About On Auschwitz
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Online lessons: http://lesson.auschwitz.org
One of the important questions about Auschwitz is why the prisoners, who outnumbered the SS guards, did not make an attempt of a general revolt or uprising. Dr. Piotr Setkiewicz and Dr. Wanda Witek-Malicka of the Museum Research Center discuss the first encounter of prisoners with the realities of the camp, their adaptation to the conditions of existence and the possibilities of initiating a revolt among the prisoners. We wish to thank Jonathan Jetter from the Right Angle Productions & Brooke Stocken for their help in production of the English version of the podcast.
Although the SS took various measures to keep the functioning of the camp secret, especially when Auschwitz became both a concentration camp and extermination center, news about the camp got out. Dr. Piotr Setkiewicz, the head of the Museum Research Centre, talks about how information about Auschwitz could reach the world.
Over two hundred women served the SS in KL Auschwitz. They were divided into three groups according to the duties they performed: the biggest group constituted the so-called Aufseherinnen, whose main task was to watch over women prisoners; the second group was formed by women employed in communication services described as SS-Helferinnen working in SS headquarters offices as radiotelegraph operators, stenographers and telephone operators; the last group consisted of nurses. Dr. Sylwia Wysińska from the Archives of the Museum talks about the women supervivors at Auschwitz We wish to thank Jonathan Jetter from the Right Angle Productions & Brooke Stocken for their help in production of the English version of the podcast. (picture: Maria Mandl as a defendant in a trail in 1947)
In the history of Auschwitz, there were instances when prisoners tried to resist. The most famous event is the Sonderkommando revolt that took place at Auschwitz II-Birkenau on 7 October 1944. This story is told in episode 21 of our podcast. However, there were other cases of prisoners organising resistance in order to attack SS members, or to escape. These included: -) the revolt and escape of prisoners from the Penal Company -) tragic events in the women's penal company -) mass escape of Soviet prisoners of war -) cases of desperate resistance in the dismantling room of a gas chamber. Dr Piotr Setkiewicz, the head of the Museum Research Centre, tells the story of different cases or organized resistance at Auschwitz.
One of the prisoners in the first transport of women to Auschwitz - 999 women transferred from Ravensbrück concentration camp in March 1942 - was Sophie Stippel. She was registered as prisoner number 619. She was arrested because she belonged to the group of Jehovah's Witnesses. A few days after arrival, Sophie was employed as a domestic helper in the villa of the camp commandant, Rudolf Höss, which probably saved her life. Her duties included shopping and cooking, and sometimes taking care of the commandant's children. Teresa Wontor-Cichy of the Auschwitz Museum Research Centre tells about the story of Sophie Stippel.
One of the elements of the operation of the Auschwitz camp was looting of the property of people deported to the camp. This was most intensified when Nazi Germany began the extermination of Jews at Auschwitz. Most of the property - after being sorted and disinfected - was sent to the Third Reich, where it was handed over to various groups of the German population, organizations and institutions. Dr. Jacek Lachendro, deputy head of the Museum's Research Center, talks about the looting process at Auschwitz.
You have arrived not at a sanatorium but at a German concentration camp in which the only way out is through the chimney. If someone doesn’t like this, he may at once go to the wires. If there are any Jews in this transport, they have no right to live longer than two weeks. If there are any priests, they may live for a month, the rest only three months. This is how the speech given by Auschwitz camp manager Karl Fritzch was recalled by Jan Karcz in his memoirs. Teresa Wontor-Cichy of the Museum Research Center talks about the first moments at Auschwitz, when deportees came into contact with the world of death, terror and dehumanization, as well as factors that could help surviving the camp.
After the liberation of Auschwitz, its two main parts - the former main camp (Auschwitz I) and Auschwitz II-Birkenau - were first placed under the control of the Soviet military authorities. In the first of these, from February to September 1945, Soviet field hospitals and the Polish Red Cross hospital operated, where most of the surviving prisoners were treated. A transit camp for German prisoners of war also operated there from spring to autumn of that year. A similar camp existed at the former Birkenau camp until early 1946. Commissions investigating the crimes committed by Nazi Germany at Auschwitz also began to work at the site of the former camp. At the same time, survivors began to make efforts to establish an institution at the site of the former camp to commemorate the victims. Dr Jacek Lachendro, from the Museum Research Centre, talks about the process that led to the creation of the Auschwitz Memorial in 1947.
The analysis of the surviving documents of the camp administration makes it possible, on the one hand, to trace how the centralised concentration camp system administered by the SS in Nazi Germany functioned, while, on the other hand, it also shows various aspects of the functioning of the camp itself and the members of its garrison. One example is the surviving correspondence concerning the attempt to transfer 30 women prisoners - Jehovah's Witnesses - from Ravensbrück to Auschwitz, who were to be employed as domestic helpers in the homes of SS men. Listen to Teresa Wontor-Cichy from the Research Center of the Auschwitz Museum talking about this set of documents.
The Germans incarcerated at least 464 priests, seminarians & monks as well as 35 nuns in #Auschwitz. Teresa Wontor Cichy, from the Museum’s Research Center talks about the fate of Christian clergy and about religious life in the camp. See also our online course: http://lekcja.auschwitz.org/en_18_duchowienstwo/
The Auschwitz II-Birkenau gas chambers and crematoria never became targets for Allied bombing, despite reports about their existence forwarded both by the Polish resistance movement and some people who escaped from the camp. Instead, American bombers carried out several strikes against the IG Farben petrochemical installations located at the distance of seven kilometers from Auschwitz. Dr. Piotr Setkiewicz, the head of the Research Center of the Auschwitz Museum talks about the issue of bombing the camp.
One of the groups of witnesses to the crimes perpetrated at the concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz were British prisoners of war who were forced to work on the construction of the IG Farbenindustrie factory. The building site was located in the immediate vicinity of the Auschwitz III-Monowitz camp and a few kilometers from the Auschwitz I main camp. British prisoners of war were also employed at the mines in Libiąż and Jaworzno, where Auschwitz sub-camps were later established. Dr Piotr Setkiewicz, head of the Auschwitz Museum Research Centre, talks about the history of British POWs near the Auschwitz camp.
On 27 January 1945, Red Army soldiers liberated over 7,000 prisoners of the Auschwitz. The 1,689-day history of this concentration and extermination camp came to an end. Dr Jacek Lachendro of the Museum Research Centre tells us what the last days of Auschwitz looked like and what happened immediately after the liberation. See also our online lesson about evacuation, liquidation and liberation of Auschwitz: http://lekcja.auschwitz.org/en_11_wyzwolenie/
In the second half of 1944, due to the Red Army successes and the advancing Eastern Front, the SS authorities in Auschwitz decided to evacuate some 65,000 prisoners to camps in the German Reich interior. At the same time, they began to destroy the evidence of the crimes committed in the camp. Dr. Jacek Lachendro from the Research Center of the Museum talks about the last period of the operation of Auschwitz. See also our online lesson about evacuation, liquidation and liberation of Auschwitz: http://lekcja.auschwitz.org/en_11_wyzwolenie/ In the picture: Mieczysław Kościelniak, burning of documents
After Germany attacked the Soviet Union in June 1941. Heinrich Himmler gave the order to create a "German settlement area" around the occupied Polish town of Zamość. The population of that region was to be expelled and replaced by German settlers. The area was chosen for its agricultural character. It consisted of five towns and 696 villages. The displaced population was sent to transit camps, where they were subjected to racial screening. Those who, according to German criteria, were not "racially valuable" were planned to be deported to concentration camps. A total 1,301 people, including at least 162 children were deported to Auschwitz in three transports Dr Wanda Witek-Malicka of the Auschwitz Memorial Research Centre talks about the ethnic cleansing carried out by the Germans in the Zamość region and the fate of the inhabitants of this region deported to Auschwitz. — In the picture: a family photo of Jan and Aniela Malec (Jan - the younger man sitting in the middle). Their children were taken away from them in the Zamość camp. Jan and Aniela were deported to Auschwitz, where they both died in a short time (Jan in March and Aniela in April 1943), orphaning four daughters aged 4-13. The girls were deported from the Zamość camp to Siedlce, where they survived the war. See also our online lesson about this topic: https://lekcja.auschwitz.org/dep_zam_PL/
Listen to the interview with Dr. Maria Zalewska who is the editor of a unique cookbook "Honey Cake & Latkes: Recipes from the Old World by the Auschwitz-Birkenau Survivors". "More than a cookbook, this collection of heirloom recipes conveys Auschwitz-Birkenau survivors’ stories through the mnemonic lens of cooking and food. Collected and edited during the pandemic, this book—in the words of Ronald S. Lauder, Chairman of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial Foundation—“is a story of hope and triumph of the human spirit.” Over 110 recipes accompanied by survivors’ pre-war recollections and post-liberation memories weave a unique tapestry of sensory experiences of flavors and aromas from the old world, accounts of loss and trauma, as well as heartwarming and poignant tales of new beginnings and healing. All of the recipes have been tested and retested to make sure they can be replicated in your kitchen while keeping the original character and voice of the survivors who contributed to the volume." The book at Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Honey-Cake-Latkes-Auschwitz-Birkenau-Survivors/dp/1595911235 All proceeds from the sale of this book go to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial Foundation.
The camp orchestra played for the first time at the German camp Auschwitz at the beginning of January 1941. Initially there were seven musicians there, but the ensemble grew very quickly. The main task was to play military marches to the rhythm of which the prisoners marched as they left for work and returned to the camp. The orchestra also gave concerts for the SS garrison members and prisoners. Later, other orchestras were also established in the men's and women's camps at Auschwitz II-Birkenau, as well as in some of the sub-camps. Dr. Jacek Lachendro of the Memorial Research Centre talks about the history of orchestras in Auschwitz.
It might seem that we already know everything about the history of places such as Auschwitz, because several decades have passed since the events and we have access to a great many documents and thousands of testimonies. However, this is not true. We are constantly learning new facts about the history of the camp, as Dr. Piotr Setkiewicz, the head of the Memorial Research Centre, explains in our podcast.
At the end of July 1941 the camp commander Karl Fritzch selected 10 hostages from among the prisoners in Block 14 in retaliation for the escape of a prisoner. He condemned them to death by starvation in the bunker of Block 11. During the selection, a Polish prisoner who was a Franciscan monk and missionary, Maksymilian Kolbe (no. 16670), stepped out of link and asked the camp commander to take him instead of a desperate selected prisoner Franciszek Gajowniczek (np. 5659). After a brief dispute with Father Kolbe, Fritzch agreed to the substitution, especially when he found out that Kolbe is a Catholic priest. The 10 selected prisoners were led off to Block 11. In the Bunker Register the admission of them is noted without listing names, numbers, day of admission or day of death. Franciszek Gajowniczek survived the war and died in 1995. Maksymilian Kolbe was murdered with a poisonous injection on 14 August 1941. He was canonized by the pope John Paul II in October 1982. Teresa Wontor Cichy from the Auschwitz Memorial Research Center talk about Father Maksymilian Kolbe. The Germans incarcerated at least 464 priests, seminarians & monks as well as 35 nuns in #Auschwitz. Learn about the fate of Christian clergy and religious life in the camp: http://lekcja.auschwitz.org/en_18_duchowienstwo/
The Archives of the Auschwitz Memorial collect, preserve, and provide access to documents and materials connected mainly with the history of the Auschwitz camp. The collection includes original German camp records, copies of documents obtained from other institutions in Poland and abroad, source material of postwar provenance (memoirs, accounts by survivors, material from the trials of Nazi war criminals, etc.), photographs, microfilms, negatives, documentary films, scholarly studies, reviews, lectures, exhibition scenarios, film scripts, and research results. Dr. Wojciech Płosa, the head of the Archives, talks about the activity of this part of the Museum. The document in the picture is one of the first plans of the main Auschwitz camp from mid-1940.