Auschwitz and the Final Solution

Auschwitz became the worst Nazi death camp of all.  Together with nearby Birkenau, it was the place where a policy of destruction would ultimately touch nearly every European nation.  

The idea of killing centers did not develop overnight, however.  The concept of a concentration camp, where people were sent not only to work but to die, happened after a series of high-level decisions, gradually made and implemented by the Nazi leadership.

In the beginning, Auschwitz was meant to be a place for political prisoners.  The Nazis considered them - like so many others - as sub-human.  

In the fall of 1941, about ten thousand Soviet political prisoners were sent to the site, in Poland, to begin constructing a new camp (named after a nearby village which the Nazis called Birkenau).  Treated abominably, only a few hundred of those ten thousand people lived until the following spring.

The people who built Birkenau lived with death, every day, just like the people for whom the killing center was intended.  Despite the prisoners’ hard work, the SS officers in charge were upset at the slow building progress at Birkenau.

By the time the new camp opened, 744 human beings, from various European countries, would be forced to exist in each barrack.  The Nazis planned to transport (mostly by train) more and more people to the new facilities.  

In the fall of 1941, however, Auschwitz had not yet become a place to systematically kill Jewish people.  That was occurring elsewhere.

After the RAF bombed Hamburg, in September of 1941, the local Nazi leader saw an opportunity to blame the Jews for what had happened to the city.  He proposed, to Hitler, that the Jews of Hamburg should be sent East.  Their vacant homes would thus be available for some of Hamburg's citizens, recently homeless as a result of the bombings.

As it happened, that letter of request coincided with Hitler’s own thoughts.  The destruction of a people was about to begin.

See, also:

Deportation and Gassing Begins

Final Solution and Zyklon B

Eyewitness Stories from Auschwitz and Slovakia

Auschwitz Through the Eyes of Its Commandant

Media Credits

Clip from Auschwitz - Inside the Nazi State, produced by the BBC and online, courtesy PBS.

Doris Bergen
Megan Callaway
David Orenstein
Laurence Rees

Laurence Rees
Catherine Tatge

Mary Mazur

Linda Hunt

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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"Auschwitz and the Final Solution" AwesomeStories.com. Oct 07, 2013. Jun 26, 2019.
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