Auschwitz; Punishment, block 11 and the Death Wall

In Auschwitz, prisoners could be beaten and killed even for the slightest infraction of the rules. Just a small number of infractions at Auschwitz – Birkenau concentration camp included: returning a second time for food at mealtimes, removing your gold teeth to buy bread, breaking into the pigsty to steal the pigs’ food, putting your hands in your pockets. And these infractions would be punished by the guards or kapos.

Punishments were not just a daily occurrence; they were almost a rule. Flogging during the roll-call was one of the most common things. Flogging during roll-call was common. A flogging table called „the goat” immobilized prisoners’ feet in a box, while they stretched themselves across the table. Prisoners had to count out 25 lashes, and if they got it wrong, the flogging would start anew. Punishment by „the post” involved tying prisoners’ hands behind their backs with chains attached to hooks, pulling the chains up so the prisoners were left hanging by the wrists. If in the process their shoulders would become too damaged to work, they could be sent to the gas chamber. To extract information from prisoners regarding the infraction of rules, the guards would force their heads onto the stove, burning their faces and eyes.

Block 11, known as block 13 until 1941, was reserved for prisoners with suspicion of being involved in resistance activities. It was like a prison inside a prison, moreover, cell 22 was like solitary confinement but instead of one prisoner, there were four. Cell 22 was windowless, split into four sections, each section measured less than 1.0 m2, the entrance was through a hatch near the floor. There was a 5 cm x 5 cm vent for air, covered by a perforated sheet. Prisoners had to spend at least several nights there for any infraction of the rules.

The courtyard between blocks 10 and 11, was known as the „death wall”, and it served as an execution area. The first executions in Auschwitz took place here on 11 of November 1941, on Poland’s National Independence Day. 151 prisoners were led to the wall, one by one made to strip naked and shoot at the back of the head. It’s estimated that 4,500 Polish political prisoners were executed here. In addition, 10,000 unregistered Poles were also executed at the Death Wall and around 1,000 Soviet prisoners. Polish government-in-exile reports that 11,274 prisoners and 6,314 prisoners of war had been executed. Rudolf Höss wrote that „execution orders arrived in an unbroken stream”. SS officer Perry Broad reportedly said, „some of these walking skeletons had spent months in the stinking cells, where not even animals would be kept, and they could barely manage to stand straight. And yet, at that last moment, many of them shouted 'Long live Poland’, or 'Long live freedom’.” Later in October 1944, 200 Sonderkommando prisoners were executed for the revolt.

Our trip to Auschwitz-Birkenau

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