Auschwitz I concentration camp (main camp)

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The entrance with the words “ Arbeit macht frei ” ( work makes you free ). The Polish prisoner Jan Liwacz forged the B upside down in protest.
U.S. aerial photo April 4, 1944
U.S. aerial photo dated April 4, 1944
Aerial view of Auschwitz Museum (main camp) (2009)

The concentration camp Auschwitz I belonged as a base camp next to the extermination camp Auschwitz II-Birkenau and Auschwitz III-Monowitz to camp complex Auschwitz and was one of the big German concentration camps . It was located between May 1940 and January 1945 after the occupation of Poland in the annexed Polish area of ​​the now German-named district of Bielitz on the southwestern edge of the also renamed small town of Auschwitz ( Oświęcim in Polish ).

Parts of the camp are now the Polish State Museum and Memorial. Since June 27, 2007 of the former bears most of the Auschwitz concentration camp in the list of UNESCO - World Heritage overall official name Auschwitz-Birkenau - German Nazi concentration and extermination camps . The internal SS abbreviation during the Nazi era was KL Auschwitz (KL = concentration camp). The numbering of the sub-camps was mainly used in the post-war period to clearly distinguish the three different parts of the Auschwitz concentration camp. At times they were the abbreviations for the three main camps within the administration.

Geographical location

The remains of the concentration camp are in southern Poland near the city of Oświęcim . The Auschwitz main camp (later Auschwitz I) was built on the western edge of the city of Oświęcim, across the Sola River in and near a former Polish barracks . The cynical writing “ Arbeit macht frei” was placed above the main gate of this part of the camp .

The connection of the train station of "Auschwitz" to the international rail traffic to the north was and is given via a line in the directions Warsaw and Wroclaw (further to Berlin ), to the south in the directions Prague , Budapest , Vienna and Bratislava . Two routes led in an easterly direction to Krakow (there via Przemyśl to the USSR, Ukraine ).

Planning the camp

Auschwitz I concentration camp (main camp) (Poland)
Auschwitz I concentration camp (50 ° 1 ′ 35 ″ N, 19 ° 12 ′ 14 ″ E)
Auschwitz I concentration camp
Warsaw (52 ° 13 ′ 0 ″ N, 21 ° 2 ′ 0 ″ E)
Location of the warehouse in Poland
Auschwitz I concentration camp, overview
Auschwitz I concentration camp / prisoner camp area

After the attack on Poland in 1939, the German occupiers increasingly deported Jewish Poles as part of their policy of Germanization to a barracks camp that the city of Auschwitz had built in 1916 for harvest workers known as “ Saxon goers ”. According to the statements of the Polish investigating magistrate Jan Sehn, who headed the investigation against the first commandant Rudolf Höss after the war , it was the SS-Oberführer and inspector of the Security Police and SD in Breslau Arpad Wigand , who at that time, i.e. towards the end of the year 1939, suggested the construction of a concentration camp in Auschwitz.

On February 1, 1940, Reichsführer SS Heinrich Himmler instructed the inspector of the concentration camps Richard Glücks to examine suitable building complexes, prisons and camps in the Altreich and in the occupied eastern territories for their potential use as concentration camps. Auschwitz was also mentioned by name in Himmler's instructions. Glücks made a report three weeks later, on February 21, 1940. Regarding Auschwitz's suitability as a concentration camp, he stated:

“Auschwitz, a former Polish artillery barracks (stone and wooden building) is suitable as a quarantine camp after some sanitary and structural defects have been remedied. [...] The structural and hygienic examinations that are still necessary in Auschwitz are z. Z. carried out. When the negotiations initiated by the chief of the security police on the release of the camp from the Wehrmacht - there is, as already reported, a construction company in the camp - have come to an end, I will immediately carry out the repairs as a quarantine camp. I have already made the necessary preparations for this. "

A commission headed by Höß carried out a further inspection after the first work on April 17 and 18, whereby the barracks and the surrounding area together with the buildings of the former Polish tobacco monopoly were again declared as suitable - despite Höß's subsequent opinion that it was a "building-wise well-preserved, but completely neglected complex teeming with vermin". As a result, on April 27, 1940, Himmler gave the order to build a facility designed as a transit camp in Auschwitz. Höß was officially confirmed as camp commandant on May 4th .

As a result, the German occupiers built the concentration camp from the original accommodation for the seasonal workers in the spring of the same year in order to intern Polish opponents of the regime and use them as forced laborers in a so-called Polish phase of the German concentration camp until mid-1942 .

The Auschwitz concentration camp was originally planned as a quarantine and transit camp for arrested Polish citizens from Upper Silesia who were to be deported to Germany as forced laborers because of its “favorable traffic situation”. Since there were sand and gravel pits nearby , the location also became interesting as an SS business enterprise. Heinrich Himmler had a security zone of 20 square kilometers clear of Poland through forced resettlement (evacuation), on which an agricultural model estate for breeding cattle and seeds was to be created.

Plans for the establishment of their own armaments factories met with opposition within the power apparatus. However, the SS took on repair orders for the Wehrmacht and rented “their” prisoners to private companies, who used them as forced laborers in numerous sub-camps and field detachments.

The IG Farben board of directors , in particular Otto Ambros , was involved in the planning.They were looking for a suitable location for Buna production and, as early as 1940, recognized that Auschwitz had enough suitable premises and that the necessary ones Raw materials, water, lime, salt and coal were available in large quantities near Auschwitz. In December 1940, Ambros visited the area in question. On March 1, 1941, Himmler and a delegation from IG Farben met for a meeting and a site visit in “Auschwitz”, and on April 7, 1941, the founding meeting of the Buna plant took place in Katowice. The later Auschwitz III – Monowitz concentration camp was attached to this plant for other IG Farben production facilities (in the southeast of the plant area).

Construction and expansion

In May 1940, contrary to the initial plan, Auschwitz I was not set up as a transit camp, but as a concentration and labor camp. 300 Jews from Oświęcim were used as forced laborers for the first construction work. 39 Polish prisoners from the Reich German concentration camp Dachau completed the construction team. The first transport of prisoners reached Auschwitz I on May 20, 1940. This transport from the Sachsenhausen concentration camp , accompanied by SS-Hauptscharführer Gerhard Palitzsch , consisted of German prisoners who were to assume supervisory and control functions as prisoner functionaries (prisoner numbers 1-30). The next transport with 728 Polish political prisoners from Tarnów (prisoner numbers 31-759) followed on June 14, 1940 . Of the predominantly Christian prisoners on this transport, only about 200 survived the Second World War . Wiesław Kielar (prisoner number 290), who later gave extensive testimony about his five-year stay in Auschwitz , was also in this transport .

Karol Zając (prisoner number 481) arrived on the first transport of 728 Poles from Tarnow on June 14, 1940 . Green pre-printed envelopes were required for Polish prisoners.

Old Polish army barracks, some of which were surrounded by a wall, were suitable for use as concentration and labor camps. Eighteen brick buildings were partially raised and an infirmary and a camp prison were refurbished, which was designated as Block 11 from August 1941 . Watchtowers and wire barriers were added. Outside there were two buildings for administration and for housing the guards, as well as a crematorium, which was set up in a former ammunition bunker that was shielded by earth.

This core area was quadrupled in area from 1942 to 1944 by numerous buildings for administration, warehouses and workshops as well as 20 prisoner accommodations. The former main entrance to the camp with the cynical motto "Work makes you free" has been within the enlarged camp area since 1942. The lettering was made by Polish prisoners on German orders about six months after the concentration camp was founded in June 1940. In 2009, the theft of the inscription resulted in an internationally acclaimed search by the Polish police for the perpetrators.

A further 39 sub-camps were set up outside the area of interest KL Auschwitz, which is about 40 square kilometers and is bounded by the Sola and Vistula rivers . These sub-camps were referred to inconsistently as labor camps, satellite camps, branch camps, or field camps. The Polish population was gradually expelled from the area of ​​interest. The area of ​​interest was thus cut off from the environment and easily controllable. Many prisoners' attempts to escape have failed because of the deep staggering of the entire complex, which is not recognizable to them.

Within the area of interest were the sub-camps (or sub- camps) of the six farms of the Auschwitz concentration camp , among others

  • Plawy (agriculture, fish farming)
  • Harmense (agriculture, poultry, rabbit and fish farming)
  • Rajsko (SS Hygiene Institute, Plant Breeding Research Station)
  • Budy (agriculture, fish farming)


The SS Economic and Administrative Main Office (WVHA) , headquartered in Oranienburg near Berlin, controlled the concentration camps with effect from March 16, 1942, and administered the industrial, commercial and agricultural operations that were largely owned by the SS like a profit-oriented company.

As early as March 1941, Himmler ordered the Auschwitz camp to be enlarged. In October construction began on the Auschwitz II – Birkenau extermination camp, which, according to the original plan, was to hold 100,000 prisoners of war. Like other camps, the Auschwitz concentration camp also consisted of several parts:

  • Auschwitz I concentration camp (main camp) from May 1940
  • Auschwitz II – Birkenau concentration camp from October 1941. From 1942 factory-like mass killings with poison gas took place there.
  • Auschwitz III – Monowitz concentration camp in Monowitz. Initially set up as a sub-camp of Auschwitz under the name Buna-Lager at the end of 1942 , it was temporarily an organizationally independent forced labor camp for various industrial settlements. The “independence” relates to the SS structures within the three main camps in Oświęcim but of course not to the Main Economic and Administrative Office (WVHA, the IKL ) of the SS headquarters.


Origin and reasons for imprisonment

Starting with the first transport of 728 prisoners on June 14, 1940, mainly Polish prisoners were interned in the Auschwitz concentration camp in the first months of its existence. These included soldiers who had tried to reach the Polish troops stationed in France, but also Polish intellectuals and opposition members who were captured in the spring of the same year during the “Extraordinary Pacification Action”, or AB for short had been taken. Polish, non-Jewish prisoners formed the main contingent of the prisoner population in the following period up to the autumn of 1941.

At the end of January 1942, the number of inmates in the main camp had risen to 12,754. Among them were 1,305 Soviet prisoners of war . According to the documents still available, a total of 36,285 people, including 9,997 registered Soviet prisoners of war, had been admitted to the camp by this time. 1453 prisoners were transported to other camps after their internment. Only 5 prisoners managed to escape. At this point in time, 22,320 people had already died in Auschwitz.

On March 26, 1942, the first transport with 999 female prisoners from the Ravensbrück concentration camp reached the main camp in Auschwitz. Two days later, on March 28, another transport with 798 Slovak Jewish women followed. These deportations were the first registered closed transports of Jews that had been carried out to Auschwitz by order of the Jewish Department IV B 4 in the Reich Security Main Office . At the end of 1944, 6,000 women from Auschwitz-Birkenau were transferred to the extension buildings of the main camp.

In 1944, the maximum number of prisoners in the main camp was determined to be around 18,500. There were Soviet prisoners of war in the main camp from October 1941 to May 1942.

Admission procedure

The prisoners in Block 26 of the main camp (from 1944 in a newly built building complex) had to hand over their private things as “entrances”. The prisoners were showered, shorn, photographed and registered; From 1942 onwards they were usually tattooed with the prisoner number from one of the six series of numbers on their left forearm . They received clogs and striped prisoner suits on which they are carried angle as political protective custody , Jewish protective custody , criminal, antisocial, emigrant, Gypsy, JW (Bibelforscher) or homosexual were identified. In the last years of the war there was a lack of concentration camp prisoner clothing , so that converted civilian clothing was also worn inside the camp.

Known prisoners and victims

This article names a large number of prisoners, including numerous publicly known persons, some of them listed according to prison functionaries, members of the special detachment at the crematoria, from politics or sports, writers, journalists, actors, artists and clergy.

Killing and extermination

Mortality was very high among those detained. The causes were malnutrition, poor hygiene, illnesses (e.g. typhus , typhoid or diarrheal diseases), hard work and abuse. In the first period of its existence from July 1940 to March 1941, at least 2,500 prisoners died in the main camp. Between March 1941 and January 1942, around 18,000 prisoners died during the expansion of the main camp, the construction of Buna and the establishment of the camp in Birkenau. According to estimates, a total of 60,000 to 70,000 people died in the main camp. The camp also served as a place of execution. Polish resistance fighters and hostages alleged saboteurs from Upper Silesia were there by a court martial of the Gestapo , headed first by Rudolf Mildner , and later by John Thümmler sentenced interrogated and executed. These victims were not registered as prisoners, so their number cannot be determined from the Auschwitz files.

In addition, there were mass killings of registered prisoners, whereby a wide variety of methods were used and tested:

  • In November 1940, 40 Polish political prisoners were shot in a gravel pit near the camp for the first time.
  • At the end of July 1941, as part of " Aktion 14f13 ", around 570 prisoners were brought from Auschwitz to the Pirna-Sonnenstein killing center, where they were gassed with carbon monoxide .
  • In July 1941, several hundred Soviet prisoners of war were killed in a gravel pit.
  • In August 1941, doctors injected Evipan , ether, or phenol into several inmates so that they could compare their deadly effects.
  • On November 11, 1941 , 151 prisoners were executed by shots in the neck at a specially set up "shot trap" in Block 11 .
  • Beginning in August 1941 and then in the autumn of 1941, probably at the beginning of September, around 250 selected patients and 600 Soviet political commissars and officers were gassed with Zyklon B in the cells of the cellar of Block 11 . According to Höß, this was done on the initiative of the protective custody camp leader Karl Fritzsch . The gassing of Soviet prisoners of war continued after the first attempts in 1941. From now on, however, the crematorium's morgue was used because it had a ventilation system.
  • On February 15, 1942 , hundreds of Jews from Bytom in Upper Silesia were deported to the main camp and immediately murdered. This started the mass murder of Jews in this concentration camp.

The search for methods that should be psychologically “less stressful” for the executors of these mass murders is often not accepted as compelling evidence that at this point in time the mass murder of Jews was already a done deal. On the basis of further evidence, most historians are convinced that the decision on the “ final solution ” was taken by the perpetrators responsible in late summer or autumn 1941.

The mass extermination of Jews in the Auschwitz II – Birkenau concentration camp probably began at the end of March or in May 1942. For this purpose, the Jews who were deported here from Upper Silesia and the Dąbrowa area were killed with Zyklon B in a farmhouse that had been converted into gas chambers , and their bodies were initially in Mass graves cleared.

Experiments on prisoners

Block 10 in the main camp (2008)

The SS honorary brigade leader and doctor Carl Clauberg carried out experiments on the mass sterilization of women. He began his human experiments in December 1942 in the Auschwitz-Birkenau women's camp, moved to Block 10 of the main camp in April 1943 and continued the experiments in the summer of 1944 in Block 1 of the extension area of ​​the main camp. His method consisted of using chemical substances to induce severe inflammation with subsequent obstruction of the fallopian tubes. The subject was led to believe it was a pelvic exam. On October 1, 1943, he had 394 "female prisoners for experimental purposes" listed. Some test subjects died either from the experiments themselves or from later infections. A large number of women from this block were sent from Clauberg to Birkenau because he did not consider them suitable for his experiments. Of these, a large number of women were killed in tough work detachments. Of around 800 women who were trapped in Block 10 (not all at the same time) between April 1943 and June 1944, a little more than 300 survived. The surviving women include the German Jew Ilse Arndt , who later reported on her forced sterilization by Clauberg .

The SS-Sturmbannführer and SS doctor Horst Schumann first experimented with X-rays in Barrack 30 of the women's camp in Birkenau in order to render women sterile. These experiments were later continued and expanded in the main camp in Block 10. Schumann also sterilized around 200 Jewish men and later castrated them.

Eduard Wirths , SS medical officer from September 1, 1942 to January 18, 1945, carried out pharmaceutical experiments in the main camp. In Block 10, he had inmate doctors carry out tests for the early detection of uterine cancer. Another six doctors are well-known who took part in some fatal tests of novel drugs.

In April 1943, a room in Block 10 was assigned to the hygiene-bacteriological investigation center of the Waffen-SS Southeast, which was supposed to deal with bacteriological, chemical, pathological-anatomical and other research. One month later, in May 1943, the seat of the investigation center was relocated to Rajsko near Auschwitz. A laboratory remained in block 10.

SS-Hauptsturmführer Josef Mengele , who carried out examinations on twins and experiments on small people and killed some in the final phase for research purposes, was not deployed in the main camp, but worked in the gypsy family camp.

Documents have been received that the Bayer company requested and received 150 female prisoners for “170 RM each”. Another letter said: “The experiments have been carried out, all people have died. We will contact you shortly for further deliveries. "

Individual buildings

See also:

Camp prison

In Block 11 (the old numbering to August 1941 no. 13) there was a camp prison. In the basement of the “bunker” there were four standing cells with no light inlet, the area of ​​which was barely a square meter. Standing bunker was a punishment for so-called camp offenses: For example, a prisoner was sentenced to seven nights in a standing bunker because he had hidden a prisoner's hat in his straw sack to keep out the cold.

As reprisals for the escape of a prisoner from the main camp, camp commandant Rudolf Höß and SS-Hauptsturmführer Karl Fritzsch selected ten hostages from among the prisoners in Block 2 for the first time on April 23, 1941 and sentenced them to starvation in the bunker. On July 29, 1941, Father Maximilian Kolbe sacrificed himself by allowing himself to be exchanged for one of the hostages selected.

Between blocks 11 and 10 was the black wall where prisoners were executed. They had to undress beforehand, then the prisoner number, name and date of birth were written down and the SS men shot them in the back of the head.

Inmate infirmary

Blocks No. 9 (according to the old numbering 11), 19 (14), 20 (15), 21 (18) and 28 (20) formed the prisoner infirmary (HKB) of the main camp Auschwitz. In the research station, doctors experimented with female prisoners, all of them Jewish. The best known of these human experiments were the testing of sterilization methods by Carl Clauberg and Horst Schumann. In the “infection block” (no. 20), sick and segregated inmates from the main camp and inmates transferred here from the sub-camps were killed by phenol injections into the heart in a so-called “treatment room”. In the basement of the HKB outpatient clinic (block no. 28) was the "morgue" from which a specially formed prisoner detachment had to bring the HKB's dead and murdered to the crematorium (see below).

Warehouse brothel

The camp brothel was set up in June 1943 at Himmler's behest in Block 24a (currently the seat of the museum archive). The SS had previously rejected the plan to build a brothel barrack (project 93) behind Block 11. It opened in October 1943 and was intended to reward privileged prison functionaries. The SS guards were forbidden to visit; they visited a brothel in the city of Auschwitz. The SS selected over 60 German, Polish and Ukrainian women in the women's camp in Auschwitz II – Birkenau for the two brothel detachments in Auschwitz I and Auschwitz III – Monowitz . The camp brothel existed until a few days before the evacuation from Auschwitz.

Gas chamber and crematorium

A former ammunition bunker, which was a bit out of the way, was converted into a crematorium. Executions were also carried out there by the Gestapo court martial for Upper Silesia. A ventilation system was installed in the summer of 1941. The rooms of the crematorium were converted into a gas chamber by pounding several dump holes in the ceiling. There, in December 1941, 900 Soviet prisoners of war were killed with the insecticide Zyklon B. There is also evidence of the gassing of 400 Jewish forced laborers who were unable to work and who were brought there from Upper Silesia in February 1942. This first and only gas chamber in the main camp was only used until May 1942.

Two incinerators in the crematorium (reconstruction)

The crematorium itself was in operation until the end of July 1943. Even after a conversion, its capacity was insufficient. According to the received construction documents for the expansion of the main camp from June 1941 and February 1942, plans were made to build a larger crematorium in Auschwitz I. However, the order for five three-muffle ovens from the company JA Topf and Sons , dated October 1941 , was canceled in February 1942; the ovens were needed for Crematorium II in Auschwitz-Birkenau. The "old crematorium" (Krem. I) was converted into an air raid shelter for the SS guards. The openings for pouring Zyklon B were closed with concrete.

After the war, the Polish authorities reversed these modifications in order to create a museum exhibit. In fact, the filler necks shown today were not made until after 1945. It is from this fact that Holocaust deniers draw one of their favorite arguments. According to the testimony of Adam Zlobnicki from Poland, who was involved in the demolition at the time, the openings that were subsequently concreted over were clearly visible. Photos from the time before the reconstruction confirm this statement.

It is believed that up to 36,000 dead were cremated in the main camp's crematorium. The number of victims gassed at this location is only a small fraction of that.

Eviction and Liberation

Between January 17 and January 23, 1945, about 60,000 prisoners from the Auschwitz camps were "evacuated" by the SS guards. They were transported on parts of the route in open freight wagons and driven west over long distances in death marches. Exhausted prisoners who could not keep up with the marching column were shot right on the way. Probably 9,000 to 15,000 people did not survive the "camp dissolution".

About 7,500 prisoners remained in the main and sub-camps who were too weak or too sick to walk. In several outposts, the SS shot around 300 exhausted prisoners before they left. Some researchers assume that an extermination operation was planned for the prisoners left behind, which was only prevented by the rapid advance of the Red Army .

First, the Auschwitz III – Monowitz camp was liberated on the morning of January 27, 1945 by units of the 60th Army of the 1st Ukrainian Front . When the main camp was liberated, 232 Soviet soldiers lost their lives fighting with retreating Germans. In the main camp, which they reached around 3 p.m. on January 27, the liberators found around 1,200 sick prisoners; 5800 prisoners remained in Auschwitz-Birkenau. Despite all medical efforts, many of these liberated prisoners died in the days that followed.

SS camp personnel

Were camp commanders of the main camp

  • Rudolf Höß (camp commandant from April 1940 to November 1943, as site elder and coordinator of the "Hungary Action" from May to July 1944 again in Auschwitz)
  • Arthur Liebehenschel (camp commandant from November 1943 to May 1944)
  • Richard Baer (camp commandant from May 1944)
Auschwitz I concentration camp (main camp). Photo from 2001

The responsibility for the administration of Auschwitz II and III also usually lay with the respective commanders of the main camp. Auschwitz-Birkenau only had its own camp commanders in the form of Friedrich Hartjenstein and Josef Kramer in the period from November 1943 to November 1944 . In Auschwitz-Monowitz, Heinrich Schwarz was deployed as a camp commandant from November 1943. Some administrative institutions, in particular the political department (the Gestapo department of the camp) with card indexing and the registry office , always remained concentrated in the main camp .

Function prisoners

The camp management delegated some subordinate control and administrative tasks to so-called prison functionaries to make their own work easier . There were camp elders who were given the de facto right to make nominations for the selection of further prison functionaries. Prisoners were subordinate to the respective SS block leaders as block elders, room elders and room attendants. There were kapos and foremen in the work details. In the administration, prisoners were used in the office for prisoner affairs.

The prison functionaries were recognizable by armbands and enjoyed advantages, but were always under pressure to lose their office if an order was disregarded or a job was not achieved. Up to 5% of all prisoners were assigned - mostly minor - functions. Their chances of survival were significantly higher because they did not have to do exhausting hard work in wind and weather. In the "camp self-administration" set up by the SS, Jewish prisoners were only seldom given functional tasks; Jews held the lowest rank in the camp hierarchy. German criminals were often used as kapos, driving their exhausted fellow prisoners through terror and abuse. In particular, prison functionaries imprisoned for political reasons used their position to support fellow prisoners, such as members of the Auschwitz combat group .

Under Arthur Liebehenschel, who was appointed as the new camp commandant for a few months from November 1943, many functional positions were filled with political prisoners , and penal arrest and informers were abolished, so that prison conditions improved noticeably for the short period of his service.

Escape and attempted escape

In total, around 700 prisoners tried to escape from the concentration camps in Auschwitz; it succeeded in about 300 - according to other information in fewer than 150 - cases. SS members shot the other refugees during their attempt to escape or later murdered them after they were caught again.

Attempted escape was often punished with starvation in the camp prison known as the bunker ; Family members of the fugitives were often arrested and exhibited in Auschwitz I as a deterrent. Another punishment was to let fellow prisoners atone for their escape. On July 6, 1940, Tadeusz Wiejowski managed to escape for the first time, accompanied by two members of the Polish resistance movement who were employed as “civilian workers” in the camp. Wiejowski did not survive the war.

On June 20, 1942, four Poles, Kazimierz Piechowski , Stanisław Gustaw Jaster, Józef Lempart and Eugeniusz Bendera, made a very daring attempt to escape: They took SS uniforms and weapons and drove out of the camp grounds in a stolen vehicle. One of the refugees was carrying a report on the conditions in the Auschwitz concentration camp, which had been written for the high command of the Polish Home Army.

Auschwitz as a memorial

View of some blocks in the Auschwitz main camp
Kitchen building and collective gallows in the main camp
Emptied Zyklon B cans
"Death wall" memorial in the courtyard between Block 10 and Block 11

The Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, founded in 1947 by a resolution of the Polish Parliament, is located in the town of Oświęcim . It has been on the list of world cultural and natural heritage of mankind since 1979 , under the name "Auschwitz-Birkenau - German National Socialist Concentration and Extermination Camp", which was changed in 2007. The memorial site has 700,000 visitors annually. There are other meeting places on site to commemorate the victims.

When the Auschwitz camp complex was rededicated as a memorial and museum after the war, it was limited to the core area of ​​the main camp, as it had existed before 1942. Large parts of the area with National Socialist stone buildings were excluded and used in a different way by the Polish military. The prisoner reception building was converted into a reception center, which means that its original function is unrecognizable today. The first crematorium in the main camp with ovens and gas chambers was reconstructed. The visitor is not made clear enough that the actual site of the genocide is three kilometers away in Auschwitz-Birkenau. Until 1991, a plaque on the ramp in Birkenau stated the number of those murdered in Auschwitz at 4 million, although this Soviet estimate, made immediately after the end of the war , had long been refuted by historians and described as being many times inflated. Holocaust deniers took advantage of such avoidable inconsistencies in their arguments.

In 1947, the founding statute for the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum stipulated that the place should serve as a reminder “of the martyrdom of the Polish people and other peoples in Oświęcim”. The main camp is of outstanding symbolic importance for Polish history, because nationally conscious Poles were shot here as hostages and resistance fighters on the "Black Wall" even in the initial phase of the concentration camp. Here exemplary men like Maximilian Kolbe endured sacrificial death in the death block. The official flag symbolically shows the red triangle, the identification of the (non-Jewish) political prisoner. The Holocaust / Shoa as a tragedy of the Jewish people, which is linked to the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp, is represented by exhibits in Block 4 and Block 5.

The International Auschwitz Committee was founded in 1952 by survivors of the concentration and extermination camp. It serves on the one hand to represent the interests of its members, but also to coordinate the activities of national Auschwitz committees (e.g. France, Poland, GDR) or prisoner associations and it promotes the commemoration of the deportations and the Shoah in the countries concerned and worldwide.

Jewish survivors regarded the remark of Polish-born Catholic Pope John Paul II , who, as a Christian, spoke of “six million Polish victims of genocide” when visiting on June 7, 1979, as “unlawful appropriation” . After the founding of a monastery in the immediate vicinity of the camp, there were irritations, protests and physical disputes until the Carmelites rebuilt their monastery a further distance away in 1993. There were considerable disputes before the 1987 beatification of the Carmelite Teresia Benedicta of the Cross , who was canonized in 1998 . She converted from Judaism to Christianity in 1922 and was murdered in Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1942. Christians put a cross there for her; Jewish visitors felt provoked and put up a Star of David. The dispute escalated, revealing tensions between Catholic Christians and Jews.

In autumn 1989 a commission was appointed to find a conversion of the memorial sites with a solution acceptable to all groups of victims. One of the proposals is to separate the memorials. Auschwitz I would serve as a central location for Poles and persecuted Christians; Auschwitz II was to become a worthy memorial to the Holocaust. Such a compromise solution, which would take sensitivities into account, has not yet been implemented.

A large part of the premises of the “Memorial and Museum of the State of Poland”, especially the museum exhibition, is located in the area of ​​the former main camp.

The Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum ( Polish : Państwowe Muzeum Auschwitz-Birkenau ) is initially a memorial and as such includes the remains of the two concentration camps Auschwitz I and Auschwitz-Birkenau (also: Auschwitz II ). The mass murders during the German occupation in World War II are remembered. This institution is also a meeting place, information point, archive and research institute.

The Jan. 27 , the day of the liberation of Auschwitz is, since 1996 official in Germany remembrance for the victims of National Socialism . In addition to Germany, the day of remembrance is officially celebrated as a state day of remembrance in Israel , Great Britain and Italy .

Legal processing

Post-war processes

  • The total of 13 Nuremberg trials before the International Military Tribunal from November 1945 to 1948
  • The Höss trial against the former SS commander Rudolf Höss took place from March 11 to 29, 1947 in Warsaw, Poland. It ended with a death sentence. Höß was hanged on the site of the former Auschwitz I concentration camp two weeks later.
  • Krakow Auschwitz trial of 40 former guards, 1947. The main outcome was 23 death sentences.
  • Auschwitz trials of the Vienna People's Court (1945–1955)
  • Preliminary inquiries by the Vienna Public Prosecutor's Office in the late 1950s, which were discontinued without indictment.
  • Six German Auschwitz Trials in Frankfurt (The 1st Trial in 1963/1965 and 1965/1966 was followed by the 2nd Frankfurt Auschwitz Trial and 4 subsequent trials in the 1970s)
  • There were proceedings before a court in Austria in 1972 in which two architects in Vienna who had worked in the construction management of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp were relieved of the charge of intentional homicide in accordance with Sections 134 and 135 of the Austrian Criminal Code (from 1852 ) were acquitted.

Guards or perpetrators convicted in other places

German investigations 2014

On February 19, 2014, at precisely nine o'clock, the apartments and houses of 30 former SS members from the Auschwitz concentration camp were searched by the state criminal investigation offices of Bavaria , Hesse , North Rhine-Westphalia and Baden-Württemberg . There were 24 men and six women who served in the lower ranks from SS-Sturmmann to SS-Rottenführer in the concentration camp as security guards, accountants , paramedics and teleprinters. These former employees of the concentration camp team, aged between 88 and 99, had been identified by the Central Office of the State Justice Administrations for Investigating National Socialist Crimes (ZSt). Three of these people were temporarily arrested. In August 2014, serious investigations were still ongoing against eight people. The other proceedings were dropped because the suspects died or were unable to stand trial. In one case it turned out that the suspect was not part of the concentration camp team. Another had already been convicted in Poland. Of 6,500 SS men who worked in Auschwitz, only 29 were convicted in the Federal Republic and only 20 in the GDR. This failure of the German judiciary is now referred to by observers as Germany's second fault . Among other things , Der Spiegel writes about the reasons for the failure of the legal appraisal : "Many Germans did not care about the mass murder of Auschwitz before 1945 - after that either." There were simply no lawyers who wanted to convict and punish the perpetrators.

On April 21, 2015, legal proceedings against former SS member Oskar Gröning began before the Lüneburg Regional Court for aiding and abetting murder in 300,000 cases against him. On July 15, 2015, he was sentenced to four years in prison. Against the judgment laid plaintiffs and defense Revision one. On September 20, 2016, the Federal Court of Justice upheld the judgment. The Federal Constitutional Court ruled on December 21, 2017 that Groening's old age did not prevent him from serving his sentence. A request for clemency that was then submitted by Gröning in accordance with the Lower Saxony order of grace was rejected. In February 2018, Gröning sent a second request for clemency to the Lower Saxony Ministry of Justice. Even before the Justice Minister's decision, Gröning died on March 9, 2018, without starting the sentence.

See also


  • Auschwitz - The Project (France, 2017, 57 min, directed by E. Weiss, German and French versions) - an overview of the spatial expansion of the Auschwitz concentration camp buildings from 1940 to 1945 (the network of concentration camps and forced labor sites in Industry and agriculture, the SS model town) in the occupied region west of Krakow by means of aerial photographs in the present.
  • Shoah , 1985, directed by Claude Lanzmann


Further literature

Lit.Liste for KZ A.II-BirkenauMore literature on concentration camps AIbibliography on KZ A. III-Monowitz literature on concentration camps in general

Web links

Commons : Auschwitz I concentration camp (main camp)  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. On the designation “German National Socialist Concentration and Extermination Camp”: This was decided by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee at the suggestion of Poland at its meeting in Christchurch , New Zealand . Poland's Minister of Culture Ujazdowski called the decision a "victory of historical truth over lies". Now it was no longer possible to talk about Polish extermination camps with impunity , which had led to outrages in Poland.
  2. Martin Broszat (ed.): Kommandant in Auschwitz , Munich 1963, p. 90 / footnote entry: Wigand is incorrectly listed here as "Wiegandt".
  3. Martin Broszat (Ed.): Kommandant in Auschwitz , Munich 1963, p. 90 / Footnote entry: International Military Court , XXXVI, NO-034.
  4. Martin Broszat (Ed.): Kommandant in Auschwitz , Munich 1963, p. 90 f./ footnote entry: Testimony of the Polish investigating judge Jan Sehn / testimony of Rudolf Höß.
  5. Wanda Michalak [ed.]: Auschwitz - fascist extermination camp , Warsaw 1981, p. 15.
  6. Martin Broszat (Ed.): Commandant in Auschwitz , Munich 1963, p. 91 / Footnote entry: Note in Rudolf Höß 'personal file.
  7. Königseder describes the process in Wolfgang Benz , Barbara Distel (ed.): Der Ort des Terrors . History of the National Socialist Concentration Camps. Volume 5: Hinzert, Auschwitz, Neuengamme. CH Beck, Munich 2007, ISBN 978-3-406-52965-8 , pp. 80/81.
  8. however, compare the comments on the location question on
  9. Jochen August: History and Topography of Auschwitz-Birkenau , p. 1, article from the Hamburg Institute for Social Research (ed.): Die Auschwitz-Hefte Volume 1 & 2 , Weinheim / Basel 2007.
  10. Gideon Greif: We wept without tears ... - eyewitness reports from the Jewish Sonderkommando in Auschwitz .
  11. Czech, Danuta: Kalendarium. quoted from the Italian translation by Gianluca Pichini, pp. 5-7. (PDF; 270 kB) Among the first 30 prisoners was Otto Küsel (prisoner no. 2).
  12. Wieslaw Kielar: Anus Mundi - Five Years Auschwitz .
  13. This lettering was stolen on December 18, 2009 by initially unknown perpetrators. In place of the missing original, a copy was made on the same day.
    Thieves steal lettering from Auschwitz-Tor , on December 18, 2009.
    On the night of December 21, 2009, the lettering was
    seized by the police and five suspects were arrested: Dziennik, Złodzieje pocięli napis z Auschwitz na kawałki , 21. December 2009  ( page no longer available , search in web archivesInfo: The link was automatically marked as defective. Please check the link according to the instructions and then remove this notice.
    @1@ 2Template: Dead Link /  
  14. Hans Buchheim: The SS - the instrument of rule, command and obedience. Munich 1967, p. 181.
  15. Martin Broszat (Ed.): Kommandant in Auschwitz , Munich 1963, p. 179 / recording by Rudolf Höß from November 1946.
  16. Martin Broszat: Anatomy of the SS State - National Socialist Concentration Camp 1933 - 1945. Munich 1967, p. 99.
  17. Jochen August: History and Topography of Auschwitz-Birkenau , p. 1 f. Article from the Hamburg Institute for Social Research (ed.): Die Auschwitz-Hefte Volume 1 & 2 , Weinheim / Basel 2007.
  18. Jochen August: History and Topography of Auschwitz-Birkenau , p. 2. Article from the Hamburg Institute for Social Research (ed.): Die Auschwitz-Hefte Volume 1 & 2 , Weinheim / Basel 2007.
  19. Jochen August: History and Topography of Auschwitz-Birkenau , p. 3. Article from the Hamburg Institute for Social Research (ed.): Die Auschwitz-Hefte Volume 1 & 2 , Weinheim / Basel 2007.
  20. State Museum Auschwitz-Birkenau (ed.): Auschwitz in the eyes of the SS. Oswiecim 1998, p. 64 f.
  21. The exact date is disputed: Robert Jan van Pelt: Auschwitz . In: Günther Morsch, Bertrand Perz: New studies on National Socialist mass killings by poison gas. Berlin 2011, ISBN 978-3-940938-99-2 , p. 201 with note 14.
  22. Martin Broszat (Ed.): Commandant in Auschwitz , Munich 1963, p. 159.
  23. ... Neither the number of the deporteees from Beuthen, nor any of their names, seem to be known, only the fact of their destruction. " Martin Gilbert describes it in: Holocaust Journey (Neither the number of those deported from Bytom, not a single name seems to be known - only the fact that they were destroyed)
  24. D. Czech, Diary, pp. 174-175.
  25. ^ Franciszek Piper : The number of victims of Auschwitz . Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum 1993, ISBN 83-85047-17-4 , p. 50.
  26. Hans-Joachim Lang: The women of Block 10. Medical experiments in Auschwitz. Hamburg 2011, p. 274.
  27. Hans-Joachim Lang: The women of Block 10. Medical experiments in Auschwitz. Hamburg 2011, pp. 132-143.
  28. Hans-Joachim Lang: The women of Block 10. Medical experiments in Auschwitz. Hamburg 2011, pp. 144–166.
  29. ^ Bayer company from Müller, Auschwitz, p. 140.
  30. Hans-Joachim Lang: The women of Block 10. Medical experiments in Auschwitz. Hamburg 2011.
  31. Cf. Friedrich Karl Kaul: Doctors in Auschwitz , Berlin 1968; also: Danuta Czech: Calendar of events in the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp 1939–1945 , Reinbek bei Hamburg 1989, p. 108.
  32. On block 28 of the HKB see Danuta Czech: Calendar of events in the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp 1939–1945 , Reinbek bei Hamburg 1989, p. 127.
  33. ^ Robert Sommer: The prisoner brothels in the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp complex. Forced sex labor in the area of ​​tension between Nazi 'racial politics' and the fight against venereal diseases. In: Jah, Kopke, Korb, Stiller (eds.): “National Socialist Camps. New contributions to the history of the politics of persecution and extermination and to the theory and practice of memorial work ”, Münster 2006.
  34. Jan Erik Schulte: The Wannsee Conference and Auschwitz . In: Norbert Kampe, Peter Klein (eds.): The Wannsee Conference on January 20, 1942 ... , Cologne 2013, ISBN 978-3-412-21070-0 , p. 234 / Robert Jan van Pelt: Auschwitz . In: Günther Morsch, Bertrand Perz: New studies on National Socialist mass killings by poison gas. Berlin 2011, ISBN 978-3-940938-99-2 , p. 204.
  35. ^ Franciszek Piper: The number of victims of Auschwitz based on the sources and the results of research, 1945 to 1990 . Publishing house State Museum in Oświęcim 1993, ISBN 83-85047-17-4 .
  36. a b Report of the Auschwitz Museum ( Memento from September 29, 2007 in the Internet Archive )
  37. Marek Tomasz Pawlowski (director) staged this drama documentary and film: The Flight . Film, Poland, 45 min. German adaptation Ingrid Terhorst.
  38. File number and summary at
  39. Overview of the procedure at
  40. Klaus Wiegrefe: The shame after Auschwitz . Der Spiegel 35/2014, pp. 28–35.
  41. Former SS man confesses. In: April 21, 2015, accessed July 17, 2015 .
  42. Claudia von Salzen: Aiding and abetting the murder of 300,000 people. In: April 20, 2015, accessed July 17, 2015 .
  43. Auschwitz Trial: Oskar Gröning sentenced to four years in prison. In: July 15, 2015, accessed July 17, 2015 .
  44. Gisela Friedrichsen : A conviction for murder is impossible , comment on the revision,, July 18, 2015, accessed on August 12, 2016.
  45. Martin Anetzberger: BGH confirms judgment against the “Auschwitz accountant” ,, November 28, 2016.
  46. Unsuccessful constitutional complaint against the refusal to postpone the execution of a prison sentence (press release no. 115/2017 of December 29, 2017, decision of December 21, 2017, file number 2 BvR 2772/17)
  47. Order of grace, nds. Rpfl. 1977, 34th Lower Saxony Regulations Information System (VORIS), accessed on January 17, 2018.
  48. Convicted ex-SS man Gröning asks for mercy. Süddeutsche Zeitung, January 15, 2018, accessed on January 15, 2018 .
  49. ↑ The ex-SS man Groening's petition for clemency rejected. In:, January 17, 2018.
  50. vik / dpa: Convicted ex-SS man. Oskar Gröning asks the Minister of Justice for mercy. In: March 1, 2018, accessed March 12, 2018.
  51. Sven Becker, Jörg Diehl and Ansgar Siemens: “Accountant of Auschwitz.” Former SS man Oskar Gröning is dead. In: March 12, 2018. Retrieved March 12, 2018.

Coordinates: 50 ° 1 ′ 35 ″  N , 19 ° 12 ′ 14 ″  E