Poles in Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp

Auschwitz Birkenau Museum in Oswiecim Brzezinka tour visit

The invasion of Poland marked the beginning of Hitler’s spread of Aryan ideology across Europe. With the liquidation of the Polish state and its institutions, the primary goal for German-occupied Poland was to exploit the materials and labor resources, as well as to remove the local Polish population and ethnic minorities. The Polish lands were to be completely Germanized after the systematic extermination and depopulation of Poles and the newly acquired areas resettled by the German population. Hitler was determined to make Poland a completely German country within 15 to 20 years and drop the Polish population from 12 million to 4-5 million people.

From the beginning of the occupation, the Polish population was systematically sent to different places of imprisonment. Police jails, judicial jails, transit and labor camps, reeducation camps and penal camps, and, of course, concentration camps were all established with the main goal of weakening the intellectual potential and imposition of unquestioning obedience. Auschwitz concentration camp built just 10 months after the invasion of Poland turned out to be one of the main places of deportation and extermination of Poles with the first Polish political prisoners arriving in the camp on 14 of June in 1940.

Aside from the political prisoners based on resistance and breach of orders of the occupying authorities, people who before the war, due to their education, activities, and social position, were also sent to the camp. The main reason for their imprisonment, according to the Germans, was their predisposition for resistance against the German authorities. In addition, among those prisoners classified as political prisoners were also innocent people who were arrested in so-called round-ups in various German controls of the streets, public buildings, and homes. Some of the Polish prisoners held in camps were hostages, who were executed in retaliation for the actions of the resistance when the culprits couldn’t be found.

Prisoners who arrived at the camp with ‘’Return undesirable’’ inscribed in their personnel files, or had a red cross marked in the files were prisoners with death sentences. SS officers from the political department would occasionally review the files, take the ones marked and execute them upon verification of the files. Poles who worked at industrial plants were transferred from the Gestapo in the Katowice district to Auschwitz for ‘’reeducation’. They had a different status from the rest of the prisoners but their living conditions were the same. The difference in the status was the time allotted in prison. Officially 8 weeks but in practice much longer. Auschwitz was also meant for the execution of prisoners who were not on record due to the Gestapo Court Martial, as well as a place for the extermination of Poles as part of euthanasia action of elderly, mentally ill, the infirm, conducted on Polish lands.

At the end of 1942 plans to make Auschwitz the main place for the deportation of Poles from the South-Eastern part of the General Government – Zamość was halted due to the defeat at Stalingrad. A total of 1301 persons were deported instead of 3000 weekly. The last group of Poles deported to Auschwitz were inhabitants of Warsaw, numbering 13000 in August and September of 1944 due to the uprising in Warsaw. The total number of Poles sent to Auschwitz is estimated to be between 130 and 140 thousand with around 10 thousand unregistered prisoners.

Our trip to Auschwitz-Birkenau

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