Auschwitz concentration camp – beginning of the horror

Auschwitz. Just uttering the name of this Nazi concentration camp was enough to send chills down the spine of many who knew of its existence and fate more terrible than death to those who were unfortunate enough to face the inner walls of this camp. How did one concentration camp in World War II become a symbol of horror, genocide, and death? How did it all begin?

The invasion of Poland in 1939 by Nazi Germany and the beginning of World War II brought the need to create camps for political and war prisoners. One such camp established in 1940 in the town of Oświęcim under command of Rudolph Höss was Auschwitz’s former World War I camp for workers and army barracks. The purpose of the camp was to arrest and eliminate all those who would resist German rule and cleansing of the annexed area of Upper Silesia from non-Aryans.

In 1941 Himmler ordered the expansion of Auschwitz which only had the main camp of Auschwitz I built at the time. In order to create an SS utopia in Upper Silesia second camp of Birkenau or Auschwitz II was built with intention of bringing in Soviet prisoners of war which would serve as manual labor for their evil plan. With Himmler’s proposition of Final Solution Soviet prisoners, who became the first prisoners to be gassed in Auschwitz, were used in chemical testing of poisonous gas Zyklon B in preparation for the systematic extermination of the Jewish population in Europe. The expansion of Auschwitz and the Himmler’s Final Solution marked the beginning of mass and organized elimination of prisoners with the first organized trains carrying Jewish prisoners in 1942.

Auschwitz continued to expand with more than 40 sub-camps being built from 1942 to 1944 as industrial plants and farms exploiting prisoners who weren’t immediately killed and deemed fit for work as slaves. After full implementation of Himmler’s Final Solution in 1942 construction of four large-scale gassing facilities with crematoria attached began with intention of creating a death plant. With the Nazi new death plant operational it was a question of transporting new prisoners faster to their deaths and the new railroad lines were constructed in 1944 leading directly to Auschwitz accelerating the transfer of prisoners. New railroad in combination with gas chambers made Auschwitz-Birkenau into a true death plant.
Auschwitz began as a camp for war and political prisoners like any other camp of the same nature in any war. Through ideologies of purity and supremacy of Nazi Germany, and technology dedicated to death it grew becoming a harrowing place with countless lives lost. When we talk about Auschwitz, we talk about a place of death, a symbol of horror but we also talk about an idea that created it and made it grow.

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