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Auschwitz-Birkenau: Half Hell, Half Lunatic Asylum


"The women lived in a constant state of fear and uncertainty. They knew they had to submit to some kind of experiments invented by the SS doctors, and that when their role ends--the role of guinea pigs-- they will be sent to Birkenau, where the gas chamber would be waiting for them....I had the feeling that I was in a place which was half hell and half lunatic asylum." Dr. Dora Klein, Inmate/Nurse, Auschwitz



On the way to the gas chambers. CL:Archives of the State Museum in Oswiecim



A women's barracks. CL:Archives of the State Museum in Oswiecim


At Auschwitz-Birkenau, the Nazis manufactured death with cold, industrial efficiency. Between April 1942 and November 1944, 2,000,000 Jews were gassed. In addition hundreds of thousands of non-Jews, including Poles, Soviet P.O.W.'s and Gypsies were murdered. To erase all signs of their horrific deeds, the Nazis reduced corpses to ashes in the crematoria. Operating day and night, the five Auchwitz-Birkenau gas chambers and ovens murdered and cremated as many as 9,000 individuals per day.

A ten-year-old female inmate after liberation; 1945. CL:Archives of the State Museum in Oswiecim

Sadistic and brutal medical experiments were conducted at Auschwitz-Birkenau by Josef Mengele and other "physicians" like Johann Paul Kremer, Horst Schumann, Fritz Klein, and Carl Clauberg. Twins, dwarfs, pregnant women and other selected prisoners were used for gruesome "genetic" studies.

Birkenau. Prisoners digging a drainage ditch. CL:Archives of the State Museum in Oswiecim

Living in filth and struggling against starvation, the people who could still work had the most likely chance for survival, a slim hope at best. An injury, often the result of the casual brutality of the guards, was synonymous with a death warrant.

Polish children, numbered and photographed, upon arrival CL:Archives of the State Museum in Oswiecim

Birkenau. Crematory ovens. Photos by SS officer, 1943. CL:Archives of the State Museum in Oswiecim

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