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Concentration and death camps in Poland


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Presentation about concentration and death camps in Poland during II World War

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Concentration and death camps in Poland

  1. 1. Concentration and death camps in Poland
  2. 2. Concentration camps The camp system Between 1933 and 1945, Nazi Germany created an extensive system of camps in which they imprisoned millions of people from Germany and the occupied territories. These camps served a wide range of functions: ––concentration camps primarily functioned for any person Nazi Germany deemed a threat; ––forced labour camps were centred around factories and industries; and ––death camps were primarily built for the mass murder of Jews. It is estimated that about 10-12,000 camps existed across occupied Europe.
  3. 3. Concentration camps in the occupied countries • Following the outbreak of the Second World War and the occupation of Poland, the camp system was expanded and thousands of new camps were built on Nazi Germany’s newly-conquered eastern territories. As these territories expanded eastwards, the nature of the camp system changed greatly: instead of serving as a place of detention for political opponents and a source of forced labour, the camps now served as places where biological destruction was to be carried out. In occupied Poland, concentration camps became places for the murder of the country’s elite and for the mass murder of the Jewish population, a policy later expanded to include all of European Jewry under Nazi rule. • German concentration camps were also the sites of large-scale pseudo-medical experiments that were conducted on prisoners. Nazi doctors studied such things as the resistance of the human body to rapid temperature change and also tested new medicines on prisoners who had been infected with malaria, typhus, tuberculosis or were suffering from hypothermia. Other experiments included muscle and bone transplants and sterilisation. Many of these experiments were performed for German chemical and pharmaceutical companies, while others were conducted to benefit the German state. They resulted in the death, disabling or infection of thousands of prisoners
  4. 4. Concentration camps in Poland
  5. 5. Location of the death camps The location of the camps in the east was determined by a variety of factors. To reduce the chance of escape, the camps needed to be located in remote, isolated areas. Death camps were mostly located in forests near sparsely populated areas. At the same time, they needed to be close to lines of communication, such as roads or railways, to facilitate the transport of prisoners. Additionally, forced labour camps were often located near factories, mines or quarries.
  6. 6. Death camps In the period of 1941-1945, for the first time in the history of mankind, industrial plants were used to kill people. A total of six extermination camps were established for the genocide of the Jews. The six extermination camps were all situated in former Poland and had mass murder as their purpose. They were: Chełmno, Bełżec, Sobibór, and Treblinka. Majdanek and Auschwitz II-Birkenau were considered "mixed" camps because they functioned as both the site of four gas chambers and crematoria intended for mass murder.
  7. 7. Methods of killing • The use of gas chambers was the most common method of mass murdering the Jews in the extermination camps. The Jews were herded into the gas chambers, then the camp personnel closed the doors, and either exhaust gas (in Belzec, Sobibor and Treblinka) or poison gas in the form of Zyclon B or A (in Majdanek and Auschwitz-Birkenau) was led into the gas chamber. • Another method was the use of gassing trucks. In Chemno gassing trucks were used, where Jews, after being driven into the trucks, were suffocated by the exhaust fumes that were led into them in the truck. • A third method was mass shooting.
  8. 8. Why Poland? The decision to locate the death camps in occupied Poland was made for several reasons: • Firstly, Poland was home to Europe’s largest Jewish community and the largest numbers of Jews were still living in this area. • Secondly, the central location of Poland within Europe meant that the cost of transporting Jews into Poland from other countries – such as France, Denmark, Hungary or Greece – would be lower than elsewhere. • Thirdly, the Germans were convinced that in Poland it would be easier to hide their crimes: all Polish witnesses could be resettled or eliminated, and the operation would be undertaken away from public view.
  9. 9. The end of the war!!!  The end of the war: the liberation of the camps and the death marches At the end of the war, when it was apparent for the Germans that they would lose the war, they began to attempt to remove evidence of their criminal activities. By late 1944, the death camps at Chełmno, Bełżec, Sobibór and Treblinka had all ceased operation and had been demolished by the Germans. Other camps that were still in operation were liquidated and their equipment was destroyed or dismantled.  The number of prisoners and victims Overall, between 1933 and 1945, the Nazis established 10-12,000 different types of camps and sub-camps in the Third Reich and the 17 occupied countries. More than 18 million people passed through these camps and more than 11 million of them were killed. Approximately 9 million of them were specifically sent to concentration camps and death camps and at least 7.2 million (81%) died. In the death camps alone, the Nazis murdered over 3 million Jews. In the occupied Polish territories the Nazis established nearly 6,000 camps that imprisoned 7.5 million people in this area. Approximately 6.7 million, mostly Jews and Poles, were murdered. Over 3 million of these victims were Polish Jews, about 90% of the pre-war Jewish population of Poland
  10. 10. Labour camps • The living conditions in these camps differed little from those in the concentration camps. They were subject to local commanders of the SS and police, criminal police, the secret political police or civil administration. The biggest forced labor camps existed on Polish territory in Łodz, Poniatowa, Wronki, Mysłowice, Rawicz, Skarżysko-Kamienna, Czestochowa, Wieliczka, Kraków, Lubicz and Sulejow. The number of foreigners engaged in forced labor for the Third Reich reached 10 million people. • They were situated near large industrial centers or building sites, they were the base of the free labor. • The forced labor camps played a Specific role in the Nazi system. They bore different names: criminal labor camps, forced labor camps, penal camps of construction services, construction of military equipment camps, camps for workers from Eastern Europe, labor camps for Jews.
  11. 11. Treating prisoners • The prisoners of the camps were treated inhumanly. They received insufficient food ratios. People were kept in bad conditions. Some prisoners served as a material for medical and pseudo-medical experiments. Prisoners were beaten to death for minor offences. Sometimes German soldiers killed people without any reason whatsoever. In the labour camps the prisoners were allowed to: • Write letters to their families • Receive parcels from families (it was often the case that German soldiers confiscated some of the things, sometimes prisoners had to share with their inmates, however some of the prisoners received some of the sent things) • There was a hospital and a dentist. • Simultaneously, in the same camp people died of diseases. The degenerate wardens harassed the prisoners. For instance prisoners had to stand naked in severe frost, which led some of them to death. During such assemblies, randomly chosen prisoners were cruelly beaten in front of their inmates. At Christmas the same soldiers who organized the cruel assemblies gave prisoners a barrel of bear and two pieces of gingerbread.
  12. 12. Biography of Jan Maszczyk- memories from the Auschwitz-Birkenau „Death Block” ,,The prisoners tried to survive on 10 decagrams of disgusting dark bread and a cup of dishwatery coffee. For dinner - a litre of stinking soup for three people. Every day it was someone’s turn to lick the bowl. They cut bread with a spoon handle sharpened on a floor. It took them seven days… Every crumb was worth its weight in gold. Jan remembered they made a makeshift scale from a plank. The leftovers were meticulously weighed and shared among companions. Altogether, there was one loaf of bread for ten prisoners. The prisoners missed smoking. Sometimes they managed to smuggle cigarettes in exchange for something. They smoked together, everyone could have one drag on a cigarette. The smoke was blown into a companions mouth. They stroke fire by rubbing a ball of wool against a plank.”
  13. 13. Biography of Jan Maszczyk „The saddest day was Christmas Eve. This year, for the first time he didn’t spend it with his family. In the cell, in this dreadful place, the prisoners secretly tried to evoke the spirit of Christmas. However, every now and then one of the companions would leave the cell for the last time. Staying in the cell on the side of the courtyard, where the Death Wall was located, they could hear screaming and wailing, and in the end shooting. There was a thick smoke hovering over the camp. Not a single blade of grass could be found. Even birds bypassed this place. Everyone knew these were their last moments. The SS men cared for the Christmas spirit. They put a Christmas tree in the corridor, and a beating chair next to it… On a command, in close formation, all prisoners were forced to sing a Christmas carol “Heilige nacht, stille Nacht”. Silent Night, Holy Night… On these days they gave prisoners a little bit of peace.”
  14. 14. Biography of Jan Maszczyk „At the beginning of the month so called “sztands” took place. These were summary court meetings – standgericht. At the beginning of January Jan survived another of them. An SS man played a lottery. From the list he chose the names he liked - over two hundred people each time. At that time Jan Maszczyk went through a moment of terror. The door opened, the SS man read out his surname. It could mean only one thing – the end. He took off his sweater and gave it to his companions. He wouldn’t need it anymore. In a frenzy he got off his bunk and he wanted to leave the cell, but the SS man pushed him back in. Into his hands the SS man squeezed … a parcel from his wife. “I took it” – Jan said – “I climbed the bunk. I knew they were alive and that they knew where I was. Crying and embracing the parcel I sat on the bunk the whole night…”- Jan remembered with a trembling voice.”
  15. 15. Epilogue: Jan Maszczyk like millions of Europeans went through hell at that time. The hell that can’t ever happen again. The hell that left its mark on him and his family. He was left with post-camp psychosis, nightmares with SS men shouting and killing people and fear of any kind of violence. He died in peace in 2001, at the age of 85, surrounded by his closest. For him the war never ended. For us the memory of the events never died. Written by: Marta Korus - great-granddaughter Translation: Joanna Janas-Sajdak
  16. 16. „people doomed people to this fate” (Z.Nałkowska)
  17. 17. Authors Natalia Kwiatek Oliwia Pikuła Krzysztof Kaczmarzyk Mateusz Starczynowski
  18. 18. Sources • • • • • Educational Materials for International Student Tours to Holocaust Sites in Poland. Galicja Jewish Museum, Kraków