MLC Logo 

Auschwitz-Birkenau: The Death Factory

The gates and railway lines of Auschwitz-Birkenau
after liberation by Soviet troops, January 1945.
"At Auschwitz, I used Zyklon B, which was a crystallized prussic acid which we dropped into the death chamber from a small opening. It took from 3 to 15 minutes to kill the people in the death chamber, depending on the climatic conditions. We knew the people were dead because their screaming stopped."
Rudolf Hoess, Nuremberg, 1946

Slovakian Jewish men selected for labor upon arrival in June 1944. CL:Archives of the State Museum in Oswiecim

With the introduction of Zyklon B at Auschwitz- Birkenau and Maidahek, death became a diabolical industry. This more efficient method rapidly spread to the other killing centers.

Selection at Birkenau. CL:Archives of the State Museum in Oswiecim
Located in Upper Silesia, Auschwitz-Birkenau was the largest Nazi camp combining the functions of concentration camp and killing center. Originally designed by the Nazis for Polish prisoners, the camp opened in May 1940. However, with implementation of the "Final Solution" in 1941, it became the largest center for the murder of millions of European Jews.

Containers of Zyklon-B pellets, a form of crystalline prussic acid, used to murder inmates at Auschwitz. CL:Archives of the State Museum in Oswiecim

Burning corpses of murdered inmates in 1944. Clandestine photo. CL: Archives of the State Museum in Oswiecim
"When the Reichsfuehrer SS modified his original Extermination Order of 1941, by which all Jews without exception were to be destroyed. and ordered instead that those capable of work were to be separated from the rest and employed in the armaments industry. Auschwitz became a Jewish camp. It was a collecting place for Jews, exceeding in scale anything previously known...They knew, without exception, that they were condemned to death ,that they would live only so long as they could work." Rudolf Hoess, Autobiography Captions Birkenau housed Gypsies and women, while Monowitz, the third camp in the Auschwitz complex, held male prisoners used as slave labor for the I.G. Farben Buna works.

Panel 30Index to Courage to RememberPanel 32
For Teachers Resource Guide

[Home] [Index] [Courage to Remember] [Glossary of the Holocaust] [Educational Resources] [36 Questions About Holocaust] [Library] [Bookstore]

Copyright © 1997, The Simon Wiesenthal Center
9760 West Pico Boulevard, Los Angeles, California 90035