Survival in Auschwitz – understand the system

The Nazi concentration camp system ran on a  system of brutality that had been refined ever since they had established camps for their political enemies when they first gained power.

SS men exist but are few and outside the camp, and are seen relatively infrequently. Our effective masters in practice are the green triangles, who have a free hand over us, as well as those of the other two categories who are ready to help them – and they are not few.




Morgenthau argues for direct action to help the Jews

Although the Allies had substantial evidence of the Holocaust by 1944, the true scale of what the Nazis were doing was not fully realised until the camps were liberated and pictures emerged. 
Starved prisoners, nearly dead from hunger, pose in concentration camp in Ebensee, Austria. The camp was reputedly used for "scientific" experiments. It was liberated by the 80th Division. May 7, 1945. Lt. A. E. Samuelson. (Army)

Despite the fact that time is most precious in this matter, State Department officials have been kicking the matter around for over a year without producing results; giving all sorts of excuses for delays upon delays; advancing no specific proposals designed to rescue Jews, at the same time proposing that the whole refugee problem be “explored” by this Government and Intergovernmental Committees.




An English PoW at work in Auschwitz

Overview of IG Farben's plant, near Auschwitz" ; circa 1941 Source : German Federal Archive

Behind it all stood the SS and the executives of IG Farben itself. The Kapos, the prisoners put in charge of their fellows, became the focus of my anger. They were evil men and many wore the green triangle of the career criminal. Their survival depended on keeping the rest of the prisoners in line. If they lost their privileged job they were friendless and then they didn’t live long.




Secrets and lies to protect Jews in Nazi Germany

Almost everyone in Germany now faced the threat of the bomber. Dresden, in the east, had been spared so far.  But nearby Leipzig had recently been hit so people were now more fearful.

My friend Mobius also belongs to the SS, but you need have no fears because of that, his thoughts on these matters are even more radical than mine. Only I beg you, you must not say that you are well off with us. On the contrary, you must complain about bad treatment; otherwise we will get into trouble, and it will be to your detriment above all. Schluter essentially failed because he got a reputation for being favorably disposed to Jews…”




The holocaust is uncovered in the Ukraine

Villagers greet Soviet soldiers during the liberation of the Ukraine.

This was the murder of a great and ancient professional experience, passed from one generation to another in thousands of families of craftsmen and members of the intelligentsia. This was the murder of everyday traditions that grandfathers had passed to their grandchildren, this was the murder of memories, of a mournful song, folk poetry, of life, happy and bitter, this was the destruction of hearths and cemetries, this was the death of the nation which had been living side by side with Ukrainians over hundreds of years …




Escape from unspeakable horror of Camp Syret

Jews in Kiev on the way to Babi Yar pass bodies of those already shot, September 1941.

At last the Germans understood what was happening and all the guards got to their feet. They started pursuing us on cars, motorcycles and with dogs. The ravine was lit with flares. The shooting remained in front of us. The pursuers did not know where to aim their shooting since all the prisoners scattered in different directions. Some of them ran off with a chain still clamped to one leg, since they had no time to unchain it.




Auschwitz: selected to work by Mengele

Hoess the commandant of Auschwitz tours Buna with Himmler.

Then a number of civilians came to the block. They were accompanied by Hauptsturmführer Rudolf Höss, the Kommandant of Auschwitz. The consensus of our block supervisors indicated that they were from I.G. Farben, a large German pharmaceutical company that already employed prisoners in the nearby Buna camp. At Buna, the I.G. Farben Company was making synthetic rubber. There, we were told, the inmate death rate was very high, and they had a continuous need for replacement workers. We believed that it could only be better than our present situation. We just wanted to get out of here.




A desperate escape attempt from Treblinka

Smoke rising from Treblinka on the 2nd August 1943, a picture taken by the Polish underground.

Shots are heard from all sides. The Ukrainians, whom our comrades have lured from the watchtowers, lie dead. Two S.S. excavator operators are dead. We head for the barbed wire shouting: – Revolgutsga v Berline! (Russian: Revolution in Berlin!) Several of the Ukrainians become disorientated and put up their hands. Their weapons are taken from them. We cut the wires one after the other. We are already at the third barbed-wire fence.




The Jews are blamed as the war goes badly

Germany was now desperate for labour as more and more men were called up.  The solution was bringing in ' volunteer' workers from around occupied Europe. A group of workers somewhere in the 'East' who are being encouraged by their Mayor to volunteer, according to the caption.

The military situation – I am listening to the radio again now – appears very depressing for Germany, and so the Jew-baiting is on the increase again. Feder came to work very down. A new poster has been stuck up on Wiener Strasse: A Sturmer charicature of a Jew wearing the star; legend: ”Who is to blame for the war? — He is!” Abuse had been shouted at him twice on his way to Schluters [the factory where they were forced to work].




The SS report that Galicia, Poland is judenfrei

At first the Jews of Eastern Europe had been forced into  ghettos. The Nazis took pictures of the very basic conditions they were forced to live in. By now most of the men women and children were dead.

There were also other immense difficulties during the Aktionen as the Jews tried to avoid evacuation by all possible means. They not only tried to escape, and concealed themselves in the most improbable places, drainage canals, chimneys, even in sewage pits, etc. They barricaded themselves in catacombs of passages, in cellars made into bunkers, in holes in the earth, in cunningly contrived hiding places, in attics and sheds, inside furniture, etc. As the number of Jews still remaining decreased their resistance became the greater. They used weapons of all types for their defense, and in particular those of Italian origin.