Architecture of Murder: The Blueprints of Auschwitz-Birkenau (2024)

"There is a place in the world that is desolate wilderness, a place populated by masses of shadows of the dead, where the living are dead, where only death, hate and pain exist."
Giuliana Tedeschi

The Auschwitz camp complex became a central symbol of the Holocaust.According to scientific estimates by researchers at the Auschwitz Museum, around 1.1 million people were murdered at this site, including one million Jews. The camp complex was not built in a day. Its construction was a large-scale construction project that dragged on for years and was never completed. Several organizations and companies were involved, as well as thousands of workers - Germans and members of other nationalities. A single camp with 22 buildings in 1940 grew into a complex of 3 main camps and 40 sub-camps.

As part of the planning work on the warehouse complex, the planning offices and companies involved in the project produced hundreds of technical drawings of the various construction sites and the buildings to be built on them. The plans were drawn up by SS draftsmen, prisoners with technical knowledge who were employed by the planning offices, and civilian draftsmen. These plans were used by the building contractors to present the project and carry out the construction work. Among other things, detailed plans of the gas chambers and crematoria were drawn up.

The Germans built the first camp in Auschwitz in the spring of 1940. The camp's property had previously served as a cavalry garrison for the Austro-Hungarian Army in Upper Silesia. This was the first concentration camp to be established in Poland, and the first prisoners were admitted in June of that year.

During 1941, two developments took place that contributed to a dramatic expansion of German activities at Auschwitz:

At the beginning of 1941, the petrochemical industrial group I.G. Farben to build a huge factory on site to produce rubber and synthetic gasoline. The SS agreed to provide the company with cheap labor, initially to build the factory and later as workers. As construction work on the factory progressed, a small labor camp was built next to it, which was later called “Auschwitz III”.

The second development took place as part of the German attack on the Soviet Union. The Germans decided to build a huge prison camp in Upper Silesia for the many Soviet soldiers who had fallen into their captivity. It was decided to build the camp next to the main camp, next to a small agricultural community called Brzezinka. This camp is known as “Auschwitz II” or by its more common name, Birkenau.

Construction of Birkenau began in October 1941.It was headed by the “Central Construction Management of the Waffen-SS and Police, Auschwitz, Upper Silesia,” which was founded on October 1, 1941. At their head was Sturmbannführer Karl Bischoff. The preparation of the construction plans was the responsibility of the planning office, headed by Hauptscharführer Wichmann. SS officers who had architectural or construction knowledge, as well as some prisoners who had appropriate technical training, worked on drawing up the plans. Prisoner Herta Soswinski, who worked as an office worker in construction management, remembers:

“The task of the construction management was the comprehensive planning of all construction work on the Auschwitz site, including residential barracks, hospital buildings, crematoriums, gas chambers... The construction management was not only responsible for the planning, but also for carrying out the work and allocating the materials and supervision of the work. The SS people who were involved in the planning were on duty at the construction sites if necessary.”

The camp was built on muddy, exposed ground.Its construction took place in several phases and was intended to eventually house around 200,000 prisoners of war. Most of the site preparation and construction work was carried out in the initial phase by thousands of Soviet prisoners of war under German supervision.Later, many Polish and Jewish prisoners were added to the Soviet ones. The working conditions for the prisoners who carried out the construction work were disastrous, and their death rate was particularly high in winter. Polish prisoner Alfred Czesław Przybylski remembers:

“During the course of the excavation and construction of the foundations, the prisoners worked in water up to their waistlines in the fall, winter and icy conditions. Female prisoners at the Birkenau women's camp worked under the same conditions. I am quite sure that the choice of construction site - on wet ground, although it would have been possible to build on dry ground more suitable for construction - which was made by professionals... was intended to protect the prisoners who were involved in the “We were engaged in construction work and to destroy the prisoners who were housed in these buildings.”

In contrast to the buildings of the main camp, which were built of brick, a significant part of Birkenau's buildings consisted of uniform wooden barracks, which were unsuitable for human accommodation due to gross defects. They had no functioning sewage system and no insulation from the cold. The original plan was to house approximately 550 prisoners in each of them, but in reality many more prisoners were crammed into them. The severe overcrowding contributed to catastrophic hygiene conditions in the barracks, which led to a high death rate among the prisoners housed there. A former prisoner describes the conditions in the Birkenau barracks as follows:

“On rainy days, the compressed soil of the barracks became a quagmire because there was no drainage. These barracks were originally intended to accommodate 500 people. The construction manager Dejaco's order to build a basement and a third floor of cots increased the capacity of the barracks to 800-1000, and sometimes there were not four prisoners on one cot, but ten to twelve...”

Living conditions were particularly difficult in winter, and as a result many prisoners became ill and died. The well-known writer Roman Frister talks about the conditions in winter and the difficult feelings of the prisoners:

“The seasons changed according to the logic of nature, reminding us all of the existence of immutable laws: summer died and autumn perished, winter broke into our lives and hit us with the whip of frost. In contrast to the factory, where there was a pleasant warmth, the barracks in the camp were never heated - the ovens in them served as substitutes for tables. After the evening roll calls, which went on forever, or more precisely, until the Germans had enough of them, there was no place where we could warm up. We slept without undressing, sometimes even without taking off our shoes. The nights brought suffering, but the hardest moment for me was the moment of awakening. He asked me to make a decision. At five in the morning, when the block elder's whistle woke us up, I had to decide anew each time whether I would fight or give up.

In addition to the camps themselves, the SS built numerous infrastructural facilities next to and between the camps. A storage facility of this size required a central heating system, a sewage and water supply system, a road network, various storage rooms and buildings for German personnel, and a system for the supply of food and other consumer goods.

Shortly after construction of the Birkenau camp began, it was decided to change its purpose and convert it into an extermination camp. The first attempts to kill people with gas were carried out in the main camp in the fall of 1941, and as a result of their success, the SS decided to build four permanent facilities for exterminating people with gas in Birkenau. Construction began in 1942 and was managed by the Topf and Sons company under the supervision of the SS. As a temporary solution until the permanent facilities were completed, the Germans set up two improvised gas chambers next to the camp by converting existing buildings.

The four extermination facilities were put into operation in 1943. They included an underground undressing room, an underground gas chamber and an above-ground crematorium building for burning the bodies of the murdered. These systems made the murder of Jews highly efficient. SS man Pery Broad describes a case of gas murder he witnessed:

“Some note that the caps are removed from the six holes in the ceiling. They let out a loud scream of horror as a head wearing a gas mask appears in the cutout. The “disinfectors” are at work [...] Using a ring iron and a hammer, they open a few harmless-looking tin cans. The inscription reads: “Zyklon, for pest control. Beware of poison! Can only be opened by trained personnel!” [...] Quickly after opening, the contents of the cans are filled into the holes. The closure is quickly covered over the opening each time. [...] After about two minutes the screams subside and turn into humming moans. Most are already unconscious. After another two minutes, Grabner [one of the SS men] lowers the clock. It's all over."

The extermination process reached its climax in the spring and summer of 1944 with the deportation of around 430,000 Hungarian Jews to the camp, the majority of whom were murdered.

During this period, the strain on the extermination facilities was so great that the Germans put the improvised gas chambers they had used in 1942 back into operation.

Parallel to its transformation into a murder center, the economic importance of the Auschwitz camp complex also grew. The huge I.G. Although the Farben Factory was never completed, thousands of prisoners worked on its construction over the years. In addition to her, factories for various other products were built in Auschwitz. Other factories and workshops were built around the camps, whose prisoners were sent there to work.In addition, Auschwitz served as a center for the collection and distribution of forced labor for all of German industry. The largest allocation of prisoners from Auschwitz was the transfer of approximately 100,000 prisoners to the German aviation industry in the spring of 1944.

Concrete information about Auschwitz, which contained fairly precise plans of its main camps and extermination facilities, only reached the West in the summer of 1944 in the form of the Vrba-Wetzler report.

Rudolph Vrba and Alfred Wetzler were two Slovak Jewish prisoners who escaped from Auschwitz in April 1944. They prepared a comprehensive report on what happened in Auschwitz and brought it underground to the West. The plans contained in the report continue to surprise today with their accuracy.

Construction work on the Auschwitz camp complex continued until November 1944. During this phase, Himmler ordered the extermination of Jews on site to stop and the Germans began dismantling the extermination facilities to remove traces of their crime.They later dismantled more parts of Birkenau, but when the Red Army reached the camp on January 27, 1945, it was still almost complete.

Shortly before the Soviets arrived, the Germans burned the camp archives, but overlooked the construction management archives, which were in another building. As a result, the Soviets found a significant portion of the technical documents, including a large portion of the construction plans. After the end of the Cold War, these documents were made available to researchers and the general public. No other extermination camp has such extensive records, including detailed documents about the extermination facilities. The Auschwitz construction plans are therefore an exceptional document of the way in which a large construction campaign served as a central means of the National Socialist policy of extermination. They will be preserved in Yad Vashem's archives for all time.

Als Experte auf diesem Gebiet kann ich Ihnen Informationen zu den in dem Artikel erwähnten Konzepten geben. Der Artikel beschäftigt sich mit dem Lagerkomplex Auschwitz, der während des Holocausts eine zentrale Rolle spielte. Hier sind die relevanten Konzepte, die im Artikel erwähnt werden:

  1. Auschwitz: Auschwitz war ein Konzentrations- und Vernichtungslager, das von den Nationalsozialisten während des Zweiten Weltkriegs betrieben wurde. Es bestand aus mehreren Lagern, darunter Auschwitz I, Auschwitz II (Birkenau) und Auschwitz III (Monowitz).
  2. Holocaust: Der Holocaust war der systematische Völkermord an rund sechs Millionen europäischen Juden durch die Nationalsozialisten während des Zweiten Weltkriegs. Auschwitz wurde zu einem Symbol für den Holocaust, da dort etwa 1,1 Millionen Menschen, darunter eine Million Juden, ermordet wurden.
  3. Lagerkomplex Auschwitz: Der Lagerkomplex Auschwitz bestand aus mehreren Lagern, darunter Auschwitz I, das als Stammlager diente, Auschwitz II (Birkenau), das als Vernichtungslager fungierte, und Auschwitz III (Monowitz), das als Arbeitslager genutzt wurde. Der Komplex wurde von verschiedenen Organisationen und Firmen errichtet und umfasste eine große Anzahl von Gebäuden.
  4. Baupläne: Im Rahmen der Planungsarbeit am Lagerkomplex Auschwitz wurden hunderte von technischen Zeichnungen der verschiedenen Baugelände und der auf ihnen zu errichtenden Gebäude angefertigt. Diese Pläne wurden von Bauzeichnern der SS, Gefangenen mit technischem Wissen und zivilen Bauzeichnern erstellt. Sie dienten den Bauunternehmern zur Vorstellung des Projekts und bei der Durchführung der Bauarbeiten. Unter anderem wurden detaillierte Pläne der Gaskammern und der Krematorien ausgearbeitet.
  5. Vernichtungslager: Im Laufe der Zeit wurde das Lager Birkenau in Auschwitz in ein Vernichtungslager umgewandelt. Es wurden vier permanente Anlagen zur Vernichtung von Menschen durch Gas errichtet. Diese Anlagen umfassten unterirdische Entkleidungsräume, unterirdische Gaskammern und oberirdische Krematorien zur Verbrennung der Leichen. Der Vernichtungsprozess erreichte seinen Höhepunkt im Frühling und Sommer 1944 mit der Deportation von etwa 430.000 ungarischen Juden ins Lager.
  6. Arbeitsbedingungen: Die Arbeitsbedingungen für die Gefangenen, die am Bau des Lagerkomplexes Auschwitz beteiligt waren, waren katastrophal. Die Arbeiten wurden unter extremen Bedingungen durchgeführt, wie zum Beispiel im Schlamm und bei eisigen Temperaturen. Die Gefangenen waren extremen Belastungen ausgesetzt, was zu einer hohen Sterberate führte.
  7. Bauleitung: Die Bauleitung des Lagerkomplexes Auschwitz war für die umfassende Planung aller Bauarbeiten verantwortlich. Sie war auch für die Durchführung der Arbeiten, die Zuteilung der Materialien und die Aufsicht über die Arbeiten zuständig. Die Bauleitung wurde von SS-Leuten geleitet, die mit der Planung beschäftigt waren und bei Bedarf auch auf den Baustellen im Einsatz waren. Diese Informationen basieren auf den Suchergebnissen von You.com.
Architecture of Murder: The Blueprints of Auschwitz-Birkenau (2024)

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