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Concentration Camps 2

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A concentration camp is where prisoners of war, enemy aliens, and political prisoners are detained and confined, typically under harsh conditions, or place or situation characterized by extremely harsh conditions. The first concentration camps were established in 1933 for confinement of opponents of the Nazi Party. The supposed opposition soon included all Jews, Gypsies, and certain other groups. By 1939 there were six camps: Dachau, Sachsenhausen, Buchenwald, Mauthausen, Flossenburg, and Ravensbruck.
Auschwitz, or Auschwitz-Birkenau, is the best-known of all Nazi death camps, though Auschwitz was just one of six extermination camps. It was also a labor concentration camp, extracting prisoners' value from them, in the form of hard labor, for weeks or months. Auschwitz was the end of the line for millions of Jews, gypsies, Jehovah's Witnesses, and other innocents. Some spend almost two years in this most infamous of concentration camps. The average prisoner only survived eight weeks in Auschwitz. Some learned the ins and outs of survival in Auschwitz. Auschwitz was the largest concentration and extermination camp constructed in the Third Reich. Located 37 miles west of Krakow, Poland, Auschwitz was home to both the greatest number of forced laborers and deaths.
The history of the camp began on April 27, 1940 when Heinrich Himmler, the head of the SS and Gestapo, ordered the construction of the camp in north-east Silesia, a region captured by the Nazis in September 1939. The camp was built by three-hundred Jewish prisoners from the local town of Oswiecim and its surrounding area. In June of 1940 the camp opened for Polish political prisoners. By 1941 there were about 11,000 prisoners, most of whom were Polish. From May 1940 to the end of 1943, Rudolf Hess was head commander of Auschwitz. Under his leadership, Auschwitz quickly became known as the harshest prison camp in the Nazi regime. Polish prisoners were forced to stand at attention for roll call for hours on end naked in the cold, snowy tundra of Polish winter. Following its first year of existence, Heinrich Himmler visited Auschwitz and told Hess that its labor resource was to be expanded to 100,000 prisoners, making it one of the largest of the concentration camps. In order to accommodate this many people, a second, much larger, section of Auschwitz (Auschwitz II) would have to be constructed.
Auschwitz II was built just ection two miles west of Auschwitz I and would be called Birkenau. Prisoners were packed so tightly into the railroad cars that they couldn't even squat to sit, much less lie down to sleep. They rode for two days with no food, no water, no toilet facilities--with only dirty straw on the floor. They finally arrived at their destination, glad to finally be breathing fresh air when the cattle car doors were pulled open. Instead they are greeted with shouts of anger, with guns and bayonets pointed at them, and with guards holding back police dogs ready to tear them apart. A stench fills the air. They are at Birkenau, the second part of the Auschwitz complex, called by some "the mother of all concentration camps. The manpower to build the camp came from 200,000 Russian prisoners of war who were forced to march from Russia to a camp at Lamsdord without any food. During these early days the Russians received more abuse than the Polish prisoners because they were more feared for their military might. They were looked upon by Hess as expendable labor due to their inferior abilities and physical weakness. Of the 12,000 prisoners who were sent to Birkenau in 1941, only 150 survived to the following summer. Some prisoners were assigned to the most gruesome task -- that of the Sonderkommando. These prisoners were forced to work in the crematoria, burning the Jews who had just been gassed. All prisoners who were selected for forced labor were tattooed with numbers on their left arms. Any slip, outburst, or failure to comply with the guards resulted in immediate death. Because executions by gunfire were inefficient, expensive, and potentially identifiable, intoxication by poison gas--a method used by the Germans to kill over 50,000 mental patients since 1939--was agreed on as the method of choice. Zyclon was originally brought to Auschwitz as a disinfectant and vermin killer. On September 3, 1941, Fritzsch experimented with Zyclon B. on 600 Russian prisoners of war and 250 tubercular patients. He was amazed at the number of people who could be killed at once. On October 15, 1941, a plan for the future camp of Birkenau, designed by one of the prisoners, was approved. The layout was meant to house 100,000 prisoners. Before construction began, however, the SS instructed that Birkenau should be built for double that amount. The first transports of Jews into the camp began on March 26, 1942 with the arrival of 999 Slovakian women. Since the crematoriums had not yet been built, women were housed in a newly established women's section in Auschwitz I, placed to work, and beaten daily at roll call. By the end of March there were 6,000 women prisoners in Auschwitz ...

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