Auschwitz-Birkenau – Family Camps

On 10 of December 1942, Heinrich Himmler’s order to send all Romani (gypsies) to concentration camp resulted in the creation of a separate camp in Auschwitz II-Birkenau, classed as Section B-IIe and known as the Zigeunerfamilienlager („Gypsy family camp”) in 1943. The inmates of this family camp didn’t have to go through selection and families were allowed to stay together. Thus, the first transport of German Roma arrived on 26 February 1943. Although there have been a small number of inmates of Romani descent in camp before they were not part of the family camp and even a few of them managed to escape. Moreover, the gypsy family camp served as a ‘’playground’’ for one of the most notorious physicians of the Holocaust Josef Mengele.

According to the Auschwitz registry (Hauptbücher), 20,946 Roma were admitted to the Gypsy family camp and another 3,000 were thought to have been admitted unregistered. On 22 March 1943, a transport carrying 1,700 Polish Sinti and Roma was immediately gassed upon arrival to Auschwitz – Birkenau concentration camp because of illness. The second group gassed upon arrival for the same reason on 25 of May 1943, had 1,035 Roma and Sinti transported to Auschwitz. Later, on 16 May 1944, SS command tried to liquidate the camp, but the Roma resisted and SS retreated. This resulted in SS removing nearly 2,908 inmates of the Gypsy family camp to work, and on 2 of August 1944, gassed the other 2,897 prisoners of the family camp with ten thousand people unaccounted for.

On 8 of September 1943, a new family camp was created in Auschwitz Birkenau concentration camp in sector BIIb. This new family camp was reserved for the Jews of the Theresienstadt ghetto in Terezin, Czechoslovakia. SS deported around 18,000 Jews from the ghetto and placed 2,293 male and 2,713 female prisoners in this newly established family camp for Jews. They were able to keep their belongings, have their clothes, and write letters to their families. Although the inmates of the Theresienstadt family camp didn’t have to go through the selection and the living conditions were only slightly better than for those in other parts of Auschwitz – Birkenau concentration camp, the conditions were still inadequate.

The main reason for the establishment of the Theresienstadt family camp was to cast doubts on reporters from International Red Cross who were planning to visit Auschwitz – Birkenau concentration camp. The camp was divided into male and female barracks and even had school and kindergarten and infirmary. Even though the Theresienstadt family camp had all these extra facilities and what seemed more humane living conditions, mass murder was still happening. Within the first 6 months of the creation of the camp, 1,000 Jews have already been dead. The second and third groups transported to the family camp were on 16 and 20 of December 1943 and had 2,491 and 2,473 inmates. On 8 March 1944, 3,791 inmates of the camp were sent to the gas chambers. Later, The Czechoslovak government-in-exile tried diplomatic steps to save the remaining Czech Jews after receiving the Vrba-Wetzler report. Even BBC reported the news warning that those responsible will be held accountable for their crimes, the Red Cross visited the camp but was persuaded by the SS otherwise. A month later 2,000 women and 80 boys were transported to other camps and the remaining 7,000 were gassed.

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