Auschwitz concentration camp was a network of German Nazi concentration camps and extermination camps built and operated by the Third Reich in Polish areas, annexed by Nazi Germany during World War II. It consisted of Auschwitz I (the original camp), Auschwitz II–Birkenau (a combination of concentration-extermination camp), Auschwitz III–Monowitz (a labor camp to staff an IG Farben factory) and 45 satellite camps.
The first trains carrying Jews, after Adolf Hitler announced their annihilation in the Nazi Germany, arrived at Auschwitz-Birkenau in March 1942. Often several trains arrived daily carrying Jews from almost every country in Europe.
Each of the trains carried in excess a thousand victims. Prisoners had been packed into cattle wagons with no room to sit, no food, a bucket for water and another to be used as a toilet. The journey could last days on end, with the ‘passengers’ not knowing where they were passing through or where they were going. Many victims died during the journey as a result of suffocation, illness or hunger.
Initially, arrivals at Auschwitz-Birkenau would be unloaded on a ‘ramp’ alongside the main railway lines at Oswiecim. The prisoners would then walk the short distance to the camp. However, in preparation for the arrival of 440,000 Hungarian Jews during the spring of 1944, railway tracks were laid right into the camp, through the now infamous gatehouse building.
On arrival at Auschwitz-Birkenau the trains would pull up on the unloading ramp in front of the awaiting SS officers and guards, kapos and the Sonderkommando.
The Jews were thrown out of the railway wagons and made to leave their belongings behind them. They were then ordered to form lines ready for the selection process. This was when the Nazis selected which Jews would be sent straight to their deaths in the gas chambers and which Jews would remain alive temporarily.
More than 80 per cent of those who arrived at Auschwitz-Birkenau were murdered at once. The majority of the remainder died as a result of overwork in the labour camps, ill-treatment, diseases or malnourishment.
It is estimated that a total of 1.5 million inmates of which vast majority were of Jewish lineage were sent to their deaths by the German prison guards Schutzstaffel (SS).
Since 1939, Jews throughout Nazi-occupied Europe were forced to wear a badge, the Yellow Star on their garments which would identify them as Jews and make their subjection to torture and social boycott legal.
As Hitler gained power in 1939 and his “Jew free Germany” ideology swept across the continent, Jews from all around Europe were forced to either flee southwards or to surrender themselves to the Nazi soldiers. Those having the means to escape the brutality inflicted by Hitler’s trained troops, fled to the present time Israel in what came to be known as the ‘Aliyah Bet’. While those who were caught were taken to the concentration camps where they were raped, tortured, starved, made to work day and night in extreme temperatures and exterminated once deemed a burden for the SS to handle.
Among the atrocities committed at Auschwitz, was the blood curdling accounts of those who were used as human guinea pigs for Dr. Josef Mengele, Carl Værnet, Aribert Heim and several other psychotic medical experts’ experiments.
It is noted that when in mid 1945, the death camps were liberated by the Soviet Red Army, some 200,000 skeletal beings were found hanging between life and death. These were the survivors who till this date are traumatized by the horrors of the Holocaust.
In order to keep alive the memories of those who suffered at the hands of Hitler’s fanatic army, throughout the world, Holocaust Memorial Day is observed on January 27th in lieu with the Auschwitz Liberation day where Holocaust survivors along with their families and friend visit the concentration camps and relate stories of their inmates, sufferings and freedom. This year’s theme for Holocaust Memorial Day is set to be ‘Keep the memory alive’.
The memorial service will be hosted in London, UK and will be attended by holocaust survivors, politicians, human rights activists and Londoners.