Walk through Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum pt.2

Just behind the main entrance to Auschwitz I camp on the left side, bloc number 24 is located. It is here where one of the less known nightmare happened during the time camp existed. In August of 1943 on the first floor of this building a camp brothel was established and began to operate under the command of Oswald Kaduk, one of the worst Nazi criminals. The general instructions for SS guards were to make sure male and female prisoners were „clean”, women sterilised and meeting with one prisoner is no longer than 15 ~ 20 minutes ( guards were checking those rules looking through spy holes), during „ the visit” only one position was allowed, so called „missionary position”. As well strict race laws were mandatory, it means Germans could visit only German women, Slavic men could visit only Slavic women, for Russian prisoners and Jews entrance here was forbidden. To work in a camp brothel young women were tempted with a vision of better living conditions in the camp and of course better and bigger meals. They were allowed to have their own cosmetics and some luxury lingerie and clothes mostly taken from the warehouses of the goods stolen from the victims murdered in the gas chambers.

What was the idea standing behind setting up camp brothels some of them were established in some other camps as well? To give prisoners poor substitiute for a normal life like behind the barbed wire fence? To show more human face of the Nazi regime?

Of course there was a propaganda reason of such activity but the main aim of that idea was to make prisoners more efficient working harder, one more proof of the cruelty, cynicism and inhumanity of the Nazi system. Giving tortured and starved prisoners „reward system”, when they increased their productivity were given a kind of prize or bonus however we call it, was one more element of dehumanize and exterminate the inmates. Very often happened prisoners were too weak physically or sick to go for such a „sexual meeting”, probably very often they would prefer additional slice of bread or one more dish of soup instead. One of the survivor and witness at the same time, describes how the process of signing up the young girls to „work” in the brothel looked like. After arrival of the prisoners to the camp, guards announced they`re looking for young women to do some light work, so one of the girls volunteered, of course she didn`t know what kind of work it will be. The SS doctor after examination asked the girl if she knows something about her work, she answered I had been told it would be very light, easy work and I will have a lot of bread. He told her „this easy work” means you`ll have contact with men and I must make a small operation on you to be sure you`ll never get pregnant. As well he added, think it over you`re young, can happen you`ll survive the camp and the war so maybe in the future you might want to have kids but when you decide to work here after the operation it won`t be possible. She told him she`s not taking care about the future, she`s not taking care about being the mother in the future, now she needs more bread, for now it is the most important thing for me.

The SS guards and officers were forbidden to use such „services” in the camp according to the strict racial laws implemented by the Nazis, however we know due to the reports of the survivors German soldiers in Auschwitz very often were using the brothel. After all those years we think and look at this aspect of life in the camp from quite different perspective, but for the prisoners that time the choice was very simple „work” in the brothel and survive or death in the gas chamber or due to exhausting work and starvation. Not everyone is a hero.

The topic of forced prostitution for many years was forgotten or it is better to say avoided because nobody was prepared in a good way to talk in the same breath about sex and death of thousands of prisoners. Getting informations about this little known part of Nazi history is still very difficult, as the years are passing by, not so many survivors and witnesses are still alive, on the other hand many of the survivors never overcame the stigma of the concentration camp and they didn`t want to tell the story about what they experienced. For couple of decades the whole topic about sex and brothels in the camps was taboo, it didn`t fit very well into the picture of what German Nazi concentration camps were symbolizing to the public opinion.

There`s still a lot of things to explain or clear to put it in the right context. Few persons of younger generation working nowadays at memorial sites is trying to do so but of course it must be done with huge responsibility and sensivity.

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