The concentration camp, Auschwitz, was what the Germans referred to as Oswiecim (Grolier), an industrial town located in south central Poland (Weber 1). The Nazis turned this town into a concentration camp after deciding how they were going to go about with this mass killing of an entire race of humans.
Auschwitz was chosen as the main extermination center, using many gas chambers as their killing machines. An estimated five and six million Jews died in total during the Holocaust, and two million of them died at Auschwitz alone (Grolier). These numbers can never be proven because there are no records of this that still exist today. This genocide at Auschwitz began in 1942 (Weber 1), with many Jews being deported there, taking a one-way journey to the camp (Stokesbury 132). “Methods of killing at Auschwitz and other camps included cyanide gas or carbon monoxide gas, electrocution, phenol injections, flame-throwers, and hand grenades” (Grolier), with the most popular being the cyanide gas called Zyklon-B (Encarta). Afterward, the bodies would be cremated and then immediately disposed of (Stokesbury 132).
Jews from all over Europe made Auschwitz a very international camp (Nagorski 1). Thousands of Polish Jews had already died in camps such as Treblinka, Sobibor, and Belzec, but in 1944 a number of 300,000 Polish Jews were still deported to Auschwitz. Later in the summer of that same year, many Hungarian Jews were sent there, 438,000, (Nagorski 1) to be a little more precise. “Camp Commandant Rudolf Höss admitted to a minimum figure of 2.5 million deaths at Auschwitz,” (Encarta) most of them Jews. “At least one-third of the estimated 5 million to 6 million Jews killed by the Nazis during World War II died there” (Encarta).
The people that arrived at Auschwitz would be separated into three groups. The first group of people would be taken straight to one of the four gas chambers (Encarta), and killed, and then instantly cremated afterward. The most deaths recorded for one day was 12,000 people (Stokesbury). The gas chambers could occupy at the most 20,000 people (Encarta), but they never had so many people go in because the crematoria couldn’t hold as many bodies. The second group of people was sent to do slave labor. “At the Auschwitz complex 405,000 prisoners were recorded as laborers between 1940 and 1945. Of these about 340,000 perished through executions, beatings, starvation, and sickness” (Encarta). The third group of people, which generally consisted of twins and dwarves were used in “scientific” experiments. These experiments had of course nothing to do with science, but that was the excuse for this form of sadistic torture. One experiment included how long a man could stay in freezing water before dying (Stokesbury 132). Another experiment was how much faster and more efficient surgery could go if anesthetics weren’t used. And also another one was whether or not a mother would sacrifice herself to prevent her child from being killed (Stokesbury 132). Notice how all these so-called scientific experiments all resulted in either death or pain, physically and emotionally, of one kind or another. Did these people have no heart, and actually committed all these acts? The most famous of these doctors is Josef Mengele, who was generally referred to as “The Angel of Death.” He preferred twins for some reason unknown. “For those victims, still alive today, the horror continues as they are plagued with unexplainable medical disorders. And others have died under bizarre medical circumstances” (EO International 1).
Mengele was interested in genetics trying to find the gene that would make twins that were blond haired and blue eyed. Twins he thought held this secret because they held the same genetic material. He felt that if the gene could be found, the future of the world would be saved (Rosenberg 1). When the train arrived with all the people, Mengele would give special orders for the guards to find prisoners with unique heredity traits such as “twins, dwarfs, giants, club foots, or heterochromia (each eye a different color)” (Rosenberg 2). Parents were forced to make a hard decision with the question was it good or bad to be a twin? Was it beneficial or hurtful? No one knew, not the parents at least. Some parents upon arrival announced the twins and some parents tried to hide them. What was the right decision? There is still no real answer. “Approximately three thousand twins were pulled from the masses on the ramp, most of them children; only around two hundred survived” (Rosenberg 2).
Conditions for the twins were the best until the experiments started. They were allowed to keep their hair and clothes, and they had good food to eat, and many times Mengele would bring the younger children candy and chocolates. They many times, especially the younger children referred to him as Uncle Mengele. Once the experiments started, hell started. “Blood, often in large quantities, was drawn from twins’ fingers and arms, and sometimes both their arms simultaneously. The youngest children, whose arms and hands were very small, suffered the most: Blood was drawn from their necks, a painful and frightening procedure” (Rosenberg 3).
In the search for blue eyes, Mengele would put drops, or injections or chemicals into the eyes, which caused severe pain, infections, and temporary or permanent blindness (Rosenberg 4). Disease would be injected into one of the twins and then when one dies, the other was killed immediately to study the effects of the disease.
The Nazis, Hitler, and Mengele were all prime examples of the evil that reigned at Auschwitz, and the other concentrations. Auschwitz was the worst of all of them because the most number of people were killed there, and the rest that escaped suffered from various diseases later in their life. The Holocaust is something that should have not even occurred, but we can not go back in time and change that, so we must study it, and make sure it doesn’t happen again.
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Nagorski, Andrew. “A Tortured Legacy.” from Newsweek January 16, 1995. March 3, 1999. http://dept.english.upenn.edu/~afilreis/Holocaust/auschwitz.html.
Rosenberg, Jennifer. “Mengele’s Children: The Twins of Auschwitz – The Holocaust.” November 23 1997. March 3, 1999. http://holocaust.miningco.com/library/weekly/aa112397.htm.
Stokesbury, James L. A Short History of World War II. William Morrow and Company, Inc. New York: 1980.
Weber, Mark. “Auschwitz: Myths and Facts.” March 3, 1999. http://www.ihr.org/leaflets/auschwitz.html.