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A description of the site selected of the first concentration camp

Ian Gavan—Getty Images By Massimo Calabresi January 27, 2015 Seventy years ago today, Soviet troops liberated the Auschwitz concentration camp in German-occupied southern Poland where, from 1942 on, the Nazis killed at least 960,000 Jews, 74,000 Poles, 21,000 Roma Gypsies15,000 Soviet prisoners of war, and 10,000-15,000 others. Most were killed in gas chambers designed and constructed for the purpose.

  1. This was the name for an inmate so undernourished that he or she was a living dead — a living, round-shouldered skeleton. A total of six extermination camps were established for the genocide of the Jews, where the Nazis carried out the mass murder of 3 million Jews — half of the 6 million victims of the Holocaust.
  2. Even those able to work ended up in the gas chamber sooner or later, or they fell victim to random shooting actions within a few months, when they had been worn out by the tough work. Many mothers did not want to be separated from their children.
  3. At the beginning, the first inmates in concentration camps were political opponents of the Nazi regime. This was the stepping stone to an organised and centrally directed camp system, which was placed under the direction of Heinrich Himmler as head of the SS and the police.
  4. The first to be gassed were the men — the women had their hair cut off before they went to their death.

In February 1944, less than a year before the liberation, the Italian chemist Primo Levi arrived at the camp with more than 600 other Jews who had been deported from German-occupied Italy in sealed train cars.

In all, some 10,000 Jews were deported to concentration and extermination camps from Italy after the German occupation in September 1943.

The Selection at Auschwitz

The climax came suddenly. The door opened with a crash, and the dark echoed with outlandish orders in that curt, barbaric barking of Germans in command which seems to give vent to a millennial anger.

  • In Auschwitz and Majdanek, which had the role of both being a working and an extermination camp, Jews were divided upon arrival into those capable of working ands those not;
  • Another method was the use of gassing trucks;
  • Forced labour became particularly important following the outbreak of World War II, when the Nazi war economy demanded an enormous effort.

A vast platform appeared before us, lit up by reflectors. A little beyond it, a row of lorries. Then everything was silent again.

  • Sobibor also began its operations in May 1942;
  • The six extermination camps were established within a very short time;
  • They did not interrogate everybody, only a few:

In a moment the platform was swarming with shadows. But we were afraid to break that silence: A dozen SS men stood around, legs akimbo, with an indifferent air.

  • In the autumn of 1943 the camp was closed after claiming between 60,000 and 80,000 Jewish victims;
  • A little beyond it, a row of lorries;
  • Thus in an instant, our women, our parents, our children disappeared;
  • Imprisonment in a concentration camp meant inhuman forced labour, brutal mistreatment, hunger, disease, and random executions;
  • Auschwitz-Birkenau, which also functioned as a concentration camp and a work camp, became the largest killing centre.

At a certain moment they moved among us, and in a subdued tone of voice, with faces of stone, began to interrogate us rapidly, one by one, in bad Italian. They did not interrogate everybody, only a few: Everything was as silent as an aquarium, or as in certain dream sequences.

  1. Killing methods T he use of gas chambers was the most common method of mass murdering the Jews in the extermination camps. They were established under the code-name Operation Reinhard — the starting signal to the extermination of the approximately 3 million Jews who lived in Nazi-occupied Poland.
  2. In Auschwitz, the Jews worked in the so-called Monowitz working camp Auschwitz III in factories, or they were hired out to private businesses such as the chemical corporation I.
  3. But we were afraid to break that silence.
  4. Another method was the use of gassing trucks. In Chemno gassing trucks were used, where Jews, after being driven into the trucks, were suffocated by the exhaust fumes that were led into them in the truck.

We had expected something more apocalyptic: It was disconcerting and disarming. Someone dared to ask for his luggage: Someone else did not want to leave his wife: Many mothers did not want to be separated from their children: They behaved with the calm assurance of people doing their normal duty of every day.

It was their everyday duty. In less than ten minutes all the fit men had been collected together in a group. What happened to the others, to the women, to the children, to the old men, we could establish neither then nor later: Emilia, daughter of Aldo Levi of Milan, was a curious, ambitious, cheerful, intelligent child; her parents had succeeded in washing her during the journey in the packed car in a tub with tepid water which the degenerate German engineer had allowed them to draw from the engine that was dragging us all to death.

Thus in an instant, our women, our parents, our children disappeared. We saw them for a short while as an obscure mass at the other end of the platform; then we saw nothing more.