For those who know, Auschwitz was associated with “mass genocide”; for those who don’t Auschwitz was the worst concentration camp that could have existed in the history of mankind. Originally intended as a labor camp during World War II, the Nazis soon converted it into one of the most horrible concentration camps that spelt nothing but suffering, horrible experiments, and death!
A small, sleepy town in Southern Poland – that was what this town was before 1940; but thanks to our Nazi comrades, it is today known as the “worst center of extermination” that could have existed. Auschwitz was the death gallows and witness to the brutal killing of many innocent people between 1942 and 1944.
For long after the war, the number of people exterminated at Auschwitz was put around 4 million. Although this number was never proved, it continued to be quoted by all including the media. It was only in the late 1980s and early 1990s that this number was corrected to a million, including the non-Jews. Although there are still variations in the actual number, it is believed that approximately 7 to 8 lakh Jews perished in this concentration camp.
Dr. Josef Mengele, infamously known as the “Angel of Death”, worked at Auschwitz and conducted many of his horrible human experiments here. It is believed that he did not spare even little children and conducted many surgical procedures, including organ transplants, without anesthesia! Obviously, very few children survived to narrate their horror tales.
If today you are searching for Auschwitz, you might not find it; at least not with that name. Once the place was liberated and the camp closed, officially it was renamed to “Oswiecim”, which some claim was its original name.
It is believed that Auschwitz was not one but three major camps – Auschwitz, Auschwitz II also known as Birkenau, and Auschwitz III or Monowitz. Of these three, Birkenau was considered the largest death hole. Besides these three major camps there were several smaller satellite camps. While some historians put the number at 36, others claim that there were around 45 smaller camps.
It is believed that the average life span of a Jew in these camps was anywhere between 2 minutes to 2 hours. Some were killed immediately on arrival, while others were gassed or electrocuted a bit later.
One of the most popular inmates of Auschwitz was Anne Frank and her father Otto Frank, thanks to her now famous “diary”. According to historians, Anne survived Auschwitz and was taken to the Bergen-Belsen camp and died in March 1945, from typhus. Her father was abandoned at Auschwitz, when the Germans fled from there in 1945, because he was sick. He not only survived the war but also lived in Switzerland till his death in 1980.
Although the story of “execution by gassing” was popular during the World War and continued decades later; some historians, and parts of the media, claim that the gas chambers were actually reconstructed after war to support these stories.
When the Soviets liberated Auschwitz, 8,000 prisoners were abandoned there. 1,500 prisoners were immediately released as they had already served their term.
Typhus was the greatest killer at Auschwitz and it was prevalent in epidemic proportions. Starvation, forced labor, terror, inhuman living conditions, torture, and unethical medical practices were some of the other causes.
It is believed that many Jews were spared immediate death only because of labor shortage. Manpower was hard to get and forced labor, beyond their physical capacity, was just a slow killer.