Experience: Auschwitz Birkenau

Fani Adelsberg
Nettie Adelsberg
Martin Adler
Sonia Aisner
Irving Altus
Ella Baker
Regina Baskin
Luba Bauer
Leo Beals
Edith Berman
Ella Berman
Ludwig Berman
Rose Bernbaum
Sally Biederman
Bela Bienenstock
Simon Binke
Edith Birnholtz
Rose Bohm
Magda Budaj
Bella Camhi
Ibolya Centeri
"Uncle" Sam Chesla
Simon Cieck
Henia Ciesla
Harry Cymerint
Robert Devries
Ann Eisenberg
Isidor Eisenberg
Luba Elbaum
Irena Erlich
Louis Falek
Joseph Farkas
Albert Fein
Leon Feld
Sylvia Feld
Fred Findling
Charlotte Firestone
Ben Fisk
Michael Fordonski
Nancy Fordonski
Aaron Friedman
Doris Friedman
Erno Friedman
Pearl Friedman
Sabine Geiringer
Rose Giman
Bella Glaser
Mike Gluck
Etka Goldenberg
Ilona Goldman
Ben Goldner
Leon Greenbaum
Anna Greenberger
Sol Gringlas
Emery Grosinger
Aron Gross
Lena Gross
Rachel Growe
Rose Guttman
Alex Hauser
Ilona Havas
Agnes Helfman
Otto Herczeg
Leon Herschfus
Hermina Hirsch
Kurt Hirschfeld
Abraham Holcman
Motek Holcman
Sam Hornung
Franka Iglewicz
Lanka Ilkow
Regina Jablonka
Mike Judikovic
Hela Jutkiewicz
David Kahan
Helen Kain
Ernest Kappel
Garry Kappy
Viola Kappy
Alex Karp
Livia Katan
Joseph Katz
Martha Katz
Benjamin Kawer
Margot Kemplar
Ruth Kent
Magda Kessler
Ruth Kirsbaum
Zelda Klaiman
Anna Klein
Bernard Klein
Emery Klein
Frida Klein
Viola Klein
Bernard Klisman
Sophie Klisman
Sheri Kohen
Zalman (Zoli) Kohen
Abraham (Zalek) Kolnierz
Helen Kosuch
Edith Kozlowski
Marvin Kozlowski
Max Kozlowski
Sarah Kreisman
Henry Krystal
Nathan Lachman
Sara Landsman
Aron Lankin
Helen Lankin
Helena Lebovic
Mayer Lebovic
Ruth Lehman
Anna Lengel
Miriam Lengel
Gary Lenzner
Manuel Levi
Bendet Lewkowicz
Leon Lewkowicz
Lili Lewkowicz
Karel Lipa
Jack Lipton
Magda Losonci
Elias Magnus
Freda Magnus
Eva Mames
Brenda Marczak
Herman Marczak
Paula Marks-Bolton
Andre Marosy
Henry Martin
Moniek Milberger
Bessie Mittelman
Emmanuel Mittelman
Paul Molnar
Bernard Mond
Diane Neuman
Nathan Nothman
Steve Oliwek
Yetta Opatowski
Thomas Pallos
Abe Pasternak
Helen Pergament
Henry Pestka
Irene Petrinitz
Ted Pilcowitz
Max Pines
Jack Pludwinski
Rabbi Moshe Polter
Phyllis Potach
Esther Praw
Harry Praw
Shirley Radin
Saul Raimi
Eva Rival
Helen Rosenberg
Fay Rotberg
Samuel Rotberg
Edith Roth
Hershel Roth
Tobi Roth
Mirel Rottersman
Agata (Agi) Rubin
Helen Solarz Sadik
Nathan Sadik
Mania Salinger
Jane Salzberg
Katherine "Kathy" Sattler
Julius Schaumberg
Rosa Schaumberg
David Scherman
Lola Schonberger
Irene Schwartz
Margaret Schwartz
Margit Schwartz
Sam Seltzer
Sam Seltzer
Martin Shlanger
Felicia Shloss
Roman Shloss
Sara Silow
Elizabeth Silver
Brandla Small
Samuel Small
Irene Snitchler
Max Solarz
William Sperber
Erna Staub
Ida Steuer
Joseph Steuer
Charles Strassberg
Lilo Strauss
Jacques Szafman
Lola Taubman
Sala Teitelman
Magdalene Thirman
Harry Tuchklaper
Sally Tuchklaper
Morris Tugman
Sara Tugman
George Vine
Rose Wagner
Melanie Wallis
Anna Wasserman
Martin Water
Sabina Water
Jack Wayne
Larry Wayne
Ruth Webber
Zita Weber
Jack Weinberger
Harry Weinstein
Clara Weis
Elena Weiss
Erna Weiss
Eva Weiss
Gabriella Weiss
Lilly Weiss
Michael Weiss
Shari Weiss
Sidy Weiss
Eva Wimmer
Shoshana Winkler
Abram Winogron
Rella Wizenberg
Lillian Wohl
Sara York
David Zauder
Aron Zoldan
“(In Polish, Oswiecim), The largest Nazi extermination and concentration camp, located in the Polish town of Oswiecim, 37 miles west of Krakow. One-sixth of all Jews murdered by the Nazis were gassed at Auschwitz.

“In April 1940 SS chief Heinrich Himmler ordered the establishment of a new concentration camp in Oswiecim, a town located within the portion of Poland that was annexed to Germany at the beginning of World War II. The first Polish political prisoners arrived in Auschwitz in June 1940, and by March 1941 there were 10,900 prisoners, the majority of whom were Polish. Auschwitz soon became known as the most brutal of the Nazi concentration camps.

“In March 1941 Himmler ordered a second, much larger section of the camp to be built 1.9 miles from the original camp. This site was to be used as an extermination camp and was named Birkenau, or Auschwitz II. Eventually, Birkenau held the majority of prisoners in the Auschwitz complex, including Jews, Poles, Germans, and Gypsies. Furthermore, it maintained the most degrading and inhumane conditions — inclusive of the complex's gas chambers and crematoria.

“A third section, Auschwitz III, was constructed in nearby Monowitz and consisted of a forced labor camp called Buna-Monowitz. This complex incorporated 45 forced labor sub-camps. The name Buna was based on the Buna synthetic rubber factory on-site, owned by I.G. Farben, Germany's largest chemical company. Most workers at this and other German-owned factories were Jewish inmates. The labor would push inmates to the point of total exhaustion, at which time new laborers replaced them.

“Auschwitz was first run by camp commandant Rudolf Hoess and was guarded by a cruel regiment of the SS' Death Head Units. The staff was assisted by several privileged prisoners who were given better food, conditions, and opportunity to survive if they agreed to enforce the brutal order of the camp.

“Auschwitz I and II were surrounded by electrically charged four-meter high barbed-wire fences, guarded by SS men armed with machine guns and rifles. The two camps were further closed in by a series of guard posts located two-thirds of a mile beyond the fences. In March 1942, trains carrying Jews commenced arriving daily. In many instances, several trains would arrive on the same day, each carrying one thousand or more victims coming from the ghettos of Eastern Europe, as well as from Western and Southern European countries. Throughout 1942, transports arrived from Poland, Slovakia, the Netherlands, Belgium, Yugoslavia, and Theresienstadt. Jews, as well as Gypsies, continued to arrive throughout 1943. Hungarian Jews were brought to Auschwitz in 1944, alongside Jews from the remaining Polish ghettos, yet to be liquidated.

“By August 1944 there were 105,168 prisoners in Auschwitz whilst another 50,000 Jewish prisoners lived in Auschwitz's satellite camps. The camp's population grew constantly, despite the high mortality rate caused by exterminations, starvation, hard labor, and contagious diseases. Upon arrival at the platform in Birkenau, Jews were thrown out of their train cars without their belongings and forced to form two lines, men and women separately. SS officers, including the infamous Dr. Josef Mengele, would conduct selections among these lines, sending most victims to one side and thus condemning them to death in the gas chambers (see also Selektion). A minority was sent to the other side, destined for forced labor. Those who were sent to their deaths were killed that same day and their corpses were burnt in the crematoria. Those not sent to the gas chambers were taken to "quarantine," where their hair was shaved, striped prison uniforms distributed, and registration took place. Prisoners’ individual registration numbers were tattooed onto their left arm. Most prisoners were then sent to perform forced labor in Auschwitz I, III, sub-camps, or other concentration camps, where their life expectancy was usually only a few months. Prisoners who stayed inquarantine had a life expectancy of a few weeks.

“The prisoners' camp routine consisted of many duties to perform. The daily meal, the return to camp, block inspection, and evening roll call. During roll call, prisoners were made to stand completely motionless and quiet for hours, in extremely thin clothing, irrespective of the weather. Whoever fell or even stumbled was killed. Prisoners had to focus all their energy merely on surviving the day's tortures.

“The gas chambers in the Auschwitz complex constituted the largest and most efficient extermination method employed by the Nazis. Four chambers were in use at Birkenau, each with the potential to kill 6,000 people daily. They were built to look like shower rooms in order to confuse the victims. New arrivals at Birkenau were told that they were being sent to work but first needed to shower and be disinfected. They would be led into the shower-like chambers, where they were quickly gassed to death with the highly poisonous Zyklon B gas.

“Some prisoners at Auschwitz, including twins and dwarfs, were used as the subjects of torturous medical experiments. They were tested for endurance under terrible conditions such as extreme heat and cold or were sterilized. Despite the horrible conditions, prisoners in Auschwitz managed to resist the Nazis, including some instances of escape and armed resistance. In October 1944, members of the Sonderkommando, who worked in the crematoria, succeeded in killing several SS men and destroying one gas chamber. All of the rebels died, leaving behind diaries that provided authentic documentation of the atrocities committed at Auschwitz.

“By January 1945 Soviet troops were advancing towards Auschwitz. In desperation to withdraw, the Nazis sent most of the 58,000 remaining prisoners on a death march to Germany, and most prisoners were killed en route. The Soviet army liberated Auschwitz on January 27; soldiers found only 7,650 barely living prisoners throughout the entire camp complex. In all, approximately one million Jews had been murdered there.”

The main entrance to the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp. Poland, date uncertain

Accessed on July 14, 2011