Auschwitz was a Nazi controlled concentration, extermination and labor camp located in Poland. Opened in 1940, the camp was liberated in 1945 by Soviet troops. Questions and answers about Auschwitz can be found here.

2,855 Questions
Germany in WW2

Why is the Holocaust significant?

The holocaust is significant because it killed millions of people because of racism.

Its history is important and it shows how hatred can become an obsession.

Among other things, the Holocaust is a devastating illustration of just how thin the veneer of civilization is. In the period from about 1820-1933 the German states (from 1871 on, Germany) were widely admired as a highly civilized country. Its music, architecture, painting, literature and craftsmanship were widely respected and admired. Germany had a reputation for having an outstanding education system at all levels. Especially from about 1880-1933 it was the world leader in scientific and academic research.

Yet, men acting on the orders of this country that carried out the genocide.

As far as one can tell, most of those who did the detailed planning and carried out the actual killings, most of those who saw the victims face to face, weren't psychopaths, but very ordinary people, in fact boringly ordinary in most cases. Most of them were family men, with wives and kids who, as far as one can tell, took their family duties seriously. Many of them were kind to animals. Hoess, the Commandant of Auschwitz from its foundation in 1940 till 1943, illustrates the type, so does Eichmann.

Then there were very ordinary policemen, from cities like Hamburg, who had previously been ordinary cops - also law abiding, married men with children for the most part; but when drafted into SD dead squads and sent to Russia they machine-gunned defenseless victims. What's more their commanders made it clear from the outset that this particular 'work' was voluntary, that they could refuse to do it without fear of any victimization, that they could go back home and return to their civilian work. A small number did in fact refuse and went home - and that was the end of the matter for them. Why so few? Many who have thought carefully about this have commented on the reluctance of many people to be different, to stand out, to stand up. Others have stressed the lack of moral courage ('moral fibre'), the tendency to do as we're told, the fear of trusting out own feelings, and so on.

The perpetrators illustrate what Hannah Arendt called 'the banality of evil' - that is, 'the ordinariness of evil'. They were 'extraordinary in their ordinariness', to quote the German writer Hermann Glaser.

To prove to the world what human beings are capable of.

Without trivializing the deaths in the Holocaust, or the groups that were targeted, men have been systematically slaughtering each other based on ethnicity, religion, nationality, race, and a host of other factors for several millenia. That Jews were the main target is sadly unremarkable.

Besides the scale of the slaughter (and, the relative short timeframe this slaughter was carried out), there are two really unique and interrelated characteristics which make the Holocaust stand out from all other genocides and mass-murders in history:

(1) The level of industrialized, mechanized, and automated death. Never before (and, really, never since) has a mass murder campaign been carried out with such precision and utilizing the full resources of the country. Complete systems of automated death were designed and used to maximum efficiency, with constant "improvements" and other hallmarks of the industrial revolution's manufacturing processes. Unlike all other genocides, the level of planning and execution mirrored that of an industrial assembly line process - effectively, the Holocaust manufactured mass death as a product, and sold it to its victims.

(2) The level of which the Holocaust was not just a formal policy of a nation-state, but the way that it was institutionalized and bureaucratized into the nation carrying out the campaign. The reason we know so much about the Holocaust's victims was, that unlike all other mass-murder campaigns, the Nazi's kept meticulous records of everything, just like any other government bureaucracy. A whole government ministry was set up to handle the killing, and did so like any other ministry - it competed with other ministries for funding, talent, and resources, had goals and projections and produced statistical reports, and had all the hallmarks of "ordinary" government ministries. No other genocide has ever had this level of organization and official recognition within an established government the way that the perpetrators of the Holocaust had.

These things are what truly differentiate the Holocaust from all other genocides: this industrialization of death. Other genocides had specifically targeted killed Jews, blacks, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, or any of a myriad of minority groups. Others had killed in massive numbers, and with terrible means. Others had even wiped out whole societies and civilizations. However, no one else has ever directed the entire means of modern industrial society and technology to the purpose of genocide. The efficiency and scale such industrialized means give is an ominous warning to be vigilant for anyone else looking to apply such "lessons" to evil purposes.


What was Auschwitz?

It was the biggest and most notorious of all the Nazi camps and was set up and run by the SS.

It was a complex of concentration camps and a large extermination camp located at Oswiemcim, Poland about 40 miles west of Krakow. It was in operation from May 1940 till January 1945. At the very minimum 1.1 million victims were killed there, of whom about 85% were Jews. (In the 1950s and 1960s, when the word Holocaust was not widely used, Auschwitz was sometimes treated as almost synomymous with the Holocaust).

The extermination camp was located in Auschwitz II, also called Birkenau, and the Auschwitz complex as a whole is sometimes referred to as Auschwitz-Birkenau.


Auschwitz I was a very harsh concentration camp (forced labour camp) in Nazi occupied Poland during the World War 2. It was originally built in May 1940 as a horrific punishment camp for uncooperative Poles and to kill the Polish elite. It was set up by the SS making use of old Austro-Hungarian cavalry barracks built in a mock Alpine style. In 1941-42 it was expanded to include an extermination (death) camp and women's forced labour camp at Birkenau (also known as Auschwitz II). Monowitz (Auschwitz III) was about four miles from the main site. It was a chemicals factory - a private entreprise concentration camp owned by I-G Farben, but the guards were SS men. Altogether, Auschwitz had about 45 satellite camps.

Estimates of the numbers killed in the Auschwitz comples vary slightly. The German Wikipedia article gives the overall death toll as 1.4 million, of whom about 90% were Jews. The others killed included 'gypsies' (Roma), Soviet prisoners of war, Jehovah's Witnesses, homosexuals and anyone else the Nazis didn't like.

Auschwitz is now a museum. You can visit it today - it is a very sombre and saddening experience.

The Auschwitz group of camps was the biggest and it also had the highest death toll - a minimum of 1.1 million killed, of whom at least 85% were Jews. (These are cautious figures and many historians would opt for somewhat higher figures).

For more detail see the link below.

Nazi Concentration Camps

Why did the Germans abandon Auschwitz?

  • The Soviet Army was approaching Auschwitz and the SS guards knew they could expect no mercy at all if they were captured.
  • The SS wanted to cover up what had happened there.
  • The SS also wanted to prevent the liberation of the prisoners, and therefore took them on death marches to other camps inside Germany.
Nazi Concentration Camps

How was Auschwitz organised?

by Hitler, and many other Nazi's filled with unneccessary bitter hate in their hearts =:(

Nazi Concentration Camps

What was the ratio of the people that survived a concentration camp during the Holocaust to those who died?

As many as two-thirds of Europe's Jews were killed during the Holocaust. Other groups, such as gypsies, the mentally disabled, and the handicapped were also killed. Many victims were killed in mass, open air shooting, especially in the then Soviet Union (Russia, Ukraine, Belarus) and were not sent to camps.


The proportion varied considerably. At the extermination camps (Auschwitz-Birkenau, Chelmno, Treblinka II, Majdanek ('new section'), Belzec and Sobibor very few survived. At these camps most victims were gassed soon after arrival. A handful of Jews at these camps were forced to help in various ways with the extermination process, for example, by dragging the corpses to the crematoria or mass graves. Some of these survived. However, there are only two(!) known survivors from Belzec, where according to the SS's records, 434,508 Jews plus an unspecified number of Roma were killed.

At Dachau, which was mainly a camp for political opponents of the Nazis, an estimated 25,600 died out of 150,000.


The word "survived" needs defining carefully, otherwise one ends up talking about quite different groups of people. The usual meaning of the expression "a holocaust survivor" is someone who was sent to an extermination (death) camp, concentration camp (or equivalent), but was still alive at the end of WWII in Europe or when the camp was liberated. (In other words, Jews and others who had managed to flee to countries like the U.S., Britain and Sweden before the start of World War 2 are not included). The most common figure is about 200,000. Jews in hiding who survived also count as survivors.

Incidentally, the criterion 'left the camps alive' is trickier than one might think. Some Jews were moved from one camp to another. Anne and Margot Frank, for example, were moved on 30 October 1944 from Auschwitz to Bergen-Belsen. So they were alive when they left Auschwitz, but died of typhus at Bergen-Belsen in March 1945.

Once one was actually in an extermination camp system the chances of survival were remote. It needs to be noted that there were different types of camps, ranging from 'punishment camps' like Dachau to extermination camps. From 1939-40 onwards the SS graded the camps into three types, I, II and III and later added the extermination camps. There was not much difference between types I and II, except that the prisoners were usually better fed at a camps graded I. At grade III camps most prisoners had to do very hard manual labour on grossly insufficient food and were worked to death. At the extermination camps, nearly all the prisoners were shot or gassed soon after arrival. For information: Dachau was a grade I camp, Buchenwald was grade II, Auschwitz I (old section) was grade III, while Treblinka, the Birkenau section of Auschwitz, Belzec, Sobibor, Chelmno and the newer part of Majdanek were extermination camps. Obviously, one's chances of survival at Dachau were much better than, for example, at Treblinka.


Elie Wiesel

How do you pronounce Birkenau?

you pronounce berk-ken-now for birkenau

or Beer-ken-ow


What did the commandant of Auschwitz do?

He oversaw the various camps and reported upwards

Nazi Concentration Camps

What is Auschwitz in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas?

Auschwitz was a real-life concentration and extermination camp from the Second World War. John Boyce had Bruno refer it it phonetically as 'Out-With' to showcase his innocence and naivety.

Nazi Concentration Camps

What experiments went on at Auschwitz during the Holocaust?

German doctors performed a wide variety of experiments on prisoners at Auschwitz. SS doctors tested the efficacy of X-rays as a sterilization device by administering large doses to female prisoners. Prof. Dr. Carl Clauberg injected chemicals into women's uteruses in an effort to glue them shut. Bayer, then a subsidiary of IG Farben, bought prisoners to use as guinea pigs for testing new drugs.

Here's a list of experiments the Nazis and SS did in some concentration camps like Auschwitz:

-Experiments on twins

-Bone, muscle, and nerve transplantation experiments

-Head injury experiments

-Freezing experiments

-Malaria experiments

-Mustard gas experiments

-Sulfonamide experiments

-Sea water experiments

-Sterilization experiments

-Experiments with poison

-Incendiary bomb experiments

-High altitude experiments

War and Military History
Germany in WW2
Nazi Concentration Camps

What did the Nazis write at the entrance to the Auschwitz concentration camp?

The motto at the entrance to Auschwitz was "arbeit macht frei" which translated from the German means work makes you free. This was, of course, a lie. It was a death camp, not a labor camp.


The sign was over the gate to the main camp, not the death camp (Auschwitz II).

But of course as the Jews joked inside the camp, they would be set free when they died (freedom through the chimneys).

Perhaps unsurprisingly the motto was almost exactly the same as the Soviet Union employed in the Gulags.


How many Jews were sent to Auschwitz?

The Auschwitz Museum has provided the following estimates, which have remained largely unchanged since 1989.

  • Number of people sent to Auschwitz (or to be more precise, the Auschwitz complex of camps): approximately 1.3 million - over 85% of them Jews.
  • Number of inmates who left the Auschwitz complex alive: Just under 190,000. (Many were transferred to other camps and perished there or died on death marches: 'left Auschwitz alive' does not mean 'survived the holocaust'). Killed in the Auschwitz complex of camps: 1.1 million, of whom at least 85% were Jews.

The estimates are deliberately cautious and based on documentary evidence together with estimates for numbers arriving by the transports recorded. In the last 20 years or so, most of the scholarly debate has been in the range 1.1-1.5 million.

Germany in WW2

What was the sonderkommando?

Sonderkommando literally means special squad/detachment. The sonderkommando were detachments sent out to execute Jews in the occupied Soviet Union.

Jewish Sonderkommando is the term that we give special squads that are know by many other names. Their official title in documents in Auschwitz is 'stokers', apt as their main duty was to burn corpses, mainly in the krematoria, but also (in two separate incidents) in mass cremation pits.

The role of the Jewish Sonderkommand was arguably the worst fate that could befall a Jewish inmate, so bad that many chose death rather than join, many others chose death in the first few days of their work. It is a myth (unfortunately spread because of the movies) that the Jewish Sonderkommando would be executed after a certain amount of time. Fortunately we have the testimony of one man who survived from the begining.

As well as being responsible for cremation, jobs that the SK had to do (though no one did all of the jobs) include:

- disposal of the ashes from the cremation.

- keeping new arrivals calm whilst escorting them to the gas chambers.

- cleaning out the train carriages (including the dead).

- taking the corpses from the gas chambers to the ovens.

- cutting the hair and taking gold teath from the corpses.

- searching the body cavities of the corpses.

- washing and re-painting the corpses.

- collecting and surrendering gold and valuables discovered and left behind.

- tailoring clothes (mainly for the guards).

They also had standard duties like keeping their barracks clean and fetching standard food (they were not allowed to interact with the general population).

They did have rewards also, these include:

- being able to chose and wear better clothing (claimed from the new arrivals), they only had to sew a yellow stripe on the back.

- though officially they were not supposed to take food, they did take food from the new arrivals.

- they generally had one of their own as their kapo.

When the new krematoria were built in Birkenau conditions improved for them, but at the start they were kept in a prison cell, they had to work at night and they had to undress the gassed victims, as the Germans had not realised yet that it was easier for the victims to undress themselves.


What did the sign on front of the Auschwitz say?

"Arbeit Macht Frei" ("Work makes you free)


Where did the Auschwitz prisoners sleep?

The vast majority slept in barracks.


How were people killed at Auschwitz?

Auschwitz-Birkenau became the killing centre where the largest numbers of European Jews were killed during the Holocaust. After an experimental gassing there in September 1941 of 850 malnourished and ill prisoners, mass murder became a daily routine. By mid 1942, mass gassing of Jews using Zyklon-B began at Auschwitz, where extermination was conducted on an industrial scale with some estimates running as high as three million persons eventually killed through gassing, starvation, disease, shooting, and burning ...

9 out of 10 were Jews. In addition, Gypsies, Soviet POWs, and prisoners of all nationalities died in the gas chambers. Between May 14 and July 8,1944, 437,402 Hungarian Jews were deported to Auschwitz in 148 trains. This was probably the largest single mass deportation during the Holocaust.

Auschwitz-Birkenau, Nazi Germany's largest concentration and extermination camp facility, was located nearby the provincial Polish town of Oshwiecim in Galacia, and was established by order of Reichsfuhrer SS Heinrich Himmler on 27 April 1940. Private diaries of Goebbels and Himmler unearthed from the secret Soviet archives show that Adolf Hitler personally ordered the mass extermination of the Jews during a meeting of Nazi German regional governors in the chancellery. As Goebbels wrote "With regards to the Jewish question, the Fuhrer decided to make a clean sweep ..."

Nazi Concentration Camps

What does The road to Auschwitz was built by hatred but paved with indifference mean?

It means that the population of Germany and Poland knew for the most part about the Holocaust but turned their heads and did nothing to prevent the genocide (paved with indifference)


It is a metaphor: it means that though the initial work was done by hatred, this was but a small part, it took indifference to create the final product (the Holocaust). It means to say that whilst most of the people did not protest, a minority could do what they wanted.

Auschwitz is used here to mean the Holocaust, not the actual place.

Germany in WW2

How were the Jews treated in the Holocaust?

In the Holocaust Jews were treated extremely badly and killed.


From 1941 on the Nazis' aim was to kill all the Jews they could find. The main methods used were:

1. Mass open air shootings (especially in Russia, the Ukraine, Belarus and Latvia).

2. Working them to death in concentration camps on grossly inadequate food.

3. Gassing them (at extermination camps, such as the Birkenau section of Auschwitz, Treblinka, Chelmno, Belzec, Sobibor and the death camp section of Majdanek).

Before they were sent to camps, many Jews were herded into ghettos, especially in Poland, such as the Warsaw Ghetto. Further Jews were regularly crammed in from surrounding areas. The overcrowding - in the Warsaw Ghetto people had to live 9 to a room - the inadequate food and lack of medication meant that the ghettos suffered from frequent outbreaks of fatal diseases.

The overall Jewish death toll in the Holocaust was about 5.7-6 million.


They were rounded up by Nazi police and collaborators and put on to train for 3 days and 2 nights. When the train got to the camps, people were hearded over to the entrance. Not only Jews were in the camps, but gays, Christians, and gypsies too. People were split up into two lines, one to go into the gas chamber, and the other to be worked to death, literally. Families were split up.


Jews were starved to death, they died of many diseases and were spilt apart from their families. Most children were killed when they arrived at the camp. All the Jews' belongings were taken from them and the Nazis lied and said they would get their things back later. Jews were completey shaved; some were sexually harrased by Nazis. They were forced to wear the Star of David. Hitler was a bad man. He killed the Jews because he wanted a race that only had blonde hair and blue eyes, though he wasn't even blonde and didn't have blue eyes himself.


Jews were considered lower than the dirt that German soldiers had on their steeled-toed jackboots and they were treated accordingly.


They were put in concentration camps, tortured, worked to death, killed in gas chambers, gunned down, raped... Nazis considered them inferior and felt that it was their right to do anything they wanted to the Jews and above all to kill them.

Germany in WW2

What did the Germans use to kill the Jews during the Holocaust?

The Nazis relied mainly on:

  • Poison gas.
  • Mass open air shootings.
  • Working prisoners to death in slave labor camps.
  • Giving the victims inadequate food and no medication, which made them die of malnutrition and made them easy victims of diseases such as typhus.

The Nazis decided that gassing was by far the most efficient way of killing large numbers of victims.

Germany in WW2
Word Play, Puns, and Oxymorons
English Spelling and Pronunciation

How do you spell femi nazi?

Feminazi See or


Is the debt the movie about the butcher of Birkenau based on fact?



Who ran Auschwitz-Birkenau?

The Nazis ran Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Dachau Concentration Camp

Was Dachau worse than Auschwitz?

No. Dachau was a Grade I concentration camp; Auschwitz was Grade III, which was the harshest grade. Part of the Birkenau section of Auschwitz was an extermination camp.


At Auschwitz who recognizes eliezer and his father.?

Their relative from Antwerp, named Stein. -Tori Lynn.(:


When did Auschwitz begin to function?

Auschwitz began May 1940.

Anne Frank

What does Anne's nightmare reveal about herself?

she was scared that they were going to get caught. and that when they were caught they were going to drag her out. so mainly it says that the thought of getting caught never left her mind.


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