Auschwitz I Concentration Camp

This was the first and original camp, also used as the administrative headquarters. Roughly 70,000 people, mostly Jews were exterminated here. The notorious slogan 'Arbeit Macht Frei' (Work Brings Freedom) greets the visitor, as it must have greeted its unsuspecting prisoners all those years ago.

On June 14th, 1940, the first batch of 728 Polish political prisoners, from the nearby town of Tarnow arrived here. Thereafter, at any point of time, the camp was home to 13 to 16 thousand inmates, including Jews, Polish intellectuals and resistance movement members, Soviet Prisoners of War and homosexuals. In 1942, this number swelled to 20,000.

Prisoners were killed by shooting, gassing with the deadly Zyklon B gas (as part of a Nazi experiment), or with sheer exhaustion. The Nazis used the slave labor of the inmates to extend the existing buildings. Work requirements were harsh and the conditions in terms of nutrition and hygiene, appalling. This led to high death rates among inmates.

Sterilization experiments were carried out on Jewish women, the purpose of which was to develop a simple injection to be used on the Slavic people. Prisoners who were too weak to recover quickly were killed with a lethal injection of phenol. In 1943, the camp brothel was established to reward privileged prisoners.

The museum today exhibits belongings, photographs and documents recovered from the site. Furnaces, living quarters and torture chambers can be seen. The piles of hair, suitcases, spectacles, shoes, toothbrushes and prayer shawls are a haunting reminder of the depths of wickedness that humans are capable of falling into.