The death camps , also called death camps or death factories were a type of concentration camp built during World War II by the regime Nazi to kill opponents, freethinkers, Communists , Jews , Freemasons , mestizos, Gypsies , homosexuals , Pentecostals , blacks , Jehovah ‘s Witnesses , disabled and war enemies.
The Nazis called the ” final solution ” ( Endlösung in German) to the murder of two-thirds of European Jews, which resulted in the Holocaust .
Unlike concentration camps such as Dachau and labor camps slaves , where the appalling mortality rates were the result of starvation and abuse, the death camps were designed specifically for the removal of people. Six of the seven German extermination camps were built in present-day Poland ( occupied Poland ) and were equipped with gas chambers and other means:
- Chelmno ( Kulmhof )
Of these, Auschwitz and Chelmno were in areas of western Poland annexed by Germany and the other four in the General Government.
The Nazis also established a seventh concentration camp in what is now Belarus :
- Maly Trostenets , less known than those in occupied Poland.
The regime Croatian , joined the National Socialist government also launched the extermination camp at Jasenovac .
Treblinka, Belzec and Sobibór were built during Operation Reinhard . These fields, along with Chelmno extermination camps were pure , built with the sole purpose to kill a lot of Jews within hours of arrival. Not only Jews were sent to these camps, also gypsies as numerous surviving witnesses of these camps, homosexuals and anyone contrary to the Nazi regime.
The existence of the extermination camps is accepted by the great majority of historians ; However, there are certain people associated with a trend known as Holocaust Negationism , which its supporters prefer to call revisionism . The denial of the Holocaust is considered a crime in several European countries, and is punishable by imprisonment.y
After the extermination camps were released, there were numerous testimonies of survivors detailing the various systems used by the SS to mass murder prisoners. What is described in this chapter are the excerpts from both the accounts of released prisoners and the testimony of witnesses during the Nuremberg trials that gave some light to the atrocities committed.
- Mass Drowning : This method was used to a greater extent by the Ustacha and SS troops of Eastern Europe. At times, when the lack of ammunition was linked to hard and icy soils due to the cold that did not allow to dig common graves, groups of prisoners (men, women and children) were grouped around them with ropes or wires forming circles Of several dozen people to be thrown into a river or swamp. Death by drowning was inevitable.
- Gas chambers (1) : The gas chambers primaries were crudely built dwellings, even wood, which they got from 500 to 700 prisoners in just 25 m²; Once locked up, an external diesel engine was started and the exhaust was connected to the chamber. The death in these cases with the carbon monoxide was fast and painless, since before the death the prisoner was lulled in a mortal dream without physical pain, although brutal to know that they were going to die.
- Gas chambers (2) : With the “good result” that gave the primaries and the “final solution” in motion cameras, sound chambers were constructed and equipped with showers simulated by introducing the gas Zyklon B ; The process for dying was cleverly studied: First and after the selection of sentenced prisoners were led by deception to rooms in which they were forced to undress under the pretext of subjecting them to disinfection and cleaning showers. When they were already tightened in the chamber, it closed with metal and watertight doors and began to expand the gas through the showers; The screams of horror were frightening, while through the peephole or window of the chamber the SS watched the slow and painful agony of death. Once all were dead and the gas removed, another door opened in which the sonderkommandos plucked the gold dental pieces and collected rings and small jewels that they hid in the vaginal or anal holes. After this process, the sonderkommandos themselves introduced them in the crematoria furnaces to incinerate the corpses.
- Electrical cameras : Although its existence has not been proven, yes it is recorded by the testimonies of witnesses and defendants themselves Nuremberg . They were chambers in which the metal floor was electrified; Once the camera was full of prisoners, the electric current was activated and they died electrocuted terribly.
- Gas trucks: These were trucks with fully sealed rear boxes, where the prisoners were standing and tight. Once the rear doors were closed, a tube was connected from the engine exhaust to the rear case and the vehicle was started. The carbon monoxide produced by the diesel engine flooded the box and drowned the prisoners in a few minutes. When the trucks arrived in the mass graves, it was enough to open the rear doors so that some sonderkommandos would remove the corpses of the prisoners and be buried immediately.
- The hanging : Hunted prisoners were forced to cut down trees and assemble with them crude constructions to hang prisoners; In groups they were raised to the trunks and they were put a rope around the neck and later to demolish the trunk in where they supported and to die suffocated.
- Dumping : In the quarries and works where slaved prisoners worked, the weakest or exhausted by fatigue and hunger were pushed into the void to die slumped. To these dead would have to add those who voluntarily threw themselves looking for a quick and less painful death.
- Overcrowding : In the wagons of cattle for the transport of prisoners was such little room to move when the doors were open to people already dead had been standing for lack of a grid by which collapsed was discovered. Hunger, thirst, or lack of oxygen were the main causes of these deaths.
- Hunger : The prisoners who were selected to live were supported by tiny rations of something like coffee (which was not coffee) in the morning, a kind of soup at noon and sometimes a piece of hard bread. In a short time the feeble diet coupled with the fatigue of continued work was accounting for the deteriorating health, but that did not matter to the Nazi regime, as the continued flow of new prisoners replaced those killed by hunger. Another form of starvation was punishment: many prisoners were locked up in groups and tied to the walls of a cell to starve them. Such is the case of the priest Maximilian Kolbe , who declined to give his life in exchange for a condemned to die of hunger and implored to return to live with his wife and children prisoner; This priest together with other selected died of hunger and thirst as punishment.
- Hammer : In some areas of concentration and extermination (especially those of Poland occupied an efficient and inexpensive system of mass murder was used): a prisoner was placed lying facedown and a huge hammer operated by a lever brutally beat his head Of the inmate, resulting in his immediate death. Water jets to remove the blood that flowed from the head and another prisoner was placed under the hammer. Many Soviet prisoners of war were killed by this method.
- The poison : In certain Eastern European populations, SS officers gathered the children of the villages in large groups and under smiles and games, and with the excuse of a country trip they were taken to a nearby field or forest where They were given hot drinks with poisoned cookies. A few minutes after taking them they died in terrible pains by the intoxication.
- Mass rioting (1) : As they invaded Europe, soldiers randomly selected innocents to shoot them as a warning for the death of a soldier at the hands of the resistance or simply to eliminate pockets of alleged reactionary Nazi regime. In the Soviet front the German troops totally annihilated more than 511 populations killing women, men, children and old people.
- Mass gunfights (2) : In any forest were gathered hundreds or thousands of prisoners who were forced to undress. A group of them, either for their physical strength or for humiliating them, were destined to dig enormous graves. Once they were finished, small groups were gathered naked at the edge of the graves and shot with machine guns in bursts or gunshots. When this group was dead another was brought and the system was repeated; Whole families were killed in this way and it is estimated that more than one million human beings were exterminated by this method.
- Incineration : This was the way of death of those who informed other prisoners of what was actually happening in the gas chambers . If a sonderkommando told the new arrivals that they were going to die, he was introduced alive in a crematorium and murdered in this cruel way as an example to others.
- The infirmary : Although useful for use by the executioners, it was a place of terror for the prisoners. Most doctors in concentration camps experienced new drugs or toxic products with patients or prisoners who gathered special features, such as twins, tall, strong, etc.
- The stake : with the arms tied behind the back, the prisoners were hung by the union of the wrists, so that the joints fracture, the humerus disarticulates along with the scapula and clavicle. Such dislocation produced horrible deformations, often permanent. The agony lengthened until finally the skeleton was dismembered. Finally, the victim, paralyzed, died after a painful agony.
- The invitation : In the concentration camps was common executioners escogiesen to any prisoner and beat him. He was then given a rope or belt and locked in latrines or any room “inviting” him to commit suicide. If after 10 minutes of waiting the prisoner had not committed suicide, he was given another beating. Obviously many prisoners preferred suicide to avoid the second beating.
- Death by showers : It was common to install field showers connected to pressure pumps in cold regions; The prisoners were forced to undress in the middle of the snow and to enter under the icy water of the showers, reason why soon they died of cold. The SS were armed with sticks and whips that they used if any prisoners came out of the shower. Once the prisoners were dead, the corpses were removed so that the same snow buried them. Another way to die by this means was to dig holes in the snow in which they put half naked body prisoners so that, once immobilized, throw buckets of water until they become ice statues.
- Death by fire or bombs : This method was typical of the Ustashe . When they reached any town in Eastern Europe, they gathered the population and separated women, children and old men on one side and men on the other. The men were tortured and shot and the others locked up in barns, churches or synagogues that were set on fire to die burning inside. In some variations, the place was closed and they were thrown by the windows hand grenades and bombs.
Main fields of extermination
The main areas where the killings were practiced were:
- Bergen Belsen
- Dora Mittelbau
- Gross Rosen
- Maly Trostinek
- Ninth Fort