After the defeat of the September Campaign of 1939, when Polish soldiers had experimented with repel the German invasion, the city of Oswiecim and the surrounding areas were incorporated within the Third Reich. At the same time its name was changed to Auschwitz. By the finish of 1939, at the SS and Police Headquarters in Wroclaw (Braslau), the thought of establishing a concentration camp had been already proposed. The official justification for this course of action was based on the overcrowding of the prevailing prisons in Silesia, and on the necessity of conducting further waves of mass arrest on the list of Polish inhabitants both of Silesia and the others of German-occupied Poland.
Several special committees were convened, whose task it was to take into account the most favorable area for such a camp. The ultimate choice fell upon the deserted pre-war Polish barracks in Oswiecim. Situated some distance from the built up section of the city, they could quite easily be expanded and isolated from the exterior world. Another factor not without significance was the convenient position of Oswiecim – an import and railway junction – within the prevailing communications network.
The order to proceed with plans to found a camp was presented with in April 1940, and Rudolf Hoss was appointed its first commandant. On June 14, 1940, the Gestapo dispatched the initial political prisoners to KL Auschwitz – 728 Poles from Tarnow. Initially the camp comprised 20 buildings – 14 at walk out and 6 with a top floor. During the time from 1941 to 1942 an additional story was added to all ground-floor buildings and 8 new blocks were constructed, using the prisoners as the work force. Krakow Auschwitz tour Altogether the camp now contained 28 one-story buildings ( excluding kitchens, storehouses etc. ) The common amount of prisoners fluctuated between 13-16.000, reaching at one stage ( during 1942 ) a record total of 20.000 people. They were accommodated in the blocks, where even the cellares and lofts were utilized because of this purpose.
As the number of inmates increased, the area included in the camp also, grew, until it was transformed in to a gigantic and horrific factory of death. The monstrosity in Oswiecim – KL Auschwitz I – became the parent or “Stammlager” to a whole generation of new camps. In 1941 the construction of a second camp, later called Auschwitz II-Birkenau, was commenced in the village of Brzezinka 3 kilometers away and in 1942 the camp in Monowice near Oswiecim-KL Auschwitz III-was established on the territory of the German chemical plant IG-Farbenindustrie. Furthermore, through the years 1942-1944, about 40 smaller branches of the Auschwitz complex came into being these fell underneath the jurisdiction of KL Auschwitz III and were situated mainly in the vicinity of steelworks, mines and factories, where prisoners were exploited as cheap labour.
The camp in Oswiecim ( KL Auschwitz I) and in Brzezinka (KL Auschwitz II – Birkenau) are now maintained as museums available to the public. The main constructions and objects in Birkenau are the remnants of four crematoria, gas chambers and cremation pits and pyres, the special unloading platform were the deportees were selected and also a pool with human ashes. In Auschwitz such a construction may be the “Death block.”
Furthermore in both camps are well preserved blocks and part of prisoners barracks, the main entrance gates to the camps, sentry watch towers in addition to barbed wire fences. A few of the constructions destroyed by the Nazis were rebuilt from the first elements – for instance the ovens in the crematorium I. Some objects were completely destroyed by the SS obliterating the traces of these crimes. In the cases of special importance the constructions were reproduced by the museum and put in the same area as they certainly were through the existence of the Auschwitz camp. Most importantly they are the “Death wall” and the collective gallows at the role-call ground.
The prison blocks in the camp at Auschwitz contain exhibitions portraying the real history of Auschwitz or tracing the torments of the different nations whose individuals were murdered here. Above the main gate at Auschwitz – through that your prisoners passed every day on their solution to work (returning 12 hours or even more later) there is a cynical inscription: “Arbeit macht frei” (Work brings freedom). and on the little square by your kitchen the camp orchestra would play marsches, mustering the thousands of prisoners so that they could possibly be counted more effectively by the SS.Read More