KL Auschwitz III – Monowitz

The Auschwitz concentration camp was an entire camp complex. The main camp was Auschwitz, while Birkenau and Monowitz were to be sub-camps. Eventually, both were converted into concentration camps. Today we take a closer look at Auschwitz III-Monowitz, which was ruled by industry.

The construction of the camp started in 1941 on the initiative of IG Farbenindustrie A.G., also known as IG Farben. The company was the main pillar of the resource economy of the Third Reich, and most of its plants operated for the needs of the German Army. One of the most famous things that IG Farben co-produced was Zyklon B, used in experiments on prisoners. Commercial hydrogen cyanide smelled of bitter almonds, the one used in the camp and produced by the company had one specific feature: it did not smell. Initial plans assumed that there would be several barracks there for the forced laborers of the factory. Over time, however, it was decided to significantly expand the camp.

Initially, the prisoners had to walk about 6-7 kilometres every day to reach the construction site. It made them lose their strength very quickly, which is why they were later brought by trains. The construction break was also begotten by the typhus epidemic that broke out in Auschwitz and Birkenau in 1942. That resulted in the transfer of some of the prisoners to the area of the future Monowitz camp. The construction lasted until 1944 when the last four out of a total of 60 barracks were built. The prisoners were very cheap labour – the factory paid only a few marks for the rent of prisoners.

Prisoners in the Monowitz camp had relatively better conditions than those in Auschwitz and Birkenau. Each barrack was endowed with 56 three-level bunks, but apart from that, there were several tables with stools, windows, and central heating. The food rations were also bigger and better. Unfortunately, this did not help – the work in the factory was so exhausting that many prisoners died in the camp hospital. Sometimes they were transported to Auschwitz and Birkenau, where they were either killed with phenol injections or immediately sent to the gas chambers. It is estimated that over 10,000 prisoners from the “Buna” Command were killed in Auschwitz III. Factory managers in this part of the camp wanted the prisoners to be as productive as possible, and beatings were aimed at raising this production.

When the Red Army entered Monowitz in January 1945, a handful of survivors remained in the camp. Prisoners who were fit for further work were transported to the Buchenwald and Mauthausen camps. One of the survivors of this extermination camp was an American-Jewish writer and Nobel Prize winner, Elie Wiesel. The Auschwitz III Monowitz camp was not included in the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum. Currently, Monowice is one of the districts of Oświęcim.

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