Nazi Germany built extermination camps (also called death camps or killing centers) during the Holocaust in World War II, to systematically kill millions of Jews, Slavs Poles, Roma, Soviet POWs, political opponents and others whom the Nazis considered "Untermenschen" ("subhumans"). The victims of death camps were primarily killed by gassing, either in permanent installations constructed for this specific purpose, or by means of gas vans. Some Nazi camps, such as Auschwitz and Majdanek, served a dual purpose before the end of the war in 1945: extermination by poison gas, but also through extreme work under starvation conditions.
The idea of mass extermination with the use of stationary facilities to which the victims were taken by train, was the result of earlier Nazi experimentation with chemically manufactured poison gas during the secretive Aktion T4 euthanasia programme against hospital patients with mental and physical disabilities.[a] The technology was adapted, expanded, and applied in wartime to unsuspecting victims of many ethnic and national groups; the Jews were the primary target, accounting for over 90 percent of the extermination camp death toll. The genocide of the Jewish people of Europe was the Third Reich's "Final Solution to the Jewish question". It is now collectively known as the Holocaust, in which 11 million others were also murdered during the Holocaust. 
Extermination camps were also set up by the fascist Ustaše regime of the Independent State of Croatia, a puppet state of Germany, which carried out genocide between 1941 and 1945 against Serbs, Jews, Roma and its Croat and Bosniak Muslim political opponents.
|Nazi extermination camps|
|Date||World War II|
|Perpetrators||SS, Trawnikis, Ustaše|
|Camp||Chełmno, Bełżec, Sobibór, Treblinka, Auschwitz, Majdanek, Trostenets|
|U.S. aerial photograph of Auschwitz II Birkenau|
After the invasion of Poland in September 1939, the secret Aktion T4 euthanasia programme – the systematic murder of German, Austrian and Polish hospital patients with mental or physical disabilities – was initiated by the SS in order to eliminate "life unworthy of life" (German: Lebensunwertes Leben), a Nazi designation for people who had no right to life. In 1941, the experience gained in the secretive killing of these hospital patients led to the creation of extermination camps for the implementation of the Final Solution. By then, the Jews were already confined to new ghettos and interned in Nazi concentration camps along with other targeted groups, including Roma, and the Soviet POWs. The Nazi Endlösung der Judenfrage (The Final Solution of the Jewish Question), based on the systematic killing of Europe's Jews by gassing, began during Operation Reinhard, after the onset of the Nazi-Soviet war of June 1941. The adoption of the gassing technology by Nazi Germany was preceded by a wave of hands-on killings carried out by the SS Einsatzgruppen, who followed the Wehrmacht army during Operation Barbarossa on the Eastern Front.
The camps designed specifically for the mass gassings of Jews were established in the months following the Wannsee Conference chaired by Reinhard Heydrich in January 1942 in which the principle was made clear that the Jews of Europe were to be exterminated. Responsibility for the logistics were to be executed by the programme administrator, Adolf Eichmann.
On 13 October 1941, the SS and Police Leader Odilo Globocnik stationing in Lublin received an oral order from Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler – anticipating the fall of Moscow – to start immediate construction work on the killing centre at Bełżec in the General Government territory of occupied Poland. Notably, the order preceded the Wannsee Conference by three months, but the gassings at Kulmhof north of Łódź using gas vans began already in December, under Sturmbannführer Herbert Lange. The camp at Bełżec was operational by March 1942, with leadership brought in from Germany under the guise of Organisation Todt (OT). By mid-1942, two more death camps had been built on Polish lands for Operation Reinhard: Sobibór (ready in May 1942) under the command of Hauptsturmführer Franz Stangl, and Treblinka (operational by July 1942) under Obersturmführer Irmfried Eberl from T4, the only doctor to have served in such a capacity. Auschwitz concentration camp was fitted with brand new gassing bunkers in March 1942. Majdanek had them built in September.
The Nazis distinguished between extermination and concentration camps, although the terms extermination camp (Vernichtungslager) and death camp (Todeslager) were interchangeable, each referring to camps whose primary function was genocide. Todeslagers were designed specifically for the systematic killing of people delivered en masse by the Holocaust trains. The executioners did not expect the prisoners to survive more than a few hours beyond arrival at Belzec, Sobibór, and Treblinka. The Reinhard extermination camps were under Globocnik's direct command; each of them was run by 20 to 35 men from the SS-Totenkopfverbände branch of the Schutzstaffel, augmented by about one hundred Trawnikis – auxiliaries mostly from Soviet Ukraine, and up to one thousand Sonderkommando slave labourers each. The Jewish men, women and children were delivered from the ghettos for "special treatment" in an atmosphere of terror by uniformed police battalions from both, Orpo and Schupo.
Death camps differed from concentration camps located in Germany proper, such as Bergen-Belsen, Oranienburg, Ravensbrück, and Sachsenhausen, which were prison camps set up prior to World War II for people defined as 'undesirable'. From March 1936, all Nazi concentration camps were managed by the SS-Totenkopfverbände (the Skull Units, SS-TV), who operated extermination camps from 1941 as well. An SS anatomist, Dr. Johann Kremer, after witnessing the gassing of victims at Birkenau, wrote in his diary on 2 September 1942: "Dante's Inferno seems to me almost a comedy compared to this. They don't call Auschwitz the camp of annihilation for nothing!" The distinction was evident during the Nuremberg trials, when Dieter Wisliceny (a deputy to Adolf Eichmann) was asked to name the extermination camps, and he identified Auschwitz and Majdanek as such. Then, when asked, "How do you classify the camps Mauthausen, Dachau, and Buchenwald?", he replied, "They were normal concentration camps, from the point of view of the department of Eichmann."
Irrespective of round-ups for extermination camps, the Nazis abducted millions of foreigners for slave labour in other types of camps, which provided perfect cover for the extermination programme. Prisoners represented about a quarter of the total workforce of the Reich, with mortality rates exceeding 75 percent due to starvation, disease, exhaustion, executions, and physical brutality.
In the early years of World War II, the Jews were primarily sent to forced labour camps and ghettoised, but from 1942 onward they were deported to the extermination camps under the guise of "resettlement". For political and logistical reasons, the most infamous Nazi German killing factories were built in occupied Poland, where most of the intended victims lived; Poland had the greatest Jewish population in Nazi-controlled Europe. On top of that, the new death camps outside the prewar borders of the Third Reich proper could be kept secret from the German civil populace.
During the initial phase of the Final Solution, gas vans producing poisonous exhaust fumes were developed in the occupied Soviet Union (USSR) and at the Chełmno extermination camp in occupied Poland, before being used elsewhere. The killing method was based on experience gained by the SS during the secretive Aktion T4 programme of involuntary euthanasia. There were two types of death chambers operating during the Holocaust.
Unlike at Auschwitz, where the cyanide-based Zyklon-B was used to exterminate trainloads of prisoners under the guise of "relocation", the camps at Treblinka, Bełżec, and Sobibór, built during Operation Reinhard (October 1941 – November 1943), used lethal exhaust fumes produced by large internal combustion engines. The three killing centres of Einsatz Reinhard were constructed predominantly for the extermination of Poland's Jews trapped in the Nazi ghettos. At first, the victim's bodies were buried with the use of crawler excavators, but they were later exhumed and incinerated in open-air pyres to hide the evidence of genocide in what became known as Sonderaktion 1005.
Whereas the Auschwitz II (Auschwitz–Birkenau) and Majdanek camps were parts of a labor camp complex, the Chełmno and Operation Reinhard death camps were built exclusively for the rapid extermination of entire communities of people (primarily Jews) within hours of their arrival. All were constructed near branch lines that linked to the Polish railway system, with staff members transferring between locations. These camps had almost identical design: they were several hundred metres in length and width, and were equipped with only minimal staff housing and support installations not meant for the unlucky hordes crammed into the railway transports.
The Nazis deceived the victims upon their arrival, telling them that they were at a temporary transit stop, and would soon continue to German Arbeitslagers (work camps) farther to the east. Selected able-bodied prisoners delivered to the death camps were not immediately killed, but instead were pressed into labor units called Sonderkommandos to help with the extermination process by removing corpses from the gas chambers and burning them.
At the camps of Operation Reinhard, including Bełżec, Sobibór, and Treblinka, trainloads of prisoners were destined for immediate death in gas chambers designed exclusively for that purpose. The mass killing facilities were developed at about the same time inside the Auschwitz II-Birkenau subcamp of a forced labour complex, and at the Majdanek concentration camp. In most other camps prisoners were selected for slave labor first; they were kept alive on starvation rations and made available to work as required. Auschwitz, Majdanek, and Jasenovac were retrofitted with Zyklon-B gas chambers and crematoria buildings as the time went on, remaining operational until war's end in 1945. The Maly Trostenets extermination camp in the USSR initially operated as a prison camp. It became an extermination camp later in the war with victims undergoing mass shootings. This was supplemented with gassings in a van by exhaust fumes from October 1943.
The Sajmište concentration camp operated by the Nazis in Yugoslavia had a gas van stationed for use from March to June 1942. Once the industrial killings were completed, the van was returned to Berlin. After a refit the van was then sent to Maly Trostinets for use at the camp there. The Janowska concentration camp near Lwow (now Lviv) in occupied eastern Poland implemented a selection process. Some prisoners were assigned to work before death. Others were either transported to Bełżec or victims of mass shootings on two slopes in the Piaski sand-hills behind the camp. The Warsaw concentration camp was a camp complex of the German concentration camps, possibly including an extermination camp located in German-occupied Warsaw. The various details regarding the camp are very controversial and remain subject of historical research and public debate.
With the support of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, the Independent State of Croatia (NDH) was established on 10 April 1941, and adopted parallel racial and political doctrines. Death camps were established by the fascist Ustaše government for contributing to the Nazi "final solution" to the "Jewish problem", the killing of Roma people, and the elimination of political opponents, but most significantly to achieve the destruction of the Serbian population of the NDH. The degree of cruelty with which the Serb population was persecuted by Ustaše men shocked even the Germans.
The Jadovno concentration camp was located in a secluded area about 20 kilometres (12 mi) from the town of Gospić. It held thousands of Serbs and Jews over a period of 122 days from May to August 1941. Prisoners were usually but not exclusively killed by being pushed into deep ravines located near the camp.
The Jasenovac concentration camp complex of five sub-camps replaced Jadovno. Many inmates arriving at Jasenovac were scheduled for systematic extermination. An important criterion for selection was the duration of a prisoner's anticipated detention. Strong men who were capable of labour and sentenced to less than three years of incarceration were allowed to live. All inmates with indeterminate sentences or sentences of three years or more were immediately scheduled for execution, regardless of their level of fitness. Some of the mass executions were mechanical according to Nazi methodology. Others were performed manually with tools such as mallets and agricultural knives and these tools were often used to throw victims off the end of a ramp into the River Sava.
Heinrich Himmler visited the outskirts of Minsk in 1941 to witness a mass shooting. He was told by the commanding officer there that the shootings were proving psychologically damaging to those being asked to pull the triggers. Thus Himmler knew another method of mass killing was required. After the war, the diary of the Auschwitz Commandant, Rudolf Höss, revealed that psychologically "unable to endure wading through blood any longer", many Einsatzkommandos – the killers – either went mad or killed themselves.
The Nazis had first used gassing with carbon monoxide cylinders to kill 70,000 disabled people in Germany in what they called a 'euthanasia programme' to disguise that mass murder was taking place. Despite the lethal effects of carbon monoxide, this was seen as unsuitable for use in the East due to the cost of transporting the carbon monoxide in cylinders.
Each extermination camp operated differently, yet each had designs for quick and efficient industrialized killing. While Höss was away on an official journey in late August 1941 his deputy, Karl Fritzsch, tested out an idea. At Auschwitz clothes infested with lice were treated with crystallised prussic acid. The crystals were made to order by the IG Farben chemicals company for which the brand name was Zyklon-B. Once released from their container, Zyklon-B crystals in the air released a lethal cyanide gas. Fritzch tried out the effect of Zyklon B on Soviet POWs, who were locked up in cells in the basement of the bunker for this experiment. Höss on his return was briefed and impressed with the results and this became the camp strategy for extermination as it was also to be at Majdanek. Besides gassing, the camp guards continued killing prisoners via mass shooting, starvation, torture, etc.
SS Obersturmführer Kurt Gerstein, of the Institute for Hygiene of the Waffen-SS, told a Swedish diplomat during the war of life in a death camp. He recounted that, on 19 August 1942, he arrived at Belzec extermination camp (which was equipped with carbon monoxide gas chambers) and was shown the unloading of 45 train cars filled with 6,700 Jews, many already dead. The rest were marched naked to the gas chambers, where:
Unterscharführer Hackenholt was making great efforts to get the engine running. But it doesn't go. Captain Wirth comes up. I can see he is afraid, because I am present at a disaster. Yes, I see it all and I wait. My stopwatch showed it all, 50 minutes, 70 minutes, and the diesel [engine] did not start. The people wait inside the gas chambers. In vain. They can be heard weeping, "like in the synagogue", says Professor Pfannenstiel, his eyes glued to a window in the wooden door. Furious, Captain Wirth lashes the Ukrainian (Trawniki) assisting Hackenholt twelve, thirteen times, in the face. After 2 hours and 49 minutes – the stopwatch recorded it all – the diesel started. Up to that moment, the people shut up in those four crowded chambers were still alive, four times 750 persons, in four times 45 cubic meters. Another 25 minutes elapsed. Many were already dead, that could be seen through the small window, because an electric lamp inside lit up the chamber for a few moments. After 28 minutes, only a few were still alive. Finally, after 32 minutes, all were dead ... Dentists [then] hammered out gold teeth, bridges, and crowns. In the midst of them stood Captain Wirth. He was in his element, and, showing me a large can full of teeth, he said: "See, for yourself, the weight of that gold! It's only from yesterday, and the day before. You can't imagine what we find every day – dollars, diamonds, gold. You'll see for yourself!" — Kurt Gerstein 
Auschwitz Camp Commandant Rudolf Höss reported that the first time Zyklon B pellets were used on the Jews, many suspected they were to be killed – despite having been deceived into believing they were to be deloused and then returned to the camp. As a result, the Nazis identified and isolated "difficult individuals" who might alert the prisoners, and removed them from the mass – lest they incite revolt among the deceived majority of prisoners en route to the gas chambers. The "difficult" prisoners were led to a site out of view to be killed off discreetly.
A prisoner Sonderkommando (Special Detachment) effected in the processes of extermination; they encouraged the Jews to undress without a hint of what was about to happen. They accompanied them into the gas chambers outfitted to appear as shower rooms (with nonworking water nozzles, and tile walls); and remained with the victims until just before the chamber door closed. To psychologically maintain the "calming effect" of the delousing deception, an SS man stood at the door until the end. The Sonderkommando talked to the victims about life in the camp to pacify the suspicious ones, and hurried them inside; to that effect, they also assisted the aged and the very young in undressing.
To further persuade the prisoners that nothing harmful was happening, the Sonderkommando deceived them with small talk about friends or relations who had arrived in earlier transports. Many young mothers hid their infants beneath their piled clothes fearing that the delousing "disinfectant" might harm them. Camp Commandant Höss reported that the "men of the Special Detachment were particularly on the look-out for this", and encouraged the women to take their children into the "shower room". Likewise, the Sonderkommando comforted older children who might cry "because of the strangeness of being undressed in this fashion".
Yet, not every prisoner was deceived by such psychological tactics; Commandant Höss spoke of Jews "who either guessed, or knew, what awaited them, nevertheless ... [they] found the courage to joke with the children, to encourage them, despite the mortal terror visible in their own eyes". Some women would suddenly "give the most terrible shrieks while undressing, or tear their hair, or scream like maniacs"; the Sonderkommando immediately took them away for execution by shooting. In such circumstances, others, meaning to save themselves at the gas chamber's threshold, betrayed the identities and "revealed the addresses of those members of their race still in hiding".
Once the door of the filled gas chamber was sealed, pellets of Zyklon B were dropped through special holes in the roof. Regulations required that the Camp Commandant supervise the preparations, the gassing (through a peephole), and the aftermath looting of the corpses. Commandant Höss reported that the gassed victims "showed no signs of convulsion"; the Auschwitz camp physicians attributed that to the "paralyzing effect on the lungs" of the Zyklon-B gas, which killed before the victim began suffering convulsions.
As a matter of political training, some high-ranked Nazi Party leaders and SS officers were sent to Auschwitz–Birkenau to witness the gassings; Höss reported that, "all were deeply impressed by what they saw ... [yet some] ... who had previously spoken most loudly, about the necessity for this extermination, fell silent once they had actually seen the 'final solution of the Jewish problem'." As the Auschwitz Camp Commandant Rudolf Höss justified the extermination by explaining the need for "the iron determination with which we must carry out Hitler's orders"; yet saw that even "[Adolf] Eichmann, who certainly [was] tough enough, had no wish to change places with me".
After the gassings, the Sonderkommando removed the corpses from the gas chambers, then extracted any gold teeth. Initially, the victims were buried in mass graves, but were later cremated during Sonderaktion 1005 in all camps of Operation Reinhard.
The Sonderkommando were responsible for burning the corpses in the pits, stoking the fires, draining surplus body fat and turning over the "mountain of burning corpses ... so that the draught might fan the flames" wrote Commandant Höss in his memoir while in the Polish custody. He was impressed by the diligence of prisoners from the so-called Special Detachment who carried out their duties despite their being well aware that they, too, would meet exactly the same fate in the end. At the Lazaret killing station they held the sick so they would never see the gun while being shot. They did it "in such a matter-of-course manner that they might, themselves, have been the exterminators" wrote Höss. He further said that the men ate and smoked "even when engaged in the grisly job of burning corpses which had been lying for some time in mass graves." They occasionally encountered the corpse of a relative, or saw them entering the gas chambers. According to Höss they were obviously shaken by this but "it never led to any incident." He mentioned the case of a Sonderkommando who found the body of his wife, yet continued to drag corpses along "as though nothing had happened."
At Auschwitz, the corpses were incinerated in crematoria and the ashes either buried, scattered, or dumped in the river. At Sobibór, Treblinka, Bełżec, and Chełmno, the corpses were incinerated on pyres. The efficiency of industrialised killing at Auschwitz-Birkenau led to the construction of three buildings with crematoria designed by specialists from the firm J.A. Topf & Söhne. They burned bodies 24 hours a day, and yet the death rate was at times so high that corpses also needed to be burned in open-air pits.
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) in Washington, DC, presently estimates that the Ustaša regime in Croatia murdered between 77,000 and 99,000 people at the Jasenovac concentration camp between 1941 and 1945. The Jasenovac Memorial Site quotes a similar figure of between 80,000 and 100,000 victims. An episode of the television documentary, "Nazi Collaborators" described the crimes of Dinko Sakic and stated that over 300,000 people were killed at Jasenovac. The mechanical means of mass killing at Jasenovac initially included the use of gas vans and later Zyklon B in stationary gas chambers. The Jasenovac guards were also reported to have cremated living inmates in the crematorium. A notable difference with the Ustaše camps as compared to the German SS camps was the widespread use of manual methods in the mass killings. These involved instruments such as mallets and agricultural knives which were often used in a manner where victims were thrown off the end of a ramp into the Sava River while they were still alive .
The estimates for the Jadovno concentration camp generally offer a range of 10,000 – 72,000 deaths at the camp over a period of 122 days (May to August 1941). Most commonly Jadovno victims were bound together in a line and the first few victims were murdered with rifle butts or other objects. Afterwards, an entire row of inmates were pushed into the ravine. Hand grenades were hurled inside in order to finish off the victims. Dogs would also be thrown in to feed on the wounded and the dead. Inmates were also killed by machine gunfire, as well as with knives and blunt objects.
The estimated total number of people executed in the Nazi extermination camps in the table below is over three million:
|Operational||Occupied territory||Current country of location||Primary means for mass killings|
|Auschwitz–Birkenau||1,100,000 ||May 1940 – January 1945||Province of Upper Silesia||Poland||Zyklon B gas chambers|
|Treblinka||800,000 ||23 July 1942 – 19 October 1943||General Government district||Poland||Carbon monoxide gas chambers|
|Bełżec||600,000 ||17 March 1942 – end of June 1943||General Government district||Poland||Carbon monoxide gas chambers|
|Chełmno||320,000 ||8 December 1941 – March 1943,
June 1944 – 18 January 1945
|District of Reichsgau Wartheland||Poland||Carbon monoxide vans|
|Sobibór||250,000||16 May 1942 – 17 October 1943||General Government district||Poland||Carbon monoxide gas chambers|
|Majdanek||at least 80,000 ||1 October 1941 – 22 July 1944||General Government district||Poland||Zyklon B gas chambers|
|Maly Trostinets||65,000 ||Middle of 1941 to 28 June 1944||Reichskommissariat Ostland||Belarus||Mass shootings, gas van|
|Sajmište||23,000 ||28 October 1941 – July 1944||Independent State of Croatia||Serbia||Carbon monoxide van|
|Total||3,115,000 – 3,215,000 |
The Nazis attempted to either partially or completely dismantle the extermination camps in order to hide any evidence that people had been murdered there. This was an attempt to conceal not only the extermination process but also the buried remains. As a result of the secretive Sonderaktion 1005, the camps were dismantled by commandos of condemned prisoners, their records were destroyed, and the mass graves were dug up. Some extermination camps that remained uncleared of evidence were liberated by Soviet troops, who followed different standards of documentation and openness than the Western allies did.
In the post-war period the government of the People's Republic of Poland created monuments at the extermination camp sites. These early monuments mentioned no ethnic, religious, or national particulars of the Nazi victims. The extermination camps sites have been accessible to everyone in recent decades. They are popular destinations for visitors from all over the world, especially the most infamous Nazi death camp, Auschwitz near the town of Oświęcim. In the early 1990s, the Jewish Holocaust organisations debated with the Polish Catholic groups about "What religious symbols of martyrdom are appropriate as memorials in a Nazi death camp such as Auschwitz?" The Jews opposed the placement of Christian memorials such as the Auschwitz cross near Auschwitz I where mostly Poles were killed. The Jewish victims of the Holocaust were mostly killed at Auschwitz II Birkenau.
Extermination camp research is difficult because of extensive attempts by the SS and Nazi regime to conceal the existence of the extermination camps. The existence of the extermination camps is firmly established by testimonies of camp survivors and Final Solution perpetrators, material evidence (the remaining camps, etc.), Nazi photographs and films of the killings, and camp administration records.
Holocaust deniers often start by pointing out legitimate public misconceptions about the extermination camps. For example, widely published images in America were mostly of typhoid victims and Soviet POWs at the Buchenwald and Dachau concentration camps – the first to be liberated by American troops and the most available imagery in America. In early news reports and for years afterwards these images were often used by the news media somewhat inaccurately in conjunction with descriptions of extermination camps and Jewish suffering. Holocaust deniers, after pointing out such common errors, put it forward as evidence that extermination camps did not exist and the limited evidence about them is mostly a hoax arising out of a deliberate Jewish conspiracy.
Holocaust denial has been thoroughly discredited by scholars and is a criminal offence in 17 countries: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Israel, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, and Switzerland.
It is presently estimated that the Ustaša regime murdered between 77,000 and 99,000 people in Jasenovac between 1941 and 1945.
Number of foreign laborers employed as of January 1944 (excluding those already dead): total of 3,795,000. From Poland: 1,400,000 (survival rate 25.2); from the Soviet Union: 2,165,000 (survival rate 27.7) Table 5.CS1 maint: Uses authors parameter (link)
original in Russian: Гроссман В.С., Повести, рассказы, очерки [Stories, Journalism, and Essays], Воениздат 1958.
The numbers of the dead vary greatly and are itself at the core of the debate about the Second World War. Whereas some authors argue that between 800,000 and one million Serbs died at the hands of the Croat Ustase and its Muslim allies, others estimate a total of 487,000 murdered Serbs. On the other hand Franjo Tudjman defends the number of only 50,000. Clearly, the 'number game' was of major significance during the wars in the 1990s.The Holocaust Encyclopedia currently estimates that the Ustaša regime murdered between 77,000 and 99,000 people. See also: Genocide and Fascism; The Eliminationist Drive in Fascist Europe by Aristotle Kallis, Routledge, New York, NY 2009, pages 236–244.
It is estimated that the SS and police deported at a minimum 1.3 million people to Auschwitz complex between 1940 and 1945. Of these, the camp authorities murdered 1.1 million." (Number includes victims killed in other Auschwitz camps.)
Between March and December 1942, the Germans deported some 434,500 Jews, and an indeterminate number of Poles and Roma (Gypsies) to Belzec, to be killed.
In total, the SS and the police killed some 152,000 people in Chełmno.
|url=(help), pp. 205–239 (26/30 of current document),
The Attempt to Remove Traces.
|url=(help), HarperCollins, ISBN 0-06-097468-0
An account of the locations of the extermination camps as they are today, augmented by the historical information about them, and about the fate of the Jews of Poland.
Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 60-5808.
The Auschwitz concentration camp (Konzentrationslager Auschwitz) was a complex of over 40 concentration and extermination camps built and operated by Nazi Germany in occupied Poland during World War II and the Holocaust. It consisted of Auschwitz I, the main camp (Stammlager) and administrative headquarters, in Oświęcim; Auschwitz II–Birkenau, a combined concentration/extermination camp three kilometers away in Brzezinka; Auschwitz III–Monowitz, a labor camp seven kilometers from Auschwitz I, set up to staff an IG Farben synthetic-rubber factory; and dozens of other subcamps.After Germany invaded Poland in September 1939, sparking World War II, the Germans converted Auschwitz I from an army barracks to hold Polish political prisoners. The first prisoners, German criminals brought to the camp as functionaries, arrived in May 1940, and the first gassing of prisoners took place in block 11 of Auschwitz I in September 1941. Auschwitz II–Birkenau went on to become a major site of the Nazis' Final Solution to the Jewish Question. From early 1942 until late 1944, transport trains delivered Jews from all over German-occupied Europe to the camp's gas chambers. Of the estimated 1.3 million people sent to Auschwitz, at least 1.1 million died, around 90 percent of them Jews. Approximately one in six Jews killed in the Holocaust died at the camp. Others deported to Auschwitz included 150,000 non-Jewish Poles, 23,000 Roma, 15,000 Soviet prisoners of war, 400 Jehovah's Witnesses, tens of thousands of others of diverse nationalities, and an unknown number of gay men. Many of those not killed in the gas chambers died because of starvation, forced labor, infectious diseases, individual executions, and medical experiments.
In the course of the war, the camp was staffed by 7,000 members of the German Schutzstaffel (SS), approximately 12 percent of whom were later convicted of war crimes. Several, including camp commandant Rudolf Höss, were executed. The Allies did not act on early reports of atrocities at the camp, and their failure to bomb the camp or its railways remains controversial. At least 802 prisoners tried to escape from Auschwitz, 144 successfully, and on 7 October 1944 two Sonderkommando units, consisting of prisoners assigned to staff the gas chambers, launched a brief, unsuccessful uprising.
As Soviet troops approached Auschwitz in January 1945, most of its population was sent west on a death march. The remaining prisoners were liberated on 27 January 1945, a day commemorated as International Holocaust Remembrance Day. In the following decades, survivors such as Primo Levi, Viktor Frankl, and Elie Wiesel wrote memoirs of their experiences in Auschwitz, and the camp became a dominant symbol of the Holocaust. In 1947 Poland founded the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum on the site of Auschwitz I and II, and in 1979 it was named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.Bełżec extermination camp
Bełżec (pronounced [ˈbɛu̯ʐɛt͡s], in German: Belzec) was a Nazi German extermination camp built by the SS for the purpose of implementing the secretive Operation Reinhard, the plan to eradicate Polish Jewry, a key part of the "Final Solution" which entailed the murder of some 6 million Jews in the Holocaust. The camp operated from 17 March 1942 to the end of June 1943. It was situated about 0.5 km (0.31 mi) south of the local railroad station of Bełżec, in the new Distrikt Lublin of the semi-colonial General Government territory of German-occupied Poland. The burning of exhumed corpses on five open-air grids and bone crushing continued until March 1943.Between 430,000 and 500,000 Jews are believed to have been murdered by the SS at Bełżec. This makes it the third deadliest extermination camp, exceeded only by Treblinka and Auschwitz. Only seven Jews performing slave labour with the camp's Sonderkommando survived World War II; and only one of them became known, thanks to his postwar testimony submitted officially. The lack of viable witnesses who could testify about the camp's operation is the primary reason why Bełżec is so little known despite the enormous number of victims.Chełmno extermination camp
Chełmno extermination camp (German: Vernichtungslager Kulmhof), built during World War II, was the first of the Nazi German extermination camps and was situated 50 kilometres (31 miles) north of the metropolitan city of Łódź (renamed to Litzmannstadt), near the village of Chełmno nad Nerem (Kulmhof an der Nehr in German). Following the invasion of Poland in 1939 Germany annexed the area into the new territory of Reichsgau Wartheland, aiming at its complete "Germanization"; the camp was set up specifically to carry out ethnic cleansing through mass killings. It operated from December 8, 1941 parallel to Operation Reinhard during the most deadly phase of the Holocaust, and again from June 23, 1944 to January 18, 1945 during the Soviet counter-offensive. Polish Jews of the Łódź Ghetto and the local inhabitants of Reichsgau Wartheland (Warthegau) were exterminated there. In 1943 modifications were made to the camp's killing methods because the reception building was already dismantled.At a very minimum 152,000 people (Bohn) were killed in the camp, which would make it the fifth most deadly extermination camp, after Sobibór, Bełżec, Treblinka, and Auschwitz. However, the West German prosecution, citing Nazi figures during the Chełmno trials of 1962–65, laid charges for at least 180,000 victims. The Polish official estimates, in the early postwar period, have suggested much higher numbers, up to a total of 340,000 men, women, and children. The Kulmhof Museum of Martyrdom gives the figure of around 200,000, the vast majority of whom were Jews of west-central Poland, along with Romani from the region, as well as foreign Jews from Hungary, Bohemia, Moravia, Germany, Luxemburg, and Austria transported to Chełmno via the Łódź Ghetto, on top of the Soviet prisoners of war. The victims were killed with the use of gas vans. Chełmno was a place of early experimentation in the development of Nazi extermination programme, continued in subsequent phases of the Holocaust throughout occupied Poland.The Red army troops captured the town of Chełmno on January 17, 1945. By then, the Nazis had already destroyed evidence of the camp's existence leaving no prisoners behind. One of the camp survivors who was fifteen years old at the time testified that only three Jewish males had escaped successfully from Chełmno. The Holocaust Encyclopedia counted seven Jews who escaped during the early 1940s; among them, the author of the Grojanowski Report written under an assumed name by Szlama Ber Winer, prisoner from the Jewish Sonderkommando who escaped only to perish at Bełżec during the liquidation of yet another Jewish ghetto in German-occupied Poland. In June 1945 two survivors testified at the trial of camp personnel in Łódź. The three best-known survivors testified about Chełmno at the 1961 trial of Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem. Two survivors testified also at the camp personnel trials conducted in 1962–65 by West Germany.Christian Wirth
Christian Wirth (German: [vɪʁt] (listen); 24 November 1885 – 26 May 1944) was a German policeman and SS officer who was one of the leading architects of the program to exterminate the Jewish people of Poland, known as Operation Reinhard. His nicknames included Christian the Terrible (German: Christian der Grausame) and The Wild Christian.Wirth worked at scaling up the Action T4 program, in which people with disabilities were murdered by gassing or lethal injection, and then at scaling up Operation Reinhard, by developing extermination camps for the purpose of mass murder. Wirth served as Inspector of all Operation Reinhard camps. He was the first Commandant of Bełżec extermination camp. He was later killed by Yugoslav partisans in Hrpelje-Kozina near Trieste.Ernst Stengelin
Ernst Stengelin (born 10 August 1911 in Tuttlingen – died 14 October 1943 in Sobibor) was a German SS-Unterscharführer (Corporal) who served at Treblinka and Sobibor extermination camps and was killed in the Sobibor uprising. Nothing is known about his personal life.
Stengelin served in the killing center at Grafeneck Castle in Grafeneck at Münsingen and the Hadamar Euthanasia Centre, before he was reassigned to the "Aktion Reinhard" extermination camp Treblinka. Then he came to Sobibor shortly before the uprising of the Sobibor extermination camp. He was employed in the camp and was killed by the camp inmates during the uprising. Franz Suchomel reported as the only witness of his death.Franz Reichleitner
Franz Karl Reichleitner (2 December 1906 – 3 January 1944) was an Austrian member in the SS of Nazi Germany who participated in Operation Reinhard during the Holocaust. Reichleitner served as the second and last commandant of Sobibór extermination camp from 1 September 1942 until the camp's closure on or about 17 October 1943. As the commanding officer of the camp, Franz Reichleitner directly perpetrated the genocide of Jews.Hermann Michel
Hermann Michel (1912–1984?), sometimes referred to as "Preacher", was a Nazi and SS-Oberscharführer (Staff Sergeant). During World War II, he participated in the extermination of Jews at the Sobibór extermination camp during the Nazi operation known as Aktion Reinhard.Irmfried Eberl
SS-Obersturmführer Irmfried Eberl (8 September 1910 – 16 February 1948) was an Austrian psychiatrist and medical director of the euthanasia institutes in Brandenburg and Bernburg, who helped set up and was the first commandant of the Treblinka extermination camp where he worked from 11 July 1942 until his dismissal on 26 August 1942. He was arrested after the end of the war in January 1948. Eberl hanged himself the following month to avoid trial.Jewish ghettos in German-occupied Poland
Jewish ghettos in German-occupied Poland were established during World War II in hundreds of locations across occupied Poland. Most Jewish ghettos had been created by Nazi Germany between October 1939 and July 1942 in order to confine and segregate Poland's Jewish population of about 3.5 million for the purpose of persecution, terror, and exploitation. In smaller towns, ghettos often served as staging points for Jewish slave-labor and mass deportation actions, while in the urban centers they resembled walled-off prison-islands described by some historians as little more than instruments of "slow, passive murder", with dead bodies littering the streets.In most cases, the larger ghettos did not correspond to traditional Jewish neighborhoods, and non-Jewish Poles and members of other ethnic groups were ordered to take up residence elsewhere. Smaller Jewish communities with populations under 500 were terminated through expulsion soon after the invasion.Johann Niemann
Johann Niemann (4 August 1913 – 14 October 1943) was a German SS-Untersturmführer (Second Lieutenant) and deputy commandant of Sobibór extermination camp. Niemann directly perpetrated the genocide of Jews and other peoples at Sobibór during the Operation Reinhard phase of The Holocaust.Niemann joined the Nazi Party in 1931 as member number 753,836 and the SS in 1934 as member number 270,600. He first served at Bełżec extermination camp, at the rank of SS-Oberscharführer (Staff Sergeant), where he commanded Camp II, the extermination area. He then was transferred to Sobibór extermination camp. Niemann was deputy commander of Sobibór on various occasions in 1942 before being given the position permanently in early 1943. After Heinrich Himmler's visit to Sobibór on 12 February 1943, Niemann was promoted to SS-Untersturmführer.Karl Frenzel, also a commandant at Sobibór, recalled how Niemann handled a particular threat of prisoner revolt within the camp:
A Polish Kapo told me that some Dutch Jews were organizing an escape, so I relayed it to Deputy Commandant Niemann. He ordered the seventy-two Jews to be executed.
On 14 October 1943, a prisoner uprising took place at the Sobibór camp. Niemann was the highest-ranking SS officer who was on duty that day, and so he was the first person targeted to be assassinated by the prisoners. Niemann was killed in the tailor's barracks with an axe to his head by Alexander Shubayev, a Jewish Red Army soldier imprisoned at Sobibór as Sonderkommando slave labourer.Kurt Bolender
Heinz Kurt Bolender (21 May 1912 – 10 October 1966) was a SS commander during the Nazi era. In 1942, he operated the gas chambers at Sobibór extermination camp, perpetrating acts of genocide against Jews and Romani people during Operation Reinhard. After the war, Bolender was recognized in 1961 while working under a false identity as a doorman at a nightclub in Germany, and subsequently accused in 1965 of personally murdering at least 360 Jewish inmates and assisting in the murder of 86,000 more at Sobibór. He committed suicide in prison two months prior to the end of the trial.Kurt Franz
Kurt Hubert Franz (17 January 1914 – 4 July 1998) was an SS officer and one of the commanders of the Treblinka extermination camp. Because of this, Franz was one of the major perpetrators of genocide during the Holocaust. Sentenced to life imprisonment in the Treblinka Trials in 1965, he was eventually released in 1993.Lorenz Hackenholt
Lorenz Hackenholt (26 June 1914 –-missing 1945 declared legally dead as of 31 December 1945) was a member of the Schutzstaffel (SS) with the rank of Hauptscharführer (First Sergeant). During World War II Hackenholt built and operated the gas chamber at the Bełżec extermination camp in occupied Poland. In so doing, he personally carried out the murder of hundreds of thousands of people.Hackenholt was deeply involved in the operation of death camps during the deadliest phase of the Holocaust in Poland, known as Operation Reinhard, as well as in other Nazi war crimes, including the murder of mental patients and the disabled in Action T4 programme of forced euthanasia.Maly Trostinets extermination camp
The Trostinets extermination camp, also known as Maly Trostinets, Maly Trastsianiets and Trascianec (see alternative spellings), was a World War II Nazi German death camp located near the village of Maly Trostinets (Малы Трасцянец, "Little Trostinets") on the outskirts of Minsk in Reichskommissariat Ostland. It operated between July 1942 and October 1943, by which time, virtually all Jews remaining in Minsk had been murdered and buried there.Sobibór extermination camp
Sobibór (or Sobibor ; Polish: [sɔˈbʲibur]) was a Nazi German extermination camp built and operated by the SS during World War II near the railway station of Sobibór near Włodawa within the semi-colonial territory of General Government of the occupied Second Polish Republic.
The camp was part of the secretive Operation Reinhard, the deadliest phase of the Holocaust in German-occupied Poland. Its official German name was SS-Sonderkommando Sobibór. Jews from Poland, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Czechoslovakia, and the Soviet Union (including Jewish-Soviet POWs), were transported to Sobibór by rail. Most were suffocated in gas chambers fed by the exhaust of a large petrol engine.At least 200,000 people were murdered at Sobibór. At the postwar trial against the former SS personnel of Sobibór, held in Hagen two decades into the Cold War, Professor Wolfgang Scheffler estimated the number of murdered Jews to have been at least 250,000, while
Gasmeister ("Gas Master") Erich Bauer estimated 350,000. This number would make it the fourth most deadly extermination camp, after Bełżec, Treblinka, and Auschwitz.
During the revolt of 14 October 1943, about 600 prisoners tried to escape. About half succeeded in crossing the fence, of whom around 50 eluded re-capture, including Selma Wijnberg and her future husband Chaim Engel. They later married and lived to testify against Nazi war criminals. Shortly after the revolt, the Germans closed the camp, bulldozed the earth, and planted it over with pine trees to conceal its location. Today, the site is occupied by the Sobibór Museum. It displays a pyramid of ashes and crushed bones of the victims collected from the cremation pits.
In September 2014, a team of archaeologists unearthed remains of the gas chambers under the asphalt road. Also discovered in 2014 were a pendant inscribed with the words "Land of Israel (Eretz Israel)", in Hebrew, English, and Arabic, dating from 1927; earrings; a wedding band bearing a Hebrew inscription; and perfume bottles that belonged to Jewish victims.Theodor van Eupen
Theodor van Eupen (24 April 1907 – 14 December 1944) was a member of the SS of Nazi Germany. A Holocaust perpetrator, he served as the commandant of the Treblinka I forced-labour camp (Arbeitslager) in occupied Poland during its entire course of operation. Unlike the parallel Treblinka extermination camp (Treblinka II) subordinate to the Operation Reinhard authorities in Berlin, Treblinka I was controlled by the SS and Police Leader in Warsaw. The labour camp was liquidated on 23 July 1944, ahead of the Soviet advance. By then, more than half of its cumulative number of some 20,000 inmates had died from summary executions, hunger, disease and mistreatment. The regular workforce consisted of 1,000–2,000 prisoners, terrorized by staff of about a dozen SS-men and 100 Wachmänner guards.Timeline of Treblinka extermination camp
This article presents the timeline of events at Treblinka extermination camp during the most deadly phase of the Holocaust in World War II. All deportations were from German occupied Poland, except where noted. In most cases the number of deportees are not exact figures, but rather approximations.
Days are listed in chronological order, nevertheless, a number of dates are missing from the below tables which means only that no way bills survived for those particular dates. It does not mean that transports were not arriving or have not been processed from layover yards, when applicable.Treblinka extermination camp
Treblinka (pronounced [trɛˈblʲinka]) was an extermination camp, built and operated by Nazi Germany in occupied Poland during World War II. It was located in a forest north-east of Warsaw, 4 kilometres (2.5 mi) south of the Treblinka train station in what is now the Masovian Voivodeship. The camp operated between 22 July 1942 and 19 October 1943 as part of Operation Reinhard, the deadliest phase of the Final Solution. During this time, it is estimated that between 700,000 and 900,000 Jews were killed in its gas chambers, along with 2,000 Romani people. More Jews were killed at Treblinka than at any other Nazi extermination camp apart from Auschwitz.Managed by the German SS and the Trawniki guards – enlisted voluntarily from among Soviet POWs to serve with the Germans – the camp consisted of two separate units. Treblinka I was a forced-labour camp (Arbeitslager) whose prisoners worked in the gravel pit or irrigation area and in the forest, where they cut wood to fuel the cremation pits. Between 1941 and 1944, more than half of its 20,000 inmates died from summary executions, hunger, disease and mistreatment.The second camp, Treblinka II, was an extermination camp (Vernichtungslager), referred to euphemistically as the SS-Sonderkommando Treblinka by the Nazis. A small number of Jewish men who were not killed immediately upon arrival became its Jewish slave-labour units called Sonderkommandos, forced to bury the victims' bodies in mass graves. These bodies were exhumed in 1943 and cremated on large open-air pyres along with the bodies of new victims. Gassing operations at Treblinka II ended in October 1943 following a revolt by the Sonderkommandos in early August. Several Trawniki guards were killed and 200 prisoners escaped from the camp; almost a hundred survived the subsequent chase. The camp was dismantled ahead of the Soviet advance. A farmhouse for a watchman was built on the site and the ground ploughed over in an attempt to hide the evidence of genocide.In postwar Poland, the government bought most of the land where the camp had stood, and built a large stone memorial there between 1959 and 1962. In 1964 Treblinka was declared a national monument of Jewish martyrology in a ceremony at the site of the former gas chambers. In the same year the first German trials were held regarding war crimes committed at Treblinka by former SS members. After the end of communism in Poland in 1989, the number of visitors coming to Treblinka from abroad increased. An exhibition centre at the camp opened in 2006. It was later expanded and made into a branch of the Siedlce Regional Museum.Willi Mentz
SS-Unterscharführer Willi Mentz (30 April 1904 – 25 June 1978) was a member of the German SS in World War II and a Holocaust perpetrator who worked at Treblinka extermination camp during the Operation Reinhard phase of the Holocaust in Poland. Mentz was known as "Frankenstein" at the camp.
(list by death toll)