Newly arrived prisoners to Auschwitz-Birkenau who had been selected for work had their identities stripped.
Newly arrived women prisoners to Auschwitz-Birkenau who have been selected for work have been stripped of their identities. Having arrived at a concentration camp and been unloaded from the cattle trucks, men and women were separated, children staying with their mothers. Jack, aged 17, who had travelled from Greece to Auschwitz in Poland, says “They gave us striped pyjamas.
After an early wake-up, daily concentration camp routines would begin with the Appell, the daily roll call.
After waking and before roll call, up to 2,000 prisoners at a time would have to share toilet facilities. After eating a meagre ration of watery soup, a piece of bread and some imitation coffee, a prisoner’s day would follow with work details. Under German guidance, the Hungarian authorities decreed all Jews should wear the yellow star of David. The Warsaw ghetto uprising - Jewish fighters resisted the German attempt to liquidate the Warsaw ghetto.
In the Netherlands, Jews were required to wear a yellow Star of David on their outer clothing. With the approach of the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp by Soviet Red Army troops on January 27th, 1945, Reuters photographers got together to take portraits of Auschwitz survivors who are still alive today to tell the stories of their terrible ordeals and ensure that what happened during the Holocaust never be forgotten. Located in Nazi-occupied Poland, the Auschwitz concentration camp is estimated to have killed 1.1 million people, most of whom were Jews. Many of the survivors in this photo series are Poles who were sent to Auschwitz during the Warsaw Uprising, but the Nazi government sent inmates to Auschwitz from all over Europe. In the evening prisoners would be given a piece of black bread weighing 300 grams, together with a tiny piece of sausage, or margarine, marmalade or cheese. Kity Hart-Moxon, a survivor of Auschwitz-Birkenau, remembers the high value placed on food, and so much wanting to survive the camp. The lack of food, poor diet and hard labour caused the prisoners to suffer from starvation sickness.
The appalling conditions in the camp were made worse by the fact that Auschwitz-Birkenau had been built on a swamp.
Jewish prisoners were treated like cattle; packed tightly into cattle trucks and locked inside for days as the trains travelled to camps across Europe.
These prisoners are being packed into open trains for their journey to Chelmno; little do they know that it will be their final journey.
These Jewish prisoners have just arrived at Auschwitz Birkenau at the end of their journey from Hungary.
The packed railway wagons would often be shunted around from one railway siding to another for days on end, and for what must have seemed like an eternity. Eventually, after days of travelling in the most cramped conditions, the railway carriages arrived at a camp.


Women prisoners sorting confiscated possessions from Jews deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau, Poland.
Depending on the type of camp, prisoners were assigned to a whole range of different duties. Most prisoners worked outside the camps in one the many factories, construction projects, farms or coal mines.
The Sonderkommando (Special Work Unit) consisted of Jewish prisoners who were selected to work in the crematoriums in camps. While the prisoners were being processed after their arrival, their belongings were taken away. Sobibor, Belzec and Treblinka extermination camps were situated in the part of eastern Poland the Nazis called the General Government. From March 1942 until October 1943 between 1.6 million and 2 million Jews and an indeterminate number of Roma and Soviet prisoners of war were killed. The exceptions were the ‘work Jews’, a group of up to 600 prisoners kept alive to help the running of the camp. Soon after, ten people managed to escape from a work detail in the surrounding pine forest. We started organising and talking and it gave us something to live for again, you know, [the idea] that maybe we’ll be able to take revenge for all those who can’t.
We had no dreams of liberation; we hoped merely to destroy the camp and to die from bullets rather than from gas. They were registered, had their hair shaven, before being showered and given striped pyjamas. They usually had their own clothing taken away, which would be replaced by a striped uniform. During the Appell prisoners had to stand in rows, completely still, for hours at a time, and in all weathers.
The bread was supposed to last the prisoners for the morning also, so prisoners would try to hide it on their person whilst they slept. Individuals, families and whole communities together with their personal belongings were packed into cattle trucks.
They did not know where they were going, the length of the journey or what would happen to them when they eventually arrived at their destination.The conditions on the journey were appalling.
Many of the very young, the old and the sick would die because of the inhumane conditions during the journey. The doors of the carriages would be pulled open to give the prisoners their first glimpse of daylight, at a place they had never seen before. This image was produced by Henri Pieck, a prisoner of Buchenwald concentration camp, Germany. Once they had been 'processed' the Nazis would send these personal belongings to Germany to be used by German citizens. Some remained inside the camp working on a variety of jobs, from administration tasks to heavy manual labour.


Created in 1942, they were a key element in Operation Reinhard, the plan to murder all Jews in the region and the first phase of the Nazis’ ‘Final Solution’, the eradication of all European Jews. On arriving at the camps they would be reassured by an SS officer that their belongings would be returned and they would shortly be transported to the Ukraine to live and work but first, to prevent disease, they would be showered and disinfected. To prevent the risk of rebellion or a sense of ‘security’ fostering within this group, those selected into it were constantly killed and replaced. It came in the shape of a new arrival, Alexander Pechersky, a Jewish former lieutenant in the Red Army. As the remaining Germans and Ukrainians began firing, prisoners rushed the main gate or made for the fence, jumping over the fallen and out across the minefield. We knew that even a sudden end to the war might spare the inmates of the ‘normal’ concentration camps, but never us.
Many were so relieved after their ordeal on the cattle trucks that they ‘applauded spontaneously and sometimes even danced and sang’, recalls Eda Lichtman, a survivor. Prisoners would have to wash in dirty water, without soap and with no change of clothes for weeks or months on end. In June the Belzec camp was closed, its workforce of 600 transported to Sobibor and executed. Two prisoners used by the Germans to supervise the others would summon the prisoners to roll-call as usual and men dressed in SS uniform would then lead them all out through the main gates. At roll-call the mass of prisoners, unaware of what was about to happen, congregated as usual.
After the war he was charged with treason for having allowed himself to be captured by the Nazis. Often, the kapos would announce that the total number of prisoners in a block was inaccurate, leading to a recount at the whim of the SS. The Red Army was approaching and Himmler intended to eradicate all trace of mass extermination. Besides, his colossal stature and strength would make it very difficult for us to overcome him with our primitive weapons. Given a long sentence in a Soviet labour camp, he was released in 1953, but was denied permission to leave the Soviet Union.
October was the date set, when two of the camp’s most dangerous officers – the deputy commander Gustav Wagner, known as the Beast, and his colleague Hubert Gomerski would be on leave. Pechersky jumped on a table and shouted in Russian that there was no turning back as they would all be killed. In the greyness of the approaching evening, the towers’ machine guns shot their last victims.



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