Using eyewitness testimony, Dr. Russell Wallis reveals their essentially human response and shows that conventional notions of courage and gallantry, fear and timidity cannot explain the actions and reactions of POWs. Russell Wallis is an independent historian. Tauris, was published in His first book, entitled Britain, Germany and the Road to the Holocaust was published in He has written several articles, including a study of British reactions to the persecution of Jews in Poland after the Great War and also the story of British opinion about ordinary Germans during the Holocaust.
He is currently working on a number of interconnected projects concerning the British approach to war crimes.
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He is also preparing a history of ordinary Britons living in anticipation of the Second World War. Tauris, The mass extermination reached its climax in summer Up to 10, Jews were arriving each day from Hungary and the crematoria could no longer keep pace with the genocide.
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Thus, the SS started to burn the bodies of the victims in trenches and on pyres in the open terrain Steinbacher Auschwitz was both the biggest extermination camp and the biggest concentration camp. In August , the concentration camp complex held 74, prisoners as compared with the 26, prisoners held in Sachsenhausen, the next biggest concentration camp. Despite the fact that Auschwitz played a pioneering role in the exploitation of prisoners as slave labor through the cooperation with IG Farben, comparatively few Auschwitz inmates were deployed for essential war-related tasks as compared with other camps.
In order to prevent resistance facilitate better control of the camp, Auschwitz-Birkenau was gradually subdivided into different areas which were separated from each other by barbed wire. The plans originally provided for four sections B I — B IV which, with the exception of B I 20, prisoners , were each supposed to be able to accommodate around 60, inmates.
From summer , in response to the advance of the Red Army, the SS began to move some of the prisoners to more westerly camps.
All construction work in Auschwitz ceased in October and all of the gas chambers ceased operation in November. The special commando was forced to dismantle the extermination facilities. A revolt of the special commando took place on 7 October as the prisoners feared that they themselves would be murdered. The rebels succeeded in killing some of the guards.
However, the majority were killed by the SS during the quelling of the revolt. The final evacuation of the camp began on 17 January Fifty-eight thousand prisoners, of whom it is presumed that some 15, died, were forced to leave the camp on a death march. The SS remained at the camp with a small commando and blew up the remainder of the extermination facilities by 26 January.
The Red Army reached the camp on 27 January. Both the extermination of the Jews of Europe and the persecution, mistreatment, and, in some cases, murder of political and social opponents of the National Socialist regime were measures sanctioned and approved by the entire German leadership. Hitler and Himmler were the central actors in both processes. They were responsible for the main decisions and were informed of all key developments. Born in , he gained his formative socialization experiences at the front in the final months of the First World War.
After the end of the war, he was active in the Freikorps paramilitary organizations in Weimar Germany and participated in their political assassinations and lynchings Fememorden. As opposed to this, the rank and file, and, hence, the bulk of the perpetrators, had very different background experiences and was far more heterogeneous in its composition. Troop numbers at Auschwitz reached their peak in January with 4, men and 71 female SS guards. Up to , transfers of SS troops engaged in active combat to Auschwitz concentration camp were not unusual.
These were reduced to a minimum in , however, and ceased entirely in Of men transferred to Auschwitz in , came from the Wehrmacht and from other concentration camps. The rest of the men came from other work camps or had newly joined the SS. From , the proportion of Reich Germans and Austrians in the SS guard detachment was between 50 and 60 percent. A separate company of Ukrainian guards was established in March , for example.
From June , there was a Wehrmacht coordination office in Auschwitz which was responsible for the integration of soldiers who were unfit for combat at the front into the guard troops. At least former soldiers were incorporated into the SS in Auschwitz.
Liberation of the Concentration Camps
The main religious affiliations stated by the guards were: Catholic The educational level of the rank and file guards in Auschwitz was comparatively low. A lot of these guards were used to act with extreme violence every day. She was taken to a room next to the gas chamber where she was interrogated under torture. Making her talk was not difficult for the SS who had plenty of experience in such matters. Every prisoner working in the crematorium was lined up for an identity parade.
Then Voss and Kurschuss led him to one of the ovens.
Auschwitz: A British POW's Eyewitness Account (Unabridged)
He was pushed inside and buried alive. The rest of us were made to watch his hideous end. The SS doctors constitute the main group involved here. A total of 30 qualified doctors worked in Auschwitz at various stages. Some of the doctors also carried out experiments on the prisoners Dirks Eduard Wirths.
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Josef Mengele who would later became synonymous with the participation of the doctors in the genocide at Auschwitz. Mengele was the doctor most feared by the inmates for the usually fatal experiments he carried out on them. Another important group of experts involved in the genocide was the Zentralbauleitung Central Construction Authority of the Waffen-SS and police.
The Zentralbauleitung was responsible, inter alia, for the development of the gas chambers and crematoria. The managers of IG Farben were also involved in the crimes committed at Auschwitz.
Moreover, they were informed of the activities at the camp through the cooperation of their local managers with the SS. The managers supported the SS in the development of the camp and worked closely with the SS in other respects. The prisoners in the sub-camp were worked to death in the inhuman working conditions. A total of approximately 1. The majority of them were murdered by the SS short after their arrival. The camp administration registered approximately , people as prisoners. Of these, the largest group of victims by far was that of the Jewish prisoners.
Piper works on the assumption of , Jewish victims at Auschwitz. It is estimated that around , Jews were murdered using poisonous gas in the gas chambers immediately on their arrival in the camp and without registration. A further 95, registered Jewish prisoners died of hunger, violence, and, above all, murder in the gas chambers due to illness. Over half of these, i. According to Piper, a total of around 1. Of these, approximately , left the Auschwitz camp alive, either in a transport as prisoners who had been selected as fit for work and transferred to other camps or during the death marches that took place as part of the evacuation of the camp.
The two largest national groups by far were the , Hungarian Jews and , Polish Jews. Other larger groups of Jewish prisoners originated from France 69, , the Netherlands 60, , Greece 55, , the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia 46, , Slovakia 27, , Belgium 25, , the German Reich 23, Children under 14 years of age also tended to be deemed incapable of work; between the ages of 14 and 16 the decision was based on the physical state of the child; and from 17, they were fit for work in the eyes of the SS.
Women of up to 40 years of age with no children and men up to 45 were generally selected for work allocation. The more the prisoners exceeded this age boundary, the more likely they were to face immediate death. However, selection for slave labor only represented a temporary reprieve. The conditions in Auschwitz and its sub-camps were so horrific that many of the prisoners who worked there also died. The next biggest group of victims in Auschwitz was the non-Jewish Polish prisoners. A total of approximately , to , Polish prisoners were transported to Auschwitz.
Related Auschwitz: A British POWs Eyewitness Account
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