Roll Call Square


This greyscale image depicts the Auschwitz I SS guard hut and gallows at the roll call square, photographed at Auschwitz I

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This greyscale image depicts a mourner grieving at the Auschwitz I SS guard hut and gallows at the roll call square, photographed at Auschwitz I, Stanisławy Leszczyńskiej 11, 32-600 Oświęcim, Poland.

The working day at Auschwitz began at 4:30 am in the summer and 5:30 am in the winter. The prisoners got up at the sound of a gong and carefully tidied their living quarters.

Next, they attempted to wash and relieve themselves before drinking their “coffee” or “tea.” At the sound of a second gong, they ran outside to the roll-call square, lined up in rows of ten by block.

The prisoners were counted during the roll call. If the numbers did not add up, the roll call was prolonged. This could be especially tormenting for the prisoners, particularly in lousy weather hence why the guard hut in this image has a roof and windows to protect the guards from the elements of the harsh Polish mountainous winter weather.

Finally, the order came to form up by labour details. The prisoners walked out to working groups, with musical accompaniment in the form of marches played by the camp orchestra.

Prisoners labouring in places several kilometres away did not participate in the roll call—they left for work earlier. Nor did the prisoners from such internal labour details as the hospital, kitchen, or orchestra attend roll call. Morning roll call was abolished in February 1944 to maximise labour time. From then on, the second gong was a signal to form up by labour details.

Executions were common practice at Auschwitz I. Hangings took place in public, usually during roll call, to intimidate the other prisoners. The gallows in this image was made from steel girders that stand approximately 10 feet tall and can hang up to 12 POWs at a time.

One of the most notorious episodes was the hanging of 12 prisoners from the surveyors’ labour detail on July 19, 1943, in reprisal for the escape of three others from the same group.

The last hangings came shortly before the liquidation of Auschwitz. Five participants in an unsuccessful escape attempt two months earlier (three Austrians and two Poles) were hanged in the main camp on December 30, 1944, and four Jewish women were hanged on January 6 for supplying Sonderkommando prisoners with explosives that they used during their mutiny.

It’s unclear how many POWs were hung at Auschwitz.

Image size: 2818×3761
File size: 1.9MB
DPI: 300
Bit: 24 bit
Colour: No
Property/model release: No
Edited: Yes. Adobe Lightroom CC
Location: Auschwitz I I, Poland
Year took: 2020
Copyright owner: J. J. Williamson