After the defeat of the September Campaign of 1939, when Polish soldiers had attempted to repel the German invasion, town of Oswiecim and the surrounding areas were incorporated within the Third Reich. At once its name was changed to Auschwitz. By the finish of 1939, at the SS and Police Headquarters in Wroclaw (Braslau), the notion of creating a concentration camp had recently been proposed. The official justification for this plan was based on the overcrowding of the present prisons in Silesia, and on the necessity of conducting further waves of mass arrest on the list of Polish inhabitants both of Silesia and the others of German-occupied Poland.
Several special committees were convened, whose task it had been to consider probably the most favorable location for this type of camp. The best choice fell upon the deserted pre-war Polish barracks in Oswiecim. Situated some distance away from the developed part of town, they might without difficulty be expanded and isolated from the outside world. Another factor not without significance was the convenient position of Oswiecim – an import and railway junction – within the present communications network.
The order to proceed with plans to found a camp was given in April 1940, and Rudolf Hoss was appointed its first commandant. On June 14, 1940, the Gestapo dispatched the very first political prisoners to KL Auschwitz – 728 Poles from Tarnow. Initially the camp comprised 20 buildings – 14 at walk out and 6 with a top floor. Trip to Auschwitz During the time from 1941 to 1942 an additional story was added to all ground-floor buildings and 8 new blocks were constructed, utilising the prisoners as the work force. Altogether the camp now contained 28 one-story buildings ( excluding kitchens, storehouses etc. ) The average amount of prisoners fluctuated between 13-16.000, reaching at one stage ( during 1942 ) an archive total of 20.000 people. They certainly were accommodated in the blocks, where even the cellares and lofts were utilized because of this purpose.
As how many inmates increased, the area included in the camp also, grew, until it had been transformed right into a gigantic and horrific factory of death. The monstrosity in Oswiecim – KL Auschwitz I – became the parent or “Stammlager” to an entire generation of new camps. In 1941 the construction of another camp, later called Auschwitz II-Birkenau, was commenced in the village of Brzezinka 3 kilometers away and in 1942 the camp in Monowice near Oswiecim-KL Auschwitz III-was established on the territory of the German chemical plant IG-Farbenindustrie. Furthermore, through the years 1942-1944, about 40 smaller branches of the Auschwitz complex came into being these fell underneath the jurisdiction of KL Auschwitz III and were situated mainly in the vicinity of steelworks, mines and factories, where prisoners were exploited as cheap labour.
The camp in Oswiecim ( KL Auschwitz I) and in Brzezinka (KL Auschwitz II – Birkenau) are now maintained as museums ready to accept the public. The most important constructions and objects in Birkenau will be the remnants of four crematoria, gas chambers and cremation pits and pyres, the special unloading platform were the deportees were selected and also a pool with human ashes. In Auschwitz this type of construction could be the “Death block.”
Furthermore in both camps are well preserved blocks and a part of prisoners barracks, the key entrance gates to the camps, sentry watch towers as well as barbed wire fences. A few of the constructions destroyed by the Nazis were rebuilt from the original elements – as an example the ovens in the crematorium I. Some objects were completely destroyed by the SS obliterating the traces of these crimes. In the cases of special importance the constructions were reproduced by the museum and placed in the same area as they were through the existence of the Auschwitz camp. Most importantly they are the “Death wall” and the collective gallows at the role-call ground.
The prison blocks in the camp at Auschwitz contain exhibitions portraying the annals of Auschwitz or tracing the torments of the various nations whose individuals were murdered here. Above the key gate at Auschwitz – through that the prisoners passed every day on the solution to work (returning 12 hours or more later) there’s a cynical inscription: “Arbeit macht frei” (Work brings freedom). and on the little square by your kitchen the camp orchestra would play marsches, mustering the 1000s of prisoners in order that they might be counted more proficiently by the SS.