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auschwitz: inside the nazi state
Auschwitz 1940-1945 Introduction Surprise Beginnings Orders & Initatives Factories of DeathCorruptionMurder & IntrigueLiberation & Revenge

Killing EvolutionVictims & PerpetratorsGermany & the Camp System

Murder & Intrigue


March 1944 to December 1944

“Most of us knew that in Auschwitz from
the taps there didn’t come any water but gas. And from the taps came fine warm water. Afterwards we dressed up and returned to
our train.”

– Eva Speter, Hungarian Jewish prisoner allowed to travel to neutral Switzerland

“Auschwitz Protocols” sketch

"Auschwitz Protocols" included maps showing location of crematoria and gas chambers at Birkenau

From early 1944 onwards, the level of knowledge about Auschwitz and its role as an extermination camp began to grow among the Allies. This was helped by a handful of prisoners escaping from Auschwitz, as well as the work of the Polish resistance. The available intelligence was finally put together in a 30-page report that became known as the "Auschwitz Protocols." It included sketches showing the location of the gas chambers and crematoria at Birkenau.

U.S. response to Jewish requests to bomb Auschwitz

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State John McCloy considered the proposed bombing of Auschwitz impractical

Because of these documents, the American government in June 1944—only weeks after the D-Day landings—received requests from Jewish organizations calling for the bombing of Auschwitz’s gas chambers and the railway lines that led to the camp.

The requests were rejected by U.S. Assistant Secretary of State John McCloy on the grounds that the bombing was "impractical" and would lead to "diversion of considerable air support" that was essential elsewhere.

Aerial photo of Auschwitz

Aerial photo of Auschwitz taken by an American plane on a bombing run

In August, however, the Americans bombed the IG Farben factory at Monowitz, just a few miles from Birkenau. During one bombing run, American aerial photographs clearly showed Auschwitz-Birkenau’s crematoria.

Libuša Breder, a Jewish prisoner at Auschwitz saw the American planes fly over.

“We heard the aeroplanes coming and we wanted them to put the bombs on the camp. At least we could run. Hundreds and hundreds of planes were coming and we are looking up and no bombs. So this we could not understand. So absolutely god forgot us and people of the war forgot us... didn’t care about what’s going on and they knew what’s going on there.”

– Libuša Breder, Jewish Prisoner, Auschwitz

Whether precision bombing of the crematoria and gas chambers was possible, and whether that would have stopped the Nazis from committing further murders at Auschwitz, is one of history’s unanswered questions.


The Nazis thought the Gypsies racially dangerous

In July 1944 the Hungarian authorities would no longer cooperate with Germany and officially halted the deportation of the Hungarian Jews. The Nazis at Auschwitz then focused greater attention on the Gypsies (Roma and Sinti) who had been imprisoned at Birkenau for some time.

“There were moments, moments which one really prefers not to think about. We were beaten, kicked, degraded, but you didn’t know why—simply because we were different.”

– Franz Rosenbach, Gypsy prisoner, Auschwitz

The Gypsies lived in family groups in some of the worst conditions in the camp. The Nazis despised their way of life, thought them racially dangerous, and moved to liquidate them on the evening of August 2, 1944.

Wladyslaw Szmyt, a Polish prisoner at Auschwitz, remembers that night.


Wladyslaw Szmyt

Wladyslaw Szmyt

Polish prisoner at Auschwitz

“...Everybody defended themselves, defended themselves to the last. They bit, they scratched. The Germans had driven in trucks. They threw the children in them, and if one of them jumped out, they would hit him on the leg or the arm with a wooden club, break it and throw him back in, so that he couldn’t jump out again, couldn’t get out because his limb was just hanging there.

“When I saw this, I started yelling. And people grabbed me—Poles—as they were afraid that the Germans would come and throw a hand grenade in or something.

“They rolled me in a blanket to keep me quiet and sat with me.”

Most of the Gypsies were taken to crematoria four and five and killed within their network of gas chambers. Altogether the Nazis would eventually kill about 300,000 of an estimated one million Gypsies in Europe.


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