Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp

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Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp was a large subcamp of Auschwitz Concentration Camp, principally for direct genocidal killing in gas chambers, but also for Nazi medical experiments. As opposed to other extermination camps such as Treblinka, it did have substantial barracks facilities and housed slave laborers as well as experimental victims, but was still principally a killing facility.

The gas chambers used Zyklon B, a hydrogen cyanide preparation, rather than the carbon monoxide of other facilities.

Experiments there were notably performed by Josef Mengele.

Remembrance

There is a museum foundation, and the camp is on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list.

Allied awareness

The allies had photographs of the camp, but they were not located and interpreted until 1970. A photographic plane was photographing a I.G. Farben factory in the general area, and didn't turn off its camera until after it had passed over the Monowitz camp [1]. The factory was the main interest, and the WWII interpreters just marked Auschwitz as an unidentified installation. No one in that organization knew about human intelligence reports of the death camps, and only in the seventies did researchers learn the significance of the camp photographs. [2].

Brugioni explains why Allied intelligence knew little about the targets, even after the President asked that the camps be bombed[2]. "When the bombing specialists were ordered to formulate plans for bombing Birkenau, officials of the Air Ministry, the Royal Air Force Bomber Command and the U.S. 8th Air Force bemoaned the lack of aerial photographic coverage of the complex. In fact, such photos were readily available at the Allied Central Interpretation Unit at Royal Air Force Station Medmenham, 50 miles outside of London and at the Mediterranean Allied Photo Reconnaissance Wing in Italy. The ultimate irony was that no search for the aerial photos was ever instituted by either organization. In retrospect, it is a fact that by the time the Soviet Army reached Auschwitz on January 27, 1945, the Allies had photographed the Auschwitz-Birkenau Extermination Complex at least 30 times."

References

  1. Aerial Photographs of Auschwitz. The Auschwitz Album. Yad Vashem: The Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority (2004). Retrieved on 2007-09-16.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Brugioni, Dino (Jan-Mar. 1983). "Auschwitz and Birkenau: Why the World War II Photo Interpreters Failed to Identify the Extermination Complex". Military Intelligence 9 (1): 50-55.