Auschwitz Birkenau

Auschwitz II (Birkenau): a Nazi slave labour camp with a high mortality rate

A May 1945 Report by U.S. Psychological Warfare on the Auschwitz Camp, on the basis of prisoners and other Intelligence.

Source: Hoover Library, Stanford University, Manuscripts Library: Daniel Lerner papers, box 36, "May [1945]"

[Reader's Letter]





APO     655


Report No 3                                              18 May 1945




     A. Nazi Sin; AUSCHWITZ

1. AUSCHWITZ (OSWIECIM) near BIRKENAU, one of the best known concentration camps by now, was primarily a VERNICHTUNGSLAGER (Extermination camp). The camp, mainly for non-Polish Jews from almost every country in Europe, was set up early in 1942, and the first transports began to arrive in March of that year .

2. AUSCHWITZ consisted of a number of separate camps, including Camps A, B, C, D and B2B which were women's camps. The Camp B2B had originally been a family camp until all the families had been killed off. All these women's camps were located near BIRKENAU, and conditions and events described herein are based on material obtained from 30 former inmates of Camps A and B.

3. The average number of prisoners in each of the aforementioned camps was about 3,500. Each inmate was tattooed with a serial number on the left arm below the elbow; some are reported to have had their serial numbers tattooed on their foreheads. Camp A was the reception center. There, all who were to die immediately were separated from the others. A "screening" for the same purpose, however, had been made before their entrance into the camp. At the RR station the new arrivals were asked to separate into two groups; those who did not feel well were offered to be driven from the station to the camp by truck, and the others who felt well enough were requested to walk. The ones who were unaware of this sinister method of selection and naively chose to ride, exhausted from the horrors of the train trip, were, in nine cases out of ten, taken straight to the gas chamber and exterminated without delay, while the fate of the "pedestrians" who made the trek to the camp on foot was decided later.

4. The new arrivals at the camp had their hair cut, were given a bath and received their tattoo mark. Then they were distributed over the various blocks. A camp consisted of about 30 blocks. At camp A, for example, blocks 5 to 18 were the "hospital" where inmates worked under the supervision of Nazi physicians. Block 25 was the death block where those selected for the gas chamber were kept. According to the informants; this was a beautiful building with marble walls, but nobody who saw it ever came out alive. Block 2 was a children's block; Block 3 a socalled convalescents' block. All other blocks, except Block 10, were "residential" blocks.

5. Selections for the gas chamber were made from all 30 blocks. After about 4 weeks, the women not selected for death were transferred to Camp B, the work camp, from where KOMMANDOS (labor gangs) of women were sent out daily on regular details. The work included the care of the camp, the building of barracks, the carrying of stones, the construction of roads, the installing of plumbing. Camp B was also divided into blocks, and in each "residential" block of the two camps about 1,200 people lived under abominable conditions.

6. For those who were lucky enough to come out of the reception center alive, the time between their admission and eventual death was filled with hunger, work, physical suffering from atrocities, and the expectation of deaths. The average block in which the survivors of the first selection lived, was usually a brick building with a tattered roof over it. Inside, there were three rows of cases, one above the other. Each row was hardly high enough for a person to sit up straight in it. These rows of cages were partitioned into small cages as in a zoo; each small cage was about 6 feet wide, 6 feet long and about 2 feet high. Each of these small cages accommodated 10 to 12 women. Rarely was their any straw available and still more rarely were there any blankets, On cold days the wind whistled through the buildings. There, the women were to get their rest after a hard day's Work,

7. Reveille was at 0330; at 0400 everybody then had to fall out to be counted, regardless of weather conditions. This usually lasted until 0530. Shortly before 0600, the women were taken to their places of work. Some of them worked outside the camp (AUSSENKOMMANDO), others inside the walls of their prison. Every day, when they left for their places of labor, the KAPO (gang leader) received orders from the administration concerning the number of women who had to die while at work. There was a regular quota to be filled, and many girls were simply beaten to death in the fields by Nazi supervisors and inmate gang leaders.

8. From 1200 to 1230 the women rested to eat a thin soup of water and turnips. From 1230 to 1300 they had to fall out again to be assigned work details. At 1800 work ceased and the inmates received their supper, two slices of bread and, occasionally, a little piece of sausage. This ration had to last for breakfast, too. Since it was so small, it was frequently all eaten at suppertime, and the women had to go to work hungry in the morning.

9. Shake down inspections were so frequent as to become almost daily routine. When the women returned from work there was a careful checkup to determine whether they had acquired any food or clothing while outside the camp, as they were not supposed to have anything but the rags they wore and the meager rations they received. transgressions were draconically punished, and thus anything that had been acquired during the day had to be thrown away at night when there was an inspection. Check-ups were also frequent in the block itself. Despite this rigid control, there was quite a bit of trading of the most modest kind; occasionally some women would trade a dress or a pair of shoes for some rations. SS guards frequently beat the women going to the washroom and latrine and some inmates were so afraid to attend the washroom that they preferred to trade a bread ration for a water ration rather than to risk a beating by the guards.

10. A regular feature of AUSCHWITZ life was the SAUNA (bath) where the women were herded together every four weeks to be deloused. On these days reveille was at 0200. They were beaten out of their cages, then they were led to the SAUNA where they had to sit naked all day long until their clothes had been deloused. In the evening they had to march back naked to their blocks in columns of five under the supervision of SS guards, and not until night were their clothes returned to them. The death rate increased greatly after each day in the SAUNA.

11. The delousing at the hospital was dreaded by the inmates even more. There, everything was taken from the sick, including those running high temperatures, blankets, nightgowns, straw mattresses. Whoever was still able to walk, was chased naked to the bath. Those who could not walk were placed naked against the walls. On such days, the death rate among the sick, like the death rate among the well on days of the SAUNA, increased considerably. Finally, there was the GENERALAPPELL when everybody had to fall out; on this occasion various officials of the camp went around and selected inmates for the gas chamber to fill the daily death quota. Such was the routine in the AUSCHWITZ camp.

12. The camp had a large gas chamber (capacity 200 people) and 4 crematoria. Aside from the previously mentioned system of selection for death after arrival at the station, there were a number of others. Even before the rider-pedestrian division, camp officials would stand at the RR station and, by simply pointing a finger, select for immediate liquidation all those whose looks they did not like. The selectees were put on trucks and driven to the crematoria which, they were told, were bakeries.

13. The next method was the GENERALAPPELL which was usually held on Sundays. Everybody had to fall out and camp officials went around making their selections without any particular method. Those with thin bodies, eczema, small wounds or insignificant deformities were most likely to be taken. Those selected in the GENERALAPPELL were usually put in death block for about two days, from which constant screams and moans of agony could be heard day and night.

14. Another method was the selection at the hospital which took place every second day. The selection at the hospital was dreaded so much, that people, no matter how sick, would rather do work, no matter how hard, than expose themselves to the possibility of selection there. Those who finally had to go to the hospital sought refuge, on selection day, in any number of places -- in mattresses, between bunks, in the latrine, only to be hunted down by the SS, however, after a very few minutes. The nurses then had to put these human beings on the trucks which took them to the gas chamber. If the number of those arriving there was found to be incorrect the nurses themselves had to make additional selections until the number was filled.

15.. The details of the gas chambers have been amply described in previous reports. It may be added here that high ranking German officials frequently availed themselves of the special windows through which they could watch the dying agonies of 200 naked men and women who were usually put to death in the gas chamber at one time. Their tortures usually lasted for about seven minutes. After the gassing, the dead and dying were taken to the ovens by a special detail of Jewish men only, who usually went the way of this flesh themselves after a few months of this work. This special detail was also forced to remove the gold teeth from mouths of the corpses with special instruments, while a detail of girls sorted the clothes of the murdered persons.

16. When the quota of those to be done away with exceeded the facilities of the camp, trenches were dug, usually between crematorium 3 and crematorium 4, and the gassed and half gassed people were thrown there and burned. Children, who, as it was "scientifically" established in this camp, burned best, were burned alive after gasoline had been poured on them. While all this went on, a ladies' band kept playing the latest tunes. 

17. The AUSCHWITZ camp was dismantled in November and December 1944 by a special dismantling commando of 2,000 girls who were to tear it down, stone by stone. However, the fast Russian advance prevented them from finishing the job.

18. The camp appears to have [been] "ruled" to some extent by Polish and Ukrainians who were every bit as brutal as the Nazis. None of the girls interrogated want to return to Poland because they consider the Poles very anti-semitic and because most of them have lost all their relatives.

B. Concentration camp statistics

As yet there are no figures available as to how many persons were actually imprisoned in concentration camps. Because of the great turnover of inmates it is very difficult to establish precise figures as to the number of people confined in the camps during the entire period of the Nazi regime. It is established that the figure runs into many millions. The statistical average of inmates at any particular time, however, was, in all likelihood, rarely in excess of one million in view of the fact that the great STAMMLAGER (Parent Camps) like DACHAU, BUCHENWALD, etc. with all their AUSSENLAGER (Outside Camps) rarely held more than 100,000 each. An additional point of evidence in this direction is an order from HIMMLER to the Reich Medical Officer of the SS and police, dated beginning of March 1945, according to which "the 120,000 inmates no longer capable of work out of the total of 600,000 concentration camp inmates are to be put into better physical condition". At this time, the camps in AUSCHWITZ, LUBLIN, RIGA, GROSS-ROSEN, NATZWEILER and a few minor ones had already been liberated.



[rest of report does not concern Auschwitz]

We reproduce this report without commentary as a contribution to the historical community.
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