Auschwitz-Birkenau became the killing centre where the largest numbers of European Jews were killed during the Holocaust. After an experimental gassing there in September 1941 of 850 malnourished and ill prisoners, mass murder became a daily routine. By mid 1942, mass gassing of Jews using Zyklon-B began at Auschwitz, where extermination was conducted on an industrial scale with some estimates running as high as three million persons eventually killed through gassing, starvation, disease, shooting, and burning ...
9 out of 10 were Jews. In addition, Gypsies, Soviet POWs, and prisoners of all nationalities died in the gas chambers. Between May 14 and July 8,1944, 437,402 Hungarian Jews were deported to Auschwitz in 148 trains. This was probably the largest single mass deportation during the Holocaust.
Nazi Germany's largest concentration and extermination camp
facility, was located nearby the provincial Polish town of
Oshwiecim in Galacia, and was established by order of Reichsfuhrer SS Heinrich Himmler on 27 April 1940.
Private diaries of Goebbels and Himmler unearthed from the secret Soviet
archives show that Adolf
Hitler personally ordered the mass extermination of the Jews during a
meeting of Nazi German regional governors in the chancellery. As Goebbels wrote "With
regards to the Jewish question, the Fuhrer decided to make a clean sweep ..."
The Holocaust children
At Auschwitz children were often killed upon arrival. Children born in the camp were generally killed on the spot. Near the end of the war, in order to cut expenses and save gas, cost-accountant considerations led to an order to place living children directly into the ovens or throw them into open burning pits.
Lucie Adelsberger describes the life of the children:
"Like the adults, the kids were only a mere bag of bones, without muscles or fat, and the thin skin like pergament scrubbed through and through beyond the hard bones of the skeleton and ignited itself to ulcerated wounds. Abscesses covered the underfed body from the top to the bottom and thus deprived it from the last rest of energy. The mouth was deeply gnawed by noma-abscesses, hollowed out the jaw and perforated the cheeks like cancer". Many decaying bodies were full of water because of the burning hunger, they swelled to shapeless bulks which could not move anymore. Diarrhoea, lasting for weeks, dissolved their irresistant bodies until nothing remained ....."
So called camp doctors, especially the notorious Josef Mengele, would torture and inflict incredible suffering on Jewish children, Gypsy children and many others. Patients were put into pressure chambers, tested with drugs, castrated, frozen to death, and exposed to various other traumas.
When a mother did not want to be separated from her thirteen-year-old daughter, and bit and scratched the face of the SS man who tried to force her to her assigned line, Mengele drew his gun and shot both the woman and the child. As a blanket punishment, he sent to the gas chamber all people from that transport who had previously been selected for work, with the comment: Away with this shit!
Polished boots slightly apart, his thumb resting on his pistol belt, Mengele surveyed his prey with those dead gimlet eyes. Death to the left, life to the right. Four hundred thousand souls - babies, small children, young girls, mothers, fathers, and grandparents - are said to have been casually waved to the lefthand side with a flick of the cane clasped in a gloved hand.
There were moments when Mengele came alive. There was excitement in his eyes, a tender touch in his hands. This was the moment when Josef Mengele, the geneticist, found a pair of twins.
Josef Mengele did a number of twin studies, and these twins were
usually murdered after the experiment was over and their bodies dissected. In the case of the
twins, he drew sketches of each twin, for comparison. Mengele was almost fanatical about drawing blood
from twins, mostly identical twins. Only
a few survived ...
Once Mengele's assistant rounded up 14 pairs of Gypsy twins during the night. Mengele placed them on his polished marble dissection table and put them to sleep. He then proceeded to inject chloroform into their hearts, killing them instantaneously. Mengele began dissecting and meticulously noting each and every piece of the twins' bodies.
Mengele supervised an operation by which two Gypsy children were sewn together to create Siamses twins. The hands of the children became badly infected where the veins had been resected. Often Mengele injected chemicals into the eyes of children in an attempt to change their eye color.
Mengele's special pathology lab was located next to the crematorium. He made experimental surgeries performed without anesthesia, transfusions of blood from one twin to another, isolation endurance, reaction to various stimuli. And injections with lethal germs, sex change operations, the removal of organs and limbs, incestuous impregnations ...
The few survivors tell how as children in Auschwitz they were visited by a smiling Uncle Mengele who brought them candy and clothes. Then he had them delivered to his medical laboratory either in trucks painted with the Red Cross emblem or in his own personal car to undergo his experiments.
One twin recalls the death of his brother:
"Dr. Mengele had always been more interested in Tibi. I am not sure why - perhaps because he was the older twin. Mengele made several operations on Tibi. One surgery on his spine left my brother paralyzed. He could not walk anymore. Then they took out his sexual organs. After the fourth operation, I did not see Tibi anymore. I cannot tell you how I felt. It is impossible to put into words how I felt. They had taken away my father, my mother, my two older brothers - and now, my twin ..."
These terrors occurred in Block 10 of Auschwitz I. Josef Mengele was nicknamed the Angel of Death for the inhuman experiments he conducted.
In December 1942, Professor Carl Clauberg came to the deathcamp Auschwitz and started his medical experimental activities. He injected chemical substances into wombs during his experiments. Thousands of Jewish and Gypsy women were subjected to this treatment. They were sterilized by the injections, producing horrible pain, inflamed ovaries, bursting spasms in the stomach, and bleeding. The injections seriously damaged the ovaries of the victims, which were then removed and sent to Berlin.
Likewise at Auschwitz, Claubergs's colleague, Dr. Herta Oberhauser, killed children with oil and evipan injections, removed their limbs and vital organs, rubbed ground glass and sawdust into wounds ...
After WW2, in October of 1946, the Nuremberg Medical Trial began, lasting until August of 1947. Twenty-tree German physicians and scientists were accused of performing vile and potentially lethal medical experiments on concentration camps inmates and other living human subjects between 1933 and 1945. Josef Mengele was not amongst the accused.
Fifteen defendants were found guilty, and eight were acquitted. Of the 15, seven were given the death penalty and eight imprisoned. Herta Oberhauser, the doctor who had rubbed crushed glass into the wounds of her subjects, received a 20 year sentence but was released in April 1952 and became a family doctor at Stocksee in Germany. Her license to practice medicine was revoked in 1958.
Carl Clauberg was put to trial in the Soviet Union and sentenced to 25 years. 7 years later, he was pardonned under the returnee arrangement between Bonn and Moscow and went back to West Germany. Upon returning he held a press conference and boasted of his scientific work at Auschwitz. After survivor groups protested, Clauberg was finally arrested in 1955 but died in August 1957, shortly before his trial should have started.
During WW2 only one man managed to get prisoners out of Auschwitz - Oscar Schindler, one remarkable man who outwitted Adolf Hitler and the Nazis to save more Jews from the gas chambers than any other during WWII.
By a mistake 300 Schindler-women were routed on a train to Auschwitz. Certain death awaited. A Schindler survivor, Anna Duklauer Perl, later recalled:"I knew something had gone terribly wrong .. they cut our hair real short and sent us to the shower. Our only hope was Schindler would find us .."
Anna and the other Schindler-women were being herded off toward the showers. They did not know whether this was going to be water or gas. Then they heard a voice:"What are you doing with these people ? These are my people." Schindler! He had come to rescue them, bribing the Nazis to retrieve the women on his list and bring them back.
The women were
released - the only shipment out of Auschwitz during WW2.
Thomas Keneally tells in his famous book Schindler's Ark how the women were marched naked to a quartermaster's hut where they were handed the clothes of the dead. Half dead themselves, dressed in rags, they were packed tight into the darkness of freight cars. But the Schindler-women with their heads cropped, many too ill, too hollowed out, to be easily recognised - the Schindler-women giggled like schoolgirls. One of the women, Clara Sternberg, heard an SS guard ask a colleague: 'What's Schindler going to do with all the old women?' 'It's no one's business,' the colleague said. 'Let him open an old people's home if he wants.'
The train rolled out of Auschwitz ..
A Schindler survivor, Abraham Zuckerman, later recalled: 'Can you imagine what power it took for him to pull out from Auschwitz 300 people? At Auschwitz, there was only one way you got out, we used to say. Through the chimney! Understand? Nobody ever got out of Auschwitz. But Schindler got out 300 ...!'
The author Stella Muller-Madej was one of the women. She has recounted her memories in her book, entitled A Girl from Schindler’s List, which has been translated into 9 languages. She later told:
'What I’ll say is nothing poetic, but I will repeat till the end of my days that the first time I was given life by my parents and the second time by Oscar Schindler.
In ‘44 there were around 700 women transported from Płaszów, 300 of whom were on his list, and he fought for us like a lion, because they didn’t want to let us out of Auschwitz. He was offered better and healthier ‘material’ from new transports, unlike us, who had spent several years in the camp. But he got us out .. he saved us ..'
When the women arrived to the factory in Brunnlitz, weak, hungry, frostbitten, less than human, Oskar Schindler met them in the courtyard. They never forgot the sight of Schindler standing in the doorway. And they never forgot his raspy voice when he - surrounded by SS guards - gave them an unforgettable guarantee: 'Now you are finally with me, you are safe now. Don't be afraid of anything. You don't have to worry anymore.'
One of the Schindler-women later recalled that on seeing him that morning she felt that 'he was our father, he was our mother, he was our only faith. He never let us down.'
Spielberg's famous film Schindler's
List focused attention on people like Oscar Schindler
and his wife Emilie
Schindler, who - at great risk
to themselves and their families - helped Jews escape the Nazi genocide. In
those years, millions of Jews died in Nazi death camps like Auschwitz, but Oscar
Schindler's Jews miraculously survived. Schindler spent millions to protect and
save his Jews, everything he possessed. He died penniless.
But he earned the everlasting gratitude of his Jews.