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Nazism and the Holocaust

The Death Camps


The target...



Plan of Sobibor...



Aerial photo of the Auschwitz...



Aerial photo of the extermination...



Concentration camp prisoners...



Victims of medical experiments...



Prisoners liberated...



Victims at Dachau...



The gate to hell...


IN THE SUMMER OF 1941 the Nazi leadership conceives of a new plan: to construct killing centers in occupied Poland, to transport all remaining Jews under German control in Europe to these death camps and kill them with gas. By that time, about one million Jews are already dead. But the methods employed so far - mass shooting, starvation and slave labor - are considered ineffective. Also, the Nazis want to bring the planned genocide to a conclusion while the war is still going in their favor.

Six extermination camps are quickly built or modified: Auschwitz, Belzec, Chelmno, Lublin-Majdanek, Sobibor and Treblinka. After experimenting with mobile gassing units, permanent gas chambers are installed together with crematoria. The gas chambers in five camps work with carbon monoxide. In Auschwitz, the gas used is hydrogen cyanide or prussic acid, known under its commercial name: Zyklon B.

Deportations begin in September 1941 with Jews from Germany and Austria. As the killing centers are not ready yet, the victims are dumped into overcrowded "ghettos" close to the death camps. By the summer of 1942, the gas chambers are working.

In Western European cities, Jews are rounded up or ordered to report to collection points. They are taken by train to transit camps and from there transported in cattle trains across Europe to the extermination camps. From the Netherlands in the north to Greece in the south, one country after another is affected. In occupied Poland the "ghettos" are emptied one by one, from the end of 1942 onward. Mass deportations continue until January 1945, when the Jews of Hungary are transported to Auschwitz. More than 3 million people die in the camps.

Auschwitz, the biggest camp, is also used for slave labor. On arrival, prisoners are selected by SS doctors either for immediate gassing or for work. The elderly and women with children usually die within hours of their arrival. Able-bodied men and women are put to work in the camp workshops or in factories especially set up in Auschwitz by German industry. Small groups of prisoners are forced to help in the extermination process. The camp also houses Poles and Russian prisoners-of-war, political prisoners from all over Europe, and Sinti and Roma.


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