The Final Solution — Surrounded With Death

The Final Solution was a plan for the systematic extermination of all European Jews under Nazi Germany over the course of World War II. Most of these murders were committed at concentration camps (extermination centers) on mass scales. The largest and most notorious of these extermination camps was Auschwitz-Birkenau, located in Oswiecim, Poland during the German occupation of Poland. It is estimated that 1.3 humans were murdered, 90% of that figure being Jewish.


The camp was first established as a auxiliary prison location for Polish prisoners. Germany’s Minister of the Interior Heinrich Himmler was the mastermind behind creating Auschwitz. The commandant of the camp was Rudolf Hoess, a brutally anti-Semetic Schutzstaffel (SS) officer known for murdering prisoners at will for sport. 


Heinrich Himmler

Auschwitz was comprised of forty sub-camps, where prisoners were housed. Prisoners were crammed in at three prisoners per bunk. These bunks were comprised of wood and brick, approximately 4 feet by 5 feet in space. The cabins, or sub-camps, were cold in the winter, hot and humid in the summer, and ridden with disease. 



Hanging of Rudolf Hoess

The extermination of Jews was first done by firing squads within the camp, but this soon became inefficient. A chemical called Zyklon B was the primary killing technique within Auschwitz. The contents of the Zyklon B containers would be dropped into to cellars disguised as shower rooms containing hundreds of prisoners. The tablets inside the cans would react with the air to give off a gas composed of Cyanide. Hundreds of prisoners could be exterminated within minutes. Dead bodies of the gassed victims would be burned in either crematoriums scattered across the camp or burned in large pits.Image

Zyklon B tablets


Auschwitz II (Birkenau) gas chamber

Special units of Jewish prisoners named Sonderkommandos were responsible for collecting and disposing of the bodies of murdered victims. These prisoners were literally surrounded by death for the majority of the day. Not only would they have to deal with the deaths of their fellow prisoners, but they would also be threatened by the SS officers. The SS would murder them as well if they did not carry out the orders. This camp is the epitome of death. There is no glory here. There is only cold blooded murder. Death was blended into the air. Another component of its chemistry. The prisoners lived night and day with it and second by second with it. Death could be seen as a threat, or as salvation. In all forms, death was constantly looming over the prisoners’ heads.


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