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Summary of the Auschwitz escapees report by Gerhart Riegner, World Jewish Congress, Geneva, sent under cover of R.E. Shoenfeld, U.S. chargé to Czech government in London, to Cordell Hull, Secretary of State, July 5, 1944


REPORT ON CONDITIONS IN THE CONCENTRATION CAMPS OF OSWIECZIN AND BIRKENAU

The Czechoslovak Government has received through its representative in a neutral country an extract from the document drawn up regarding the fate of the Jews in the German camp at Birkenau. This document was drawn up at Bratislava by two Slovak Jews who had managed to escape from the camps at Oswieczim and Birkenau in April. It contains an urgent request for the Allies to be informed of the frightful conditions in these camps. The Czechoslovak Government considers it its duty to comply with this request and the following is a literal translation of the extract as received from the neutral country.

The information contained in the document has been further considerably supplemented by reports which a Polish major who escaped from Oswieczim furnished to the underground organization in Slovakia.

OSWIECZIM and BIRKENAU

The concentration camp at Oswieczim was originally intended for political prisoners, and about 15,000 Germans, Czechoslovaks, Poles and Russians were there in "protective detention". Besides this, professional criminals were sent there and a social elements, homosexuals, Bible students, and later Jews from the occupied countries. Over the entrance is the inscription in German "Arbeit macht frei".

The Birkenau labour camp, which lies 4 km. from Oswieczim, and the agricultural work of the Harmense camps are both under the control of the governor of the Oswieczim camp. Inside Oswieczim camp are work-shops of the German armaments concerns Siemens and Krupp. The huts in the camp are in three rows covering an area of 500 x 300 metres. They are surrounded by a double fence 3 metres high charged with high tension electricity. At every 500 metres is a watch-tower 5 metres high with machine-guns and search-lights. This is the "kleine Postenkette". Another line of watch-towers runs in a circle of 2 kilometres and the work-shops are between the two rows of watch-towers.

Birkenau camp is formed of three blocks covering an area 1,600 x 850 metres and is also surrounded by two rings of watch-towers. The outer ring is connected with the outer ring of watch-towers of Oswieczim camp and they are only separated by the railway-lines. Birkenau camp is called after the small forest of Birkenwald (in Polish Brzezinky) nearby. The local population used to call this place "Rajsko".

Working conditions at Birkenau and Oswieczim are unimaginable. Work is carried on either in the camp or in the neighbourhood. Roads are built. Reinforced concrete buildings are put up. Gravel is quarried. Houses in the neighbourhood are knocked down. New buildings are put up in the camps and in the work-shops. Work is also done in the neighbouring coal mines or in the factory for synthetic rubber. Some persons also work in the administration of the camps. Any person who does not carry out his work to the satisfaction of the overseer is flogged or beaten to death. The food is 300 grammes of bread per head every evening, or 1 litre per head of turnip soup and a little coffee. That is for the Jews. Non-Jews receive rather more. Anyone who cannot work and has a temperature of at least 38.6 degrees is sent to the "Krankenbau", the hut for the sick. The German doctor divides sick persons into two groups: curable and seriously ill. The seriously ill are disposed of by a phenol injection in the region of the heart. Among non-Jews this is done only to those who are really seriously ill, while among the Jews 80 to 90 percent of all those ill receive it. 15,000 to 20,000 persons have already been got rid of in this way by injections. Particularly inhuman scenes took place when the sick were killed wholesale during the process of delousing when a typhus epidemic broke out. Near the "Krankenbau" is the "hygiene institute" where sterilisation and artificial insemination of the women are carried out and blood tests are made for blood transfusion. For these experiments chiefly Jews are used. Since March, 1942 enormous transports of Jews have come to Oswieczim and Birkenau. A very small number of them have been sent to the labor camp, while an average of 90 percent of those who have come have been taken straight from the train and killed. These executions took place at the beginning in the forest of Birkenwald by gas suffocation in a special building constructed for the purpose . After the suffocation by gas the dead bodies were burnt. At the end of February, 1943, four new crematoria were built, two large and two small, in the camp of Birkenau itself. The crematorium contains a large hall, a gas chamber and a furnace. People are assembled in the hall which holds 2,000 and gives the impression of a swimming-bath. They have to undress and are given a piece of soap and a towel as if they were going to the baths. Then they are crowded into the gas chamber which is hermetically sealed. Several S.S. men in gas-masks then pour into the gas chamber through three openings in the ceiling a preparation of the poison gas megacyklon, which is made in Hamburg. At the end of three minutes all the persons are dead. The dead bodies are then taken away in carts to the furnace to be burnt. The furnace has nine chambers, each of them with four openings. Each opening will take three bodies at once. They are completely burnt after 1.5 hours. Thus each crematorium can burn 1,500 bodies daily. The crematoria can be recognized from outside by their lofty chimneys.

On principle only Jews are put to death by gas, this is only done to Aryans in exceptional cases. Aryans are shot with pistols on a special execution ground which lies between blocks 10 and 11 of Oswieczim camp. The first executions took place there in the summer of 1941 and reached their peak a year later when they were carried out by hundreds. Later when this aroused attention a large number of non-Jews who were condemned to death, were taken straight from the train to the execution ground and not entered on the lists of the camp. According to careful calculations during the period from April, 1942, to April, 1944, from 1.5 to 1.75 million Jews were put to death by gas or in some other way, half of these being Polish Jews, other Jews from Holland, Greece, France, Belgium, Germany, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Italy, Norway, Lithuania, Austria and Jews of various other nationalities who were brought to Oswieczim from other camps in Poland. About 90 percent of the members of the transports arriving in Birkenau and Oswieczim were taken straight from the train to be put to death and about 10 percent became inmates of the camp. Each of the new inmates was registered and received a number. In April, 1944, 180,000 persons in all had been registered as inmates of the camp, counting Jews and non-Jews together. Of the whole number who had arrived before there were only 34,000 in the camp at the beginning of April this year, 18,000 of them being non-Jews. (In both the sources that we have quoted this number includes the membership of both camps together.)

The remainder had been killed by hard work, illness, especially epidemics of typhus and malaria, ill treatment, and finally "selection". Twice a week the camp doctor indicated persons destined for selection. Those selected were all gassed. In a single block of Birkenau camp the average number of deaths a week was as much as 2,000, 1,200 of these being natural deaths and 800 "selection". A special book entitled "S.B. Sonderbehandelte" is kept dealing with the "selected". Notice of the deaths of the others is sent to the supreme commander of the camp at Oranienburg. At the beginning of 1943 the "political section" (camp Gestapo) at Oswieczim received 500,000 forms for release. The governor had them all made out in the names of persons who had already been gassed and lodged them in the archives of the camp. Among the persons responsible for the savagery in both camps we must mention:

Hoess, governor of the camp, Untersturmfuehrer Schwarzhuber, director of the camp, the Tyrolese chief of the political department (Lagerfuehrer), Oberscharfuehrer, Palitsch, Scharfuehrer Stiwett, S.S.-Scharfuehrer Wykleff, S.S. Man Kler, the garrison doctor Wirt, the camp doctor Entrest. In addition, professional criminals who have killed Jews in the camp: Reich Germans Alexander Neumann, Albert Haemmerle, Rudi Osteringer, Rudi Berckert, Arno Boem, Eimmer and the political prisoners Alfred Kien and Aloid Stahler.

The above is the contents of the two documents. The persons who have managed to secure the transmission of the documents to a neutral country added

(a) the following information:

"12,000 Jews are being deported daily from the territories of Carpathian Ruthenia, Transylvania and the district of Kosice where there used to be 320,000 Jews. Those departed are sent to Oswieczim, 5,000 going by train via Slovakia daily and 7,000 via Carpathian Ruthenia."

and (b) the following suggestions:

1. The Allied Governments, especially those whose citizens are suffering in both these camps, should jointly address to the Germans and Hungarians a threat of reprisals directed at the Germans in the hands of these governments.

2. The crematoria in both camps, which are recognisable by their high chimneys and watch-towers, should be bombed and so should the main railway-lines connecting Slovakia and Carpathian Ruthenia with Poland which are also of military importance, (especially the bridge at Cop).

3. Public warnings to the Germans and Hungarians should be repeated.

4. The Vatican should be requested to pronounce a severe public condemnation.




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