The name Auschwitz brings back horrible memories of the holocaust, which seeked to exterminate European Jews, Slavs, Roma and other groups of people. The Auschwits-Birkanau concentration camps witnessed the mechanical murders and torturing of millions of men, women and children, who were deemed ‘undesirable’ by the Nazis during World War II. The memorial is a shrine dedicated to the innocent victims of an inhuman regime led by probably the most reviled man in history. In order to properly understand the significance of the memorial, you need to devote at least 90 minutes to Auschwitz I and an equal amount of time for Birkenau or Auschwitz II.
Auschwitz I was the main camp that was established near the town of Oswiecim on the site of an abandoned Polish Army barracks between 1940 and 1942. Like other concentration camps in Germany, Auschwitz I was made to serve three objectives of the Nazi regime:
- To indefinitely incarcerate both real and perceived foes of the Third Reich and the German occupation forces in Poland.
- To supply forced laborers to be employed by the German occupation authorities in construction-related work and later, manufacture of war-related items, especially armaments.
- To serve as an execution site for targeted groups of people, whose deaths were considered essential to the security of Germany and its allies.
It was at Auschwitz I where first experiments at using the pesticide Zyklon B to kill off the first Jewish deportees to Auschwitz I. This is also where they began conducting criminal experiments on imprisoned dwarfs, twins and infants along with forced sterilizations and castrations. Auschwitz I also housed Block No.11, which was the central jail for prisoners from all around the camp. The camp commandant’s office was also located here, from where he directed the expansion of the complex. Between the medical-experiments ward and Block No.11 was the ‘black wall’ where guards executed thousand of inmates by shooting.
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