Before Auschwitz, the Holocaust was factory

"My beloved Halusia, from 14.VI. I am in the concentration camps of Auschwitz, am healthy, feel good", wrote in 1940 Tadeusz Korczowski, prisoner number 373,

Before Auschwitz, the Holocaust was factory

"My beloved Halusia, from 14.VI. I am in the concentration camps of Auschwitz, am healthy, feel good", wrote in 1940 Tadeusz Korczowski, prisoner number 373, to his fiancée. The correspondence was under the strict control of inventory management. The 26-Year-old hardly had another choice to praise as "the pleasant weather in Auschwitz". Only between the lines, he tried to let on that he would stay here rather "longer".

With the same Transport on the 14. June 1940 came the 19-year-old Student Janusz Pogonowski. About him we know that he was convicted in 1943 as a resistance fighter in the camp, together with eleven other detainees to death. As he waited with the rope around the neck to Hang, he managed the Pedestal on which he stood, to move away and hang himself with it. So he could choose at least the Moment of his death, reported by surviving witnesses. "Sudden cardiac death", the death certificate, which was given to the family by Post.

Korczowski and Pogonowski were one of the first prisoners of the Auschwitz concentration camp, which was built in the spring of 1940 in the buildings of a former Polish army barracks. The Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler, the convenient traffic, which appeared for the transportation of the prisoners from different Parts of the occupied Europe suitable liked.

Of the 728 poles from the prison in the South pole niches to the city of Tarnów were transferred to Auschwitz, were three-quarters of men under 30 years of age. It were mainly intellectuals and students. Their Kapos, and supervisors were 30 German Criminals, brought on by the SS shortly before the concentration camp Sachsenhausen to Auschwitz.

murder and Deportation: the so-called "intelligence action"

The Polish prisoners were victims of German occupation policies aimed at the destruction of the Polish elite. After the German troops on 1. September 1939 Poland had invaded, annexed, the Nazi government the Polish Western territories into the German Reich. By July 1940, the occupiers murdered there in the framework of the so-called "intelligence action" 50.000 Poland and deported just as many in concentration camps.

In the Generalgouvernement, the Polish areas under German civil administration, has taken a similar action under the name "extraordinary pacification action". Deportations, raids, and murders were of everyday life, the German occupation policy in Poland.

at the end of 1942, for example, were expelled from the South-Eastern Polish Zamość to 100,000 inhabitants, including 30,000 children. Many of them died in Auschwitz. Between 1939 and 1945 a total of 140,000 poles were deported here, half did not survive the camp.

"Poland should disappear as a state of the image surface. The population should be stupid, and the Germans as a slave labor force to serve", says the German, Eastern Europe historian Jochen Böhler of the University in Jena.

Especially important is the defeat of the elites, the resistance organized it was. "The Polish resistance, which is amazing! - in the occupied Land of a surface state, not only with schools and universities, but even with a private army built up. This is unique in European history", stresses Böhler in an interview with DW.

early warnings of the Holocaust

The ground state saw it as one of its most important tasks is to alert the world because of the Nazi crimes, mainly because of the extermination of Jews in occupied Poland. Böhler's called the "tragedy of the Polish underground", that this "bad news" were not heard.

Already in 1940 had supplied Witold Pilecki, an officer in the Polish underground army, the allies, reports from Auschwitz. For this Mission, he voluntarily went as a prisoner to Auschwitz - he is the only known person who did it. He hoped that the allies weapons brought into the camp, but his reports remained without Echo.

the Same thing happened with the "report to the world" by Jan Karski. The courier of the Polish underground has Roosevelt in 1943, U.S. President Franklin D. personally about the mass deportations of the Jews informed in the gas chambers. "I wanted to save millions, and I was not able to do it for a single people," said Karski bitter after the war. Several times he accused the West of an "indifference towards the Holocaust".

Little bit of Knowledge about the Polish victims

Although "unique in European history", the Polish underground state "outside Poland is hardly known," explains Jochen Böhler. The same is true for the crimes of the Germans in occupied Poland. "The Problem is, in my opinion, in the fact that in school, the Holocaust is usually completely detached from the contexts will be taught, in which it was carried out. And that is the German occupation in Poland, where the murder of the European Jews was a objective direction from 1941 on Polish soil," stresses the historian.

Of the 3.5 million Polish Jews died over 90 percent in the Holocaust. But also three million non-Jewish poles victims of the Second world war, will disappear in Germany "completely," says Böhler. In his seminars about the German occupation in Poland, he had to start "literally zero".

individual destinies more important than statistics

The Auschwitz-Birkenau memorial and this reminder wants to keep awake. Just the list of names of the first shipment has been updated. Of the 728 prisoners 325 have survived the camp, 292 have died, the fate of 111 is unknown. The personal destinies are meticulously reconstructed on the basis of the few documents and photos. The come mainly from the Relatives of the victims, because the SS destroyed most of the camp documents, to cover your tracks.

Since 2007, the 200-acre site of the former camp stands as a world heritage site on the list of UNESCO. In 2019, the memorial site had two million visitors. Recently your Director Piotr Cywinski had to ask for donations, because due to the closure of the Museum as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic, the budget shrank. The conservators have not stopped their work.

"still, we are working on the individual stories. The big story of Auschwitz consists of over 1.3 million individual destinies," says Cywinski. These fates were powerful expression than the mere death statistics. With them, he wants to tell the world about the death factory at Auschwitz.

author: Monika Sieradzka (Warsaw)

*The post "published Before Auschwitz the Holocaust was a factory" is from Deutsche Welle. Contact with the executives here.

Deutsche Welle
Updated Date: 13 June 2020, 21:26

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