This greyscale image depicts the harrowing remnants of one of four gas chambers at the Auschwitz II-Birkenau concentration camp at Ofiar Faszyzmu 12, 32-600 Brzezinka, Poland. A total of four gas chambers were operational at the extermination camp; each one could exterminate 2000 POWs at a time.
This particular gas chamber was located partially above ground. The main entrance can be seen at the bottom of the image. Beyond the main step is an undressing room. POWs were calmly moved into the undressing room by SS guards and ordered to remove all of their clothes, after which POWs were then filed into the main underground chamber (seen in the middle of the image) further back.
SS guards would inform the POWs that they would receive a shower to freshen up after the long transports across Europe. Unbeknownst to the POWs, their lives would end in approximately twenty minutes once the chamber door closed.
The operational use of the gas chambers in Auschwitz was preceded by experiments intended to find the most effective chemical agent and to work out the proper method for its use. About 600 Soviet POWs and 250 sick Poles were killed in such experimentation from September 3-5, 1941. Afterwards, the morgue at crematorium I in the main camp was adapted as a gas chamber. Several hundred people at a time could be killed in this room.
The construction of 4 large gas chambers and crematoria began in Birkenau in 1942. They went into operation between March 22 and June 25-26, 1943. Like the undressing rooms, the gas chambers at crematoria II and III were underground, while those at crematoria IV and V stood at ground level.
About 2 thousand people at a time could be put to death in each of them. According to calculations made by the Zentralbauleitung on June 28, 1943, the crematoria could burn 4,416 corpses per day—1,440 each in crematoria II and III and 768 each in crematoria IV and V. This meant that the crematoria could burn over 1.6 million corpses per year.
Prisoners assigned to do the burning stated that the daily capacity of the four crematoria in Birkenau was higher—about 8 thousand corpses. The construction of another facility, according to a new design, crematorium VI, never progressed beyond the planning stage.
In principle, all Jews classified because of their age or physical condition as unfit for labour were subject to immediate extermination directly after they arrived in the camp, without being registered or assigned a number.
In addition to the Jews, a certain number of Soviet POWs, estimated by witnesses as several thousand men, were killed with gas. A certain number of Poles were also killed in the gas chamber. The first group of prisoners selected and exterminated in a gas chamber outside the camp at the Sonnenstein euthanasia centre mainly consisted of Poles.
Cases are also known of the killing in the gas chambers of groups of Poles selected in the so-called camp hospital, numbering up to several hundred at a time, or as a punishment for the revolt of the penal company, or sentenced to death by the summary court. Several thousand Gypsies also died in the gas chambers. Prisoners of other nationalities were also killed during the period, from mid-1941 to the spring of 1943, when selection took place in the camp, usually in the blocks for the sick.
As Soviet forces continued to approach, SS chief Heinrich Himmler ordered the destruction of the Auschwitz-Birkenau gas chambers and crematoria. During this SS attempt to destroy the evidence of mass killings, prisoners were forced to dismantle and dynamite the structures.
The weapon of choice used to kill millions of innocents in the gas chambers you see in this image was Zyklon B. Death was not always instant; POWs suffered in agony for up to 20 minutes. Men, women and children.
Image size: 2852×3306
File size: 2.5MB
Bit: 24 bit
Property/model release: No
Edited: Yes. Adobe Lightroom CC
Location: Auschwitz II-Birkenau, Poland.
Year took: 2020
Copyright owner: J. J. Williamson