Auschwitz Through the Eyes of Its Commandant

WARNING:  THIS CLIP EXPLAINS HOW HITLER AND HIS REGIME DEVELOPED "THE FINAL SOLUTION" AGAINST JEWISH PEOPLE.  IT IS EXTREMELY DIFFICULT TO WATCH, AND PROCESS.  PROCEED WITH CAUTION.

In April of 1942, Slovakia began handing over its Jews to the Nazi government.  That process lasted about seven months.  It is believed Slovakia gave-up about 60,000 of its 90,000 Jews to Hitler's regime.

Meanwhile, the leaders of Auschwitz found a suitable place for extermination about two miles away from the main camp.  A "little red house," in the middle of a field, would ultimately become "Bunker 1."  The cottage was converted from a home to a gas chamber.  

Another Polish home not far away, called the "little white house," was similary converted.  Now the SS had two new houses of death at Birkenau.

Slovakian Jews arrived, by rail, on the 29th of April, 1942.  Their trains stopped about two miles away from the two little houses.  When the people got off the train, they were met by SS troops.  They were there to "select" which arriving Jews would live and which would die.

Members of the SS ordered other Jewish people to remove the bodies and dig pits to hold them.  It was a horrifying thing.  Some of the workers had family members in the pits.

Eventually, buildings were erected at Auschwitz-Birkenau which allowed murder on a massive scale.  To fill those killing rooms, the Nazis searched throughout Europe for ever more people to send to their deaths.  It is estimated that 1.5 million died there.

As he awaited trial, following the end of the war, Rudolf Höss (Hoess) - commandant of Auschwitz-Birkenau - penned his autobiography.  He was tried by the Supreme National Tribunal in Poland and was executed, for war crimes, on the 16th of April, 1947.

Four days before he died, feeling remorse for what he had done, Höss sent this message to the state prosecutor:

My conscience compels me to make the following declaration. In the solitude of my prison cell I have come to the bitter recognition that I have sinned gravely against humanity.

As Commandant of Auschwitz I was responsible for carrying out part of the cruel plans of the 'Third Reich' for human destruction. In so doing I have inflicted terrible wounds on humanity. I caused unspeakable suffering for the Polish people in particular.

I am to pay for this with my life. May the Lord God forgive one day what I have done.

The Soviet army liberated Auschwitz-Birkenau on the 27th of January, 1945.  That day is now commemorated, annually, as International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

See, also:

Auschwitz and the Final Solution

Deportation and Gassing Begins

Final Solution and Zyklon B

Eyewitness Stories from Auschwitz and Slovakia

Credits

Clip from Auschwitz - Inside the Nazi State, produced by the BBC and online, courtesy PBS.  Copyright, BBC, all rights reserved.  Clip provided here as fair use for educational purposes and to acquaint new viewers with the program.

Writers
Doris Bergen
Megan Callaway
David Orenstein
Laurence Rees

Directors
Laurence Rees
Catherine Tatge

Producer
Mary Mazur

Narrator
Linda Hunt

Music
Gorecki Symphony No 3
Arvo Pärt's "Spiegel im Spiegel"
Handel's Harpsichord Suite No. 4 In D Minor, HWV 437: Sarabande

Aired, BBC, January 2005

 

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