A Harrowing Photo Essay: Auschwitz-Birkenau

Around an hour drive from Krakow lies the town of Oswiecim. During the years of 1940 and 1941 around 17,000 Polish residents were expelled from the area and 8 surrounding villages destroyed.
All this so the Nazis could keep the existence of Auschwitz-Birkenau a secret.
Between September 1941 and January 1945 over 1.1 million people – Jews, Roma and Sinti gypsies, Poles, Soviet POWS, homosexuals and Jehovah’s Witnesses -were murdered at Auschwitz.
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Left over cylinders of Zyklon B gas
While many victims were gassed, many prisoners died of starvation, forced labour, infectious diseases, executions and medical experiments.
The Jewish victims were told that they were being transported to a resettlement.
On arrival to the compound, the victims were stripped off their possessions and sorted into two lines.
The plundered possessions included pots, pans, toothbrushes, hairbrushes, suitcases, clothing, eyeglasses.
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Artificial limbs
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Victims of Auschwitz
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double electrified barbed wire fence with guard tower
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hanging post
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Birkenau
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transport carriage
As many as 50 people were squeezed into an unventilated carriage like the one above, including their luggage. There was no food and water provided and only a bucket in the corner for waste.
Many transports came from as far away as Norway in these conditions.
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Foundations and chimneys of blocks at Birkenau
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bunks 3 high
Prisoners were 5 to a bunk with no mattress or blankets. It was unbearably cold in the winter with the bottom bunk getting flooded due to the leaky roof and turning into mud.
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Crematorium
Before the evacuation the Nazis attempted to blow up the crematorium to hide their crimes.
After liberation buried notes were found from the Sonderkommando – prisoners forced to aid with the disposal of gas a chamber victims – detailing the horrors of the gas chambers.

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The sheer size of the camps is unbelievable. Birkenau was set up for 100,000 prisoners and standing in front of the train entrance either side goes for kilometres.

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