auschwitz/Birkenau ( Oswiecim-Brzezinka ). It was an old Austro-Hungarian calvary barracks. It was not at first intended for Jews. Rudolf Hoess, who was working at Dachau wa made the camp commandant. He sent for convicted criminals from Sachsenhausen to serve as Kapos (barracks chiefs). [Gilbet, p. 298.] Eventually Auschwitz became a vast facility for slave labor in addition to the death camp. There were 51 sub-camps (this number varies in different accounts) at Auchwitz. Prisoners were beaten, starved, shot, hung, and kilked in different ways. The largest numbers of deaths resulted from the murder by gas in an industrial fashion. Once the gas chambers were functional, large numbers of Jews in the Polish ghettos and from NAZI occupied Europe were transported to Auchwitz to be murdered. Trains delivered the Jews right to a station platform located by the gas chambers. Most of these victims were Jews, but there were also gentile Poles, Soviet POWs, gypseys, and homosexuals gassed. Of all the dreadful actions at Auchwitz, perhaps the most apauling was the medical experiments that Dr. Mengele carried out on Jewish children, in many cases twins selected for that purpose. The last large group was the Hungarian Jews. Jews stage a revolt and manage to blow up one of the crematoria (October 7, 1944). As the Red Army approached, the SS decided to destroy the remaining crematoria and gas chambers in an effort to hide their murderous crimes (October 26, 1944). The SS evacuates Auschwitz before the Red Army arrives (January 17, 1945). The surviving inmates who are in poor condition because of the starvation regime at the camp are force marched in freezing condition to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany. Many perished along the way. The Red Army liberated Auschwitz and found 7,000 starving prisoners that the NAZIs had been unable to kill (January 27, 1945).

Role of Poland

Some writers, including HBC, some times refer to these camps as the "Polish death camps". This is probably misleading. The camps other than the fact that the Germans built them in Poland (or in the Soviet Union in the case of Sorbibor), had nothing to do with Poland or the Polish people. And while non-Germans (often Volk Deutsche and Ukranians, but also Estonisns, Latvians, and others) were used to staff many of the camps. The Ukranians were Soviet POWs and trained at the Trawniki Concentration Camp. They are thus often called Trawniki Men. The SS did not use Poles, A more correct desription, as Polish reader Jerzy Pankiewiczis points out, is German death camps in occupied Poland. Locating the camps in Poland was a conscious decission made by the NAZIs. The Germans were in total control in Poland and imposed harsh military rule. Thus it was easier to hide what they were doing tere than any where else in Europe, including the Reich itself. It also allowed them to keep the dirty details of the killing away from the German people. Many Germans did know about the killings and some did not want to know. Many Germans, however, did not know.

Sources

Gilbert, Martin. A History of the Twentieth Century Vol. 2 1933-54 (William Morrow and Company, Inc.: New York, 1998), 1050p.







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Created: 8:18 AM 8/1/2010
Last updated: 9:42 AM 9/11/2012