Holocaust  Survivors  and  Remembrance  Project: "Forget  You  Not"™

In Memoriam


Auschwitz electrified fencesAuschwitz electrified fences

"Forget You Not"™: Auschwitz-Birkenau

A Historic Photographic
Documentation of the Extermination Process at Auschwitz-Birkenau:

An SS has the woman (whose hair is covered in the tradition of an Orthodox Jewish wife) with her infant child to join those being sent to the crematoria. We also can see a man that is standing between the columns missing his pants and one shoe. This was a common ocurrence in the overcrowded boxcars. On the left stand inmates in striped camp clothing. The main gate to Birkenau Camp under which the train pass is at the rear left of this historic photograph.


Photo Credit: Yad Vashem, The Auschwitz Album 


Auschwitz, symbol of the Holocaust

What Was Auschwitz?

Auschwitz, located in Oswiecim outside of Cracow, Poland, has become a symbol of the Holocaust. One of the main reasons that Nazi Germany established the camp there was because it was a central intersection of roads and railways. Before the Second World War, Jews living in Oswiecim, who were often artisans or merchants, constituted approximately half of this small town's population. After the Holocaust, it may be argued that Oswiecim will forever be overshadowed by Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest of the Nazi concentration camps and extermination centers.

Auschwitz-Birkenau Entrance

Not only has Auschwitz become a symbol of the Holocaust due to its geographical size, but also because Jews were sent there from all over Europe to undergo selection and to be systematically murdered in gas chambers. In addition, we have many detailed testimonies of Holocaust survivors who survived the camp.

We say and write "Auschwitz," but we actually mean a torture center, a terror that we cannot possibly conceive, the essence of evil and horror. Yet, Auschwitz was not another planet, but a huge complex built by human beings to murder other human beings in the cruelest industrialized manner.

Auschwitz was surrounded by high electric barbed wire fences, which were guarded by SS soldiers armed with machine guns and rifles. Some Holocaust survivors have said that not only did the barbed-wire surrounding Auschwitz tremble and howl, but also the tortured earth itself moaned with the voices of the victims.

In March 1942 trains carrying Jews began arriving daily. Sometimes several trains would arrive on the same day, each carrying one thousand or more human beings coming from the ghettos of Eastern Europe, as well as from Western and Southern European countries.

Auschwitz entrance

What Happened at Auschwitz?

In March 1942 trains carrying Jews began arriving daily. Sometimes several trains would arrive on the same day, each carrying one thousand or more human beings coming from the ghettos of Eastern Europe, as well as from Western and Southern European countries.

Between 1.3-1.5 million people were murdered in the gas chambers of Auschwitz -- more than 90% were Jews. The other ten percent were Poles, Soviet Prisoners of War, Sinti Roma, Jehovah Witnesses, homosexuals and others. The vast majority of the victims --who came from both Western and Eastern Europe including Belgium, France, Greece, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, and other countries-- were unaware of their destination and of their fate. They were transported like animals in cattle-cars and arrived in a state of total collapse to the camp. Most of the people actually never really entered the camp, but just crossed it on the way to the gas chambers.

The dehumanized minority often became registered prisoners with shaved heads in striped uniforms. Jews chosen for slave labor were stripped of everything, including outward differentiation between male and female. Prisoners' personal identities were taken mainly by the act of tattooing their arms with numbers -- replacing their personal names.

How did prisoners endure such insurmountable conditions on a daily basis?

For example, Jack Oran, a Holocaust survivor, relates:

"Everyone worked so hard, got beaten up…and came back to the camp --the exhaustion alone pushed him to the bunk to lie down and sleep throughout the night and get enough strength so that s/he might be able to do that again tomorrow. …In the morning, sixty percent of the six people [in the bunk] did not wake up. The other forty percent went over the pockets of the dead people to find a piece of bread…The hygienic condition was very, very poor in that period. I remember that I searched a dead body in the bunk and I found a piece of bread. That piece of bread was crawling with lice and you shook them off the bread and put it in your mouth and ate it. We all were crawling with lice. Taking a shower was not an option. To get out in the morning, to walk toward the barrack where there is water, running water --you didn't want to walk through mud. If you walked through the mud you probably lost a shoe and then you had to go barefoot. So it would be damned if I do and damned if I don't. Those were the conditions."

Although the Nazis terrorized and dehumanized prisoners in Auschwitz, as well as in other concentration camps under their control, many Jews attempted to retain their dignity and humanity.

Even in unendurable conditions, people sought support, cooperation and friendship. For instance, Ovadiah Baruch, a young Jewish prisoner who was deported to Auschwitz from Greece, notes that the support of his friends helped him survive. He states:

"During the death marches [from Auschwitz] we were three friends, Yom Tov Eli, Michael and I. We were connected heart and soul. Throughout the whole time we were prisoners in Auschwitz we stayed in close contact….During the death marches, Michael developed dysentery. He was so weak that he could barely continue to walk, and he begged us to go on without him. Yom Tov Eli and I insisted that we would carry him and support him as best as we could."
Yad Vashem Archives

Auschwitz, 1945


.Selected for Crematoria
Selected for Crematoria

Arrival at Auschwitz-Birkenau
.Crematorium II can be seen in the back of this photograph.
Many of the Jews of this photograph will end up there in that crematorium
after the quick selection to be killed.

Birkenau selection
Jews undergoing the selection process on the Birkenau arrival platform known as the "ramp."

In her postwar testimony, Olga Albogen, a Holocaust survivor, relates to her family's arrival in Auschwitz in the following way:
"…We didn't even say goodbye to Mother and the little ones. We just had some food yet from home and I gave it to my mother and said, 'We'll see you tonight.' And that was it and I never saw them again. It was such a commotion there in Auschwitz… So many people… And when they emptied the wagons, thousands and thousands and trains kept on coming from all over Europe, not just Hungary. It was just unbelievable."

Entire families often arrived in Auschwitz, but soon after their arrival, they were brutally broken apart. In Auschwitz-Birkenau, Jews were thrown out of the cattle cars without their belongings and forced to make two separate lines, men and women/children. SS medical personnel, including the infamous Dr. Josef Mengele, conducted selections among these lines, sending most victims to the gas chambers where they were usually killed and burned on the same day. Mengele and his colleagues also conducted so-called "medical experiments" on human beings in the camp.
--Yad Vashem Archives.






After the occupation of Poland by the Third Reich, the name of the city of Oswiecim was changed to Auschwitz by the Germans, and became the name of the camp as well.

Auschwitz functioned throughout its existence as a concentration camp, and over time became the largest such Nazi camp.

In the first period of the existence of the camp, it was primarily Poles who were sent here by the German occupation authorities.

These were people regarded as particularly dangerous: the elite of the Polish people, their political, civic, and spiritual leaders, members of the intelligentsia, cultural and scientific figures, and also members of the resistance movement, officers, and so on.

Over time, the Nazis also began to send groups of prisoners from other occupied countries to Auschwitz.

Beginning in 1942, Jews whom the SS physicians classified as fit for labor were also registered in the camp. From among all the people deported to Auschwitz, approximately 400,000 people were registered and placed in the camp and its sub-camps [200,000 Jews, more than 140,000 Poles, about 20,000 Romanies ("Gypsies") from various countries, more than 10,000 Soviet prisoners of war, and more than 10,000 prisoners of other nationalities].

AuschwitzOver 50% of the registered prisoners died as a result of starvation, labor that exceeded their physical capacity, the terror that raged in the camp, executions, the inhuman living conditions, disease and epidemics, punishment, torture, and criminal medical experiments.

Auschwitz has become a symbol of terror, genocide, and the Holocaust. It was established by the Nazis in 1940, in the suburbs of the city of Oswiecim which, like other parts of Poland, was occupied by the Germans during the Second World War. The name of the city of Oswiecim was changed to Auschwitz, which became the name of the camp as well.

Over the years, the camp was expanded and consisted of three main parts:

Auschwitz I, Auschwitz II-Birkenau, and Auschwitz III-Monowitz. It also had over 40 sub-camps.

At first, Poles were imprisoned and died in the camp. Afterwards, Soviet prisoners of war, Romanies ("Gypsies"), and people of other nationalities were also incarcerated there. Beginning in 1942, the camp became the site of the greatest mass murder in the history of humanity, which was committed against the European Jews as part of Hitler's plan for the complete destruction of that people.

Rudolf Hoess"On arrival at the "Cottage," they were told to undress. At first they went calmly into the rooms where they were supposed to be disinfected. But some of them showed signs of alarm, and spoke of death by suffocation and of annihilation. A sort of panic set in at once. Immediately all the Jews still outside were pushed into the chambers, and the doors were screwed shut. With subsequent transports the difficult individuals were picked out early on and most carefully supervised. At the first signs of unrest, those responsible were unobtrusively led behind the building and killed with a small-calibre gun that was inaudible to the others. "

(From the testimony of Rudolph Hoess, Commandant of Auschwitz)


The majority of the Jewish men, women and children deported to Auschwitz were sent to their deaths in the Birkenau gas chambers immediately after arrival. At the end of the war, in an effort to remove the traces of the crimes they had committed, the SS began dismantling and razing the gas chambers, crematoria, and other buildings, as well as burning documents.

Prisoners capable of marching were evacuated into the depths of the Reich. Those who remained behind in the camp were liberated by Red Army soldiers on January 27, 1945.
Auschwitz survivors at liberation
Auschwitz survivors at liberation.
January 27, 1945.


A July 2, 1947 act of the Polish parliament established the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum on the grounds of the two extant parts of the camp, Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II-Birkenau.

Memorial Plaque: Auschwitz-Birkenau

Auschwitz: Entrance to Hell
"There is a place on earth that is a vast desolate wilderness,
a place populated by shadows of the dead in their multitudes,
a place where the living are dead, where only death, hate and pain exist."
Giuliana Tedeschi

Fact Sheet Supplement:
Vast labour and death camp killed up to 6,000 a day


The Auschwitz Complex
Auschwitz I --Concentration Camp; Auschwitz II --Extermination Camp
(Credit: Dutch Holocaust website <cympm.com> of Hans Vanderwerff and Sion Soeters.)

.From Yad Vashem

The Auschwitz-Birkenau blueprints

Auschwitz Map

Birkenau Map

· German forces occupying Poland set up Auschwitz in 1940 as a labour camp for Polish prisoners, gradually expanding it into a vast labour and death camp;

· The complex contained three camps and at least 40 sub-camps, built outside the town of Oswiecim between 1940 and 1942;

· Auschwitz I was built for Polish political prisoners in June 1940;

Upon arrival at Auschwitz-Birkenau camp
Hungarian Jews lined up on the train platform, upon arrival, at Auschwitz II --Birkenau camp.
Majority of them will be sent straight to the gas chambers.
· Auschwitz II - Birkenau, was built in October 1941. It held more than 100,000 prisoners and housed gas chambers capable of disposing of 2,000 people a day. By 1944 some 6,000 people a day were being killed;

· Auschwitz III - Monowitz, supplied forced labour for the nearby IG Farben plant, the company which made the Zyklon-B gas used in Nazi death camps;

· Minor articles printed in U.S. and European newspapers in the early 1940s attest perhaps that Allied countries were somewhat aware of the camp and the deaths occurring there, yet did nothing either further to investigate or to act.***

· In all, 1.1 million people died during the four and a half years of Auschwitz's existence; one million of them were Jewish men, women and children.

· Only an estimated 11 percent of Jewish children who were alive in 1933 survived the Holocaust.

· In total 90 percent of the Jewish population in Poland died --some 2.8 million people.

· Other groups who died included Polish political prisoners, Soviet prisoners of war, Romanies ("Gypsies"), people with disabilities, homosexuals and prisoners of conscience or religious faith;

· The decision to kill Europe's Jews was formulated in late 1941, and Nazi officials at the Wannsee Conference in January 1942 coordinated the apparatus of mass murder.




· Gassing with Zyklon B began in autumn 1941.

· A Star of David was placed above the entrance to the gas chamber and a sign was painted in Hebrew on a purple curtain covering the entrance to the gas chamber that said "This is the Gateway to God. Righteous men will pass through."

· Most victims were murdered in six extermination camps. Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland was the largest and at least 1.1 million Jews were killed there before its liberation by the Soviet Red Army on Jan. 27, 1945.

· An estimated 5.5 million other victims of Nazi atrocities -- labelled "enemies of the German state" -- included up to half a million Romanies ("Gypsies"), an estimated 10,000-15,000 homosexuals and 3 million non-Jewish Poles. Catholic and Protestant clergy also were sent to concentration camps as well as Jehovah's Witnesses.

· Some Holocaust researchers fault the wartime allies for not bombing the railway tracks that brought Jews from across Europe to the camps. Survivors lament what Nobel prize-winning author Elie Wiesel describes as shameful indifference to mass murder.

· The United States and Britain garnered much intelligence about the camps, other historians say, but their priority was a total military defeat of Nazi Germany, not rescuing European Jews.

· The camp was liberated by Soviet soldiers on January 27 1945;

· About 200,000 inmates of the camp between 1940 and 1945 survived;

· Out of a total of about 7,000 guards at Auschwitz, including 170 female staff (the most infamous was Irma Grese, the 20-year-old daughter of a dairyman), 750 were prosecuted and punished after Nazi Germany was defeated.

· More people died in Auschwitz than the British and American losses of World War Two combined.

· About 60 million Reichmarks - equivalent to £125m today - was generated for the Nazi state by slave labour at Auschwitz.

· A unit in Auschwitz where valuables snatched from incoming prisoners were kept was known as Canada, because Canada was thought to be a land of untold riches.

· Nazis at Auschwitz offered some non-Jewish female prisoners the option of 'light work'. As the women soon discovered, 'light work' meant prostitution.

· To lull new arrivals at Treblinka death camp into believing they were only in transit, plants were placed on the railway station and at the entrance to the gas chambers.

· The train ramp was disguised to look like a regular railway station with signs, timetables and even a clock painted on the wall.

· Josef Mengele's scientific experiments at Auschwitz often involved studies of twins. If one twin died, he would immediately kill the other and carry out comparative autopsies.

· Denmark was the only Nazi-occupied country that managed to save 95% of its Jewish residents. Following a tip-off by a German diplomat, thousands of Jews were evacuated to neutral Sweden.

· Some Jewish prisoners secretly wrote eye-witness accounts of the atrocities of the gas chambers and hid them in bottles or metal containers buried in the ground. A number of these accounts were discovered after the war.


 Burying the Dead, 1945 Auschwitz
1945, Auschwitz After Liberation: Burying the Dead
Sources: Reuters/Oxford Companion to the Second World War/BBC

***United States National Archives
Allies May Have Known of Holocaust Plans:

Auschwitz-Birkenau Subcamps
S u b c a m p s


IG Farben had a factory, built in Dwory near Auschwitz because this place offered security from air-raids, the coal mines were near and the existence of Auschwitz concentration camp made it possible to receive as many cheap labourers as necessary. In April 1941, inmates of Auschwitz started building the Buna-plants in Dwory. At the beginning, the slave workers had to walk the whole distance from Auschwitz to their work-place, one direction measured seven kilometres. Due to difficulties with these transports, like exhaustion of the prisoners which led to a fall in of the work power, IG Farben decided to build a special camp for the prisoners working in the Buna plants: This subcamp of Auschwitz was settled in an evacuated village named Monowice. At the end of October 1942, the prisoners were transferred to Monowice. Until November 1943, the camp was called "Bunalager" (camp Buna) and belonged to Auschwitz concentration camp. Since November 1943, Monowice contained its own command headquarter Auschwitz III. It comprised 28 camps, which developed in the years 1942 to 1944 mainly in Silesia close to mines, metallurgical plants and other industrial zones. Those were the subcamps built between 1942 and 1944:

Goleschau (cement factory)

Jawischowitz (coal mine)

Chelmek (shoe factory)



"Eintrachthütte" (ironworks)

"Neu-Dachs" (electric power plant and pits were built)

"Janinagrube" and "Fürstengrube (coal mines)

Lagischa (building of a power station)



"Charlottegrube" in Ledziny and Rydultowy (coal mines)

"Günthergrube" (coal mine)

Bismarckhütte and Laurahütte (ironworks)

Gleiwitz I und III (ironworks and metallurgical plants)




Gleiwitz II (chemical factories)

Althammer (power plant)

Neustadt and Lichterwerde in "Reichsprotektorat" Bohemia and Moravia (textile factories)

Freudenthal in Bohemia and Moravia (food industry)

The working conditions in the subcamps were generally very hard. Though the industrial branches varied and the works were diverse, the prisoners had to work physically hard. Mostly they were assigned to building- or transport works. The conditions vere especially unsatisfactory by the lack of mechanisation in the plants. Also, they had no protective working clothes. In some subcamps, the SS used the inmates for the removal of blind bombs, which layed around on the areas of bombed industrial zones. Those who directly worked in the production had better conditions: they were not exposed to the weather, but employed on dangerous and physically hard jobs.

The treatment of prisoners in the subcamps varied according to the labour assignments the inmates worked in. Within building and digging works, the guards had more chances to beat the inmates than at machines which required a steady work-rhythm.

A Comprehensive Alphabetical List of
Auschwitz subcamps, Part IAuschwitz subcamps, Part IIAuschwitz subcamps, Part III
and, Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, Poland.

Special Selected Links:


Auschwitz by USHMM

An Historical Outline:
Auschwitz Concentration Camp

Auschwitz Concentration Camp

Auschwitz Timeline


Auschwitz -- Birkenau

From BBC: Auschwitz in Pictures

Auschwitz-Birkenau 1944 Timetable

A Layman's Guide to Auschwitz-Birkenau

Mengele's Children: The Twins of Auschwitz

Photos of the Auschwitz Crematoria

The Construction of Crematoria at Auschwitz

Rudolf Hoes, Commandant of AuschwitzThe Expansion of the Birkenau-Auschwitz

1941 Historic Photos: Construction Of Birkenau (Auschwitz II)

Commandant of Auschwitz : The Autobiography of Rudolf Hoess
with Introduction by Primo Levi

Rudolf Höss -- Commandant of Auschwitz

The Auschwitz Trials

The Written Testimony of Rudolf Hoess, Commandant of Auschwitz

Auschwitz Concentration Camp
by SS Pery Broad
--Member of the SS Personnel in Auschwitz Concentration Camp

Irma Grese -- Notorious Female Guard

The Holocaust Revisited:
A Retrospective Analysis of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Extermination Complex

(with Aerial Reconnaissance Imageries)

The Evolution of Tattooing in the Auschwitz Concentration Camp Complex

Sonderkommando of Auschwitz: 'We did the dirty work of the Holocaust'

Auschwitz-Birkenau Photo Exhibit
Auschwitz-Birkenau Photo Exhibit

Personal Stories of Auschwitz-Birkenau Holocaust Survivors
from USHMM by
Leo Schneiderman, Miso (Michael) Vogel, Cecilie Klein-Pollack
Sam Itzkowitz, Ruth Webber, and Irene Hizme.

72 Contemporary Pictures from Auschwitz-Birkenau:
Pictures 1-36  &  Pictures 37-72 


  More Contemporary Pictures from the Auschwitz-Birkenau Complex:  
From Auschwitz I
From Auschwitz II (Birkenau)

(Part 1)    

    (Part 2)

.20 Selected Photos from Auschwitz and Birkenau
A Panoramic View of Today's Auschwitz Complex

Auschwitz in Images:
Auschwitz in Images

Auschwitz Shifts From Memorializing to Teaching For a New Generation

     The Auschwitz Album from Yad Vashem
.    The Lili Jacob's Auschwitz Album from USHMM 
.     The Auschwitz Album Multimedia from Yad Vashem

   Auschwitz Album
  . Oliver Lustig's Selection and Text Presentation of the Auschwitz Album      

Auschwitz SS Guardians Frolic
.All smiles. Life is good at Auschwitz:
  In the Shadow of Horror, Auschwitz SS Guardians Frolic    

The Hoecker Auschwitz Album
  . The Hoecker Auschwitz Album            

   The Frankfurt Auschwitz Trial of Karl Höcker


Auschwitz gate

"Forget You Not"™