“Death and Extermination Camps”
One of the most devastating events to take place in history was the Holocaust. There were many factors leading up to the Holocaust but one that sticks out to many people, were in fact the death and extermination camps. After the Ghettos were liquidated, there was a selection process and Jews would be chosen to either be labor workers, or sent to death camps. Many lives were changed drastically due to this event, and millions of innocent people were lost due to the darkness and cold hearts of the Nazis. Six death camps and extermination camps were established throughout Poland. To fully comprehend the power and destruction of the Holocaust, no person could wrap their minds around.
The six death and extermination camps were; Auschwitz-Birkenau, Belzec, Chelmno, Majdanek, Sobibor, and Treblinka. According to the article,Concentration and Death Camps Chart, the infamous Auschwitz-Birkenau was established in Oswiecim, Poland in May 26th, 1940, but was evacuated January 18th, 1945. During the time that Auschwitz was running, over 1,100,000 innocent Jews are murdered (History 1900’s). This center was also one of the largest extermination centers in Poland.
Jewish Gen lists, “the Auschwitz complex was divided in three major camps: Auschwitz I main camp or Stammlager; Auschwitz II or Birkenau, established on October 8th, 1941 as a ‘Vernichtungslager’ (extermination camp); Auschwitz III or Monowitz, established on May 31st, 1942 as an ‘Arbeitslager’ or work camp; also several sub camps. There were up to seven gas chambers using Zyklon-B poison gas and three crematoria. Auschwitz II included a camp for new arrivals and those to be sent on to labor elsewhere; a Gypsy camp; a family camp; a camp for holding and sorting plundered goods and a women's camp. Auschwitz III provided slave labor for a major industrial plant run by I G Farben for producing synthetic rubber. Highest number of inmates, including sub-camps: 155,000. The estimated number of deaths: 2.1 to 2.5 million killed in gas chambers, of whom about 2 million were Jews, and Poles, Gypsies and Soviet POWs. About 330,000 deaths from other causes”. (The Death Factory)
The construction of Belzec began November 1st1941; Polish civilians began working on the killing center on the outskirts of Belzec. The first gassing phase took place June 19th 1942. The gas chambers in Belzec were capable of holding and killing 1,000 people at one time. An article from YadVashem explains, “The Nazis commenced construction of Belzec in November 1941, and a result to exterminate two million Jews in the Generalgouvernment (large area in Poland). In total six hundred thousand people, mostly Jews and a few hundred Gypsies were murdered in Belzec”.(YadVashem).
According to RudulfReder in an article on YadVashem, “I was in the death camp from August until the end of November 1942. This was the period of the mass suffocation of Jews. A few of my companions in misfortune, the few who'd manage to be there longer, told me that the most death transports were in this period. They arrived every day, without a single day's break, usually three times a day, with fifty cars in every train, and every car had a hundred people in it. When transports arrived at night, the victims of Belzec waited in the closed cars until six in the morning. On average, ten thousand people a day were put to death.” (Belzec).Rudulf continues to say that when Jews arrived in Belzec, they were ordered to undress and leave belongings in the yard. Deceitful speeches were always given to cheer up the new arrivals to give them false hope. Just moments later, elderly were taken away, then men, women and children were lead to gas chambers. In Rudulfs testimony, he gives explanations about everything that he witnessed, including the awful murders.
According to the article The Holocaust, Chelmnowas one of the first extermination camps to be established on Polish soil. The first wave of murder began December 8th, 1941 and continued until late January of 1945. Jews from the Lodz ghetto were transported to Chelmno. When they arrived at the camp they were stripped of all their clothing and belongings, once this happened, they were loaded onto mobile gas vans moments after they reached the camp. The mobile gas vans had a pipe on the inside of the van which leads to the exhaust pipe. Immediately, the gas vans would drive to the burial site in a forest nearby. Once they reached the burial site, all of the Jews inside the vans had died. With having only three gas vans 300,000 Jews and 5,000 Sinti and Roma were murdered (YadVashem).
Furthermore, Chelmno explains what happened after the vas left. “A few Jewish prisoners were selected from incoming transports to form a forced-labor detachment (Sonderkommando) of 50 to 60 men deployed at the forest camp. They removed corpses from the gas vans and buried them in the mass graves. Because the graves quickly filled and the smell of decomposing bodies began to permeate the surrounding area, including nearby villages, the SS and police ordered in summer 1942 that in future the bodies be burned on open air “ovens” made of rail track in the forest camp. Jewish Sonderkommando members were also responsible for exhuming the graves and burning the previously interred bodies. In addition, they sorted the clothing of the victims and cleaned the vans. Another small detachment of about 15 Jews worked at the manor house, sorting and packing the belongings of the victims. Between eight and ten skilled handicraftsmen produced or repaired goods for the SS special detachment. Periodically, SS and police officials would kill the members of the Jewish special detachments and replace them with laborers selected off of new transports.” (United States Holocaust Memorial Museum) (USHMM)
Majdanek (Poland) states: Madjanek was opened October 1942 originally as a prisoner of war (POW) camp. The maximum number of inmates located at Majdanek was estimated to be 25,000. When the camp was being built, it was only built with two gas chambers that used Zyklon-B poisoning, and later on replaced by brick building gas chambers.
The first murders began April 1942 and ended in July 1944. As a part of the “Final Solution”, an estimated 130,000 Jews were deported to Majdanek. Once gas chambers started being used for the imported Jews, the Nazi’s needed to get rid of the POW’s, so they decided on killing them in the mass shootings. The largest massacre to happen inside Majdanek was on November 3rd 1943 when approximately 17,000 Jews were machine-gunned to death as part of the “ErntefestAktion” (Majdanek Extermination Camp)
Moreover, an account on About History claims, on a cold day on November 3rd 1943, the Nazis decided to commit a simultaneous act of mass murder in the remaining three camps in the Generalgouvernment, Trawniki, Poniatowa and Majdanek. The code name for this event was Erntefest (“Harvest Festival”). The Nazi’s heard about the revolt in the Warsaw Ghetto in April 1943, then again in August, this time in the Treblinka death camp, one more uprising in the Sibbor death camp on October 14th 1943. The Nazis began to worry that there would be another attempted revolt; in order to prevent it they would eliminate the remaining Jews in the Generalgouvernment. The killing would take place on a specific day, November 3rd 1943. The murder of the estimated 43,000 Jews during the AktionErntefest was not only a very bloody day in history, but also the end of the AktionReinhard. (ErntefestAktion)
According to YadVashem, Sobibor was located in Lublin Poland. The death camp was established in March of 1942 as part of the AktionReinhard, but was soon shut down near the end of 1943 due to the amount of prisoner uprisings occurring. An estimated number of Jews murdered here sits at an astonishing 250,000 Jews. The construction of this camp was designed to hide what was on the inside. Sobibor was divided into three sections; administration area, reception area, and the extermination area. The deported Jews were taken to the reception area as soon as they arrived, and were told to strip down and leave belongings in a pile since they were going to shower, and so the Germans could disinfect all of the clothes and personal belongings before getting back on the train. Since the Jews were held in the reception area, they were unable to see the extermination area, which was gas chambers, burial tranches, and housing for the Jewish workers. The gas showers were built to hold 160-180 people, and instead of using the Zyklon-B poisoning, Sobibor used carbon monoxide gas (Sobibor)
The article proceeds to say on YadVashem, “The gas chambers were sealed once the maximum potential of victims were inside. Poisonous gas was then piped in. Within 20-30 minutes, all those inside were dead. Jewish work teams – known as Sonderkommando removed the bodies, pulled out any gold teeth, and buried the dead. The whole process, from arrival to burial, took only two or three hours. During that time, prisoners were forced to clean the railroad cars, after which the trains left and another 20 cars entered the camp. Those Jews who were not sent to the gas chambers immediately underwent a Selektion process, which continued daily. Only a few survived for more than a few months.” (Sobibor)
According to Treblinka, the death camp, Treblinka is located in the northeastern part of the Generalgouvernment. Treblinka was established in the early summer of 1942 as a part of the AktionReinhard. Approximately 870,000 Jews and other deportees were murdered here. This camp is very similar to Sobibor in the layout, it had high barriers so no one could see in. Treblinka was separated into three sections, the living area, the reception area, and the extermination area. Just like many other death camps, they Jews were taken to only the reception area so they could not see their dark fate that lays ahead, the extermination area. When the Jews arrived, they were told they were taking a brief stop to disinfect everything and were lead to the “showers” (YadVashem)
The article states from YadVashem, “The extermination process at Treblinka was based on experience gained by the Nazis in Belzec and Sobibor- the two other AktionReinhard camps. When a train made up of 50 - 60 cars, holding some 6,000 - 7,000 people, arrived at the nearby train station, 20 cars were brought into the camp, while the rest were made to wait in the station. The car doors were opened, and SS officers ordered the Jews to disembark. Next, a camp officer would announce to the new arrivals that they had reached a transit camp where they would take showers, have their clothes disinfected, and then travel on to various labor camps. After this announcement, the Jews were taken to "Deportation Square." Men and women were separated - children going with the women. The women and children were made to undress in a barrack, and the women's hair was cut. Naked, they were forced to leave the barrack and enter the "pipe"- a narrow, fenced-in, camouflaged path that led to the gas chambers. After the victims were locked into the chambers, the engine was started and poison gas poured in. Within half an hour, all inside were dead, and the next group of victims would prepare to enter. Meanwhile, the bodies were removed and taken for burial in the trenches. This last job was done by a team of Jewish prisoners, called Sonderkommando”. (Treblinka).
In conclusion, these six death camps, Auschwitz-Birkenau, Belzec, Chelmno, Majdanek, Sobibor, and Treblinka will forever be talked about in the history books, as well as all of the dark evil of AdolfHitler and the Nazi’s. There were many killing methods used during the holocaust, but the two ways used in the death camps were Zyklon-B poisoning and carbon monoxide.Approximately 11 million people were brutallymurdered in the Nazis genocide; estimated 1.5 million were children, and five million non-Jews (Gypsies, Salvs, Homosexuals, and people in the wrong place at the wrong time).
"AktionErntefest." About.com 20th Century History.About.com 20th Century History.Web. 15 Apr. 2013.
"Auschwitz-Birkenau - "The Death Factory"" Jewish Gen. YadVashem.Web. 10 Apr. 2013.
"Belzec."YadVashem. , FundacjaJudaicaPanstwoweMuzeumOswiecimBrzezinka. Web. 12 Apr. 2013.
"Belzec."YadVashem. YadVashem. Web. 12 Apr. 2013.
"Concentration and Death Camps Chart."Concentration and Death Camps Chart.History 1900's.Web. 12 Apr. 2013.
"Holocaust History."Chelmno.USHMM.Web. 15 Apr. 2013.
"The Holocaust."Holocaust History.YadVashem. Web. 15 Apr. 2013.
"Majdanek Extermination Camp (Poland)." Majdanek Extermination Camp (Poland). Jewish Gen. Web. 15 Apr. 2013.
Reder, Rudulf."Belzec."YadVashem. , FundacjaJudaicaPanstwoweMuzeumOswiecimBrzezinka. Web. 12 Apr. 2013.
"Sobibor."YadVashem. YadVashem. Web. 15 Apr. 2013.
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was on the right side and one of the lucky ones. They were told to undress and put into stripeduniforms. At night, the SS guards would go around hitting them to see if they were hiding goldor diamonds. Around the same time, Auschwitz was sending Jews to other concentration campsto work. Joseph and the remaining portion of his family were checked out to see if they couldwork and were shipped off to Germany. They spent four years in a ghetto and could not standtwo weeks in Auschwitz. Joseph replied, "We wanted to get out of there as soon as possible."Auschwitz was comprised of three death camps. In May 1940, Auschwitz I was built andequipped with a gas chamber and crematorium to start eliminating small groups. This is wheremedical experiments by Joseph Mengele took place. Auschwitz II, also called Auschwitz-Birkenau, came about in the early part of the year in 1942. This camp was designed solely for killing only. There were four main crematoriums and several gas chambers surrounded byelectrical barbed-wire fencing. In October 1942, the last Auschwitz death camp was built.Auschwitz-Monowitz, Auschwitz III, housed prisoners assigned to work at Buna where theymade rubber and fuel. There were forty-five sub camps under this factory. In July 1944, around426,000 Jews were deported to Auschwitz. Approximately 320,000 of them were sent to the gaschamber at Auschwitz II and 110,000 were used for labor ("Auschwitz", par. 12). Altogether, 1.1million Jews were deported to Auschwitz and at least 960,000 Jews were murdered("Auschwitz", par. 13 & 15).Crystalline Hydrogen Cyanide gas, otherwise known asZyklon B, was used as the major extermination method.Before Zyklon B came about, the Nazis first form of execution was the firing squad. A line was formed near