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We shall not forget . . . .

Auschwitz II - Birkenau

The Crematoria


Destruction: The walls were blown out, and the roof fell onto the ground.

Before the Nazis fled from the Auschwitz II-Birkenau camp in January 1945 when the Soviet Army were moving in, the Nazis tried to destroy the evidence of their atrocious crimes by blowing up the crematoria.  Although most of the records of the camp were also destroyed, there were still many well-kept documents of the construction office located 300 yards away. (See below for slideshow)

Below is an overview of the Crematoria in the Holocaust Survivors website:

"Auschwitz was not planned as an death camp from its earliest beginnings, but evolved into one as Nazi policy toward the Jews changed and became less concerned with exploitation and more and more concerned with immediate extermination. Over the period of Nazi domination from 1939 to 1945, the prime function of Auschwitz shifted from penal colony, to agricultural station, to industrial site and finally to extermination center.

The plans for the crematoria show this unsteady evolution. Crematorium I in Auschwitz I was located in a converted ammunition bunker. Originally it was intended to dispose of the bodies of the prisoners who had died at the camp. Later it assumed a second function as an execution site for the Gestapo. Prisoners who had been tried in courts elsewhere were brought to Crematorium I to be executed. They were shot in a room which had been designated as a morgue and which adjoined the room containing the ovens. In the morgue a drain in the floor collected the blood. Because the odor became foul and unbearable to the SS, a powerful ventilation system was installed.

Went the Nazi masters saw the need for efficient mass extermination, Crematorium I with its powerful ventilation system was at hand. The fans would extract the poison gas. The lethal agent, Zyklon B, was being used elsewhere in the camp to exterminate lice; its properties were well known. All that remained to convert crematorium I into a gas chamber was to hermetically seal the doors and to cut several rectangular holes in the flat roof to drop the gas in.

The plans for Crematorium II, designated for Auschwitz I, but later changed to the larger site of Auschwitz II-Birkenau, originally included a chute to slide the bodies down into the cellar where there were 2 morgues. When the goal of camp became the mass extermination of deportees, the slide was removed leaving a wider stairway. Live victims would walk, not slide, down to the morgues, which now became a gas chamber and an undressing room.

The archives of the Building Authority implicate German civilians in the mass murders. While the Nazi doctors, the SS guards and the Capos exemplified depravity and physical cruelty astounding in its departure from civilized norms, the behavior of civilian businessman, architects and engineers exhibited a parallel descent into barbarity. For the plans clearly indicate that there was a knowing participation in mass murder and in the exploitation of a slave labor so arduous as to destroy its victims within days or, at most, weeks."

q Prisoners did not know why they were lined up.  They thought they were going to get a shower because of the signs as they walked toward the building.  The signs read, "To the Baths and Disinfecting Rooms," "Cleanliness brings freedom" and "One louse may kill you."  The systematic way to their death, as described in the Holocaust survivors website:

"The victims selected for death approached from the east, having walked from their train down a long street known at the lagerstrasse. Although the smell of burning flesh permeated the camp and flames could often be seen rising from the chimneys of the crematoria, the Nazis were usually successful in deceiving the victims as to their immediate peril. Crematorium II stood next to Crematorium III, two brick buildings with squat, square chimneys. The victims were told to descend by stairway into the cellar which served as the undressing room. Signs in several languages said "To the Baths and Disinfecting Rooms," "Cleanliness brings freedom" and "One louse may kill you." Clothes were put on numbered hooks. The victims were then were sent to small vestibules where someone pointed to to the doors of a white-washed room resembling the one they had just left--in this room the showerheads were fake and several of the pillars were hollow with perforations to let out the gas."

Dissection table

Like what they had in Majdanek, there was a dissection table used to dissect and remove any valuables from the bodies of prisoners.  If you've watched Schindler's List, you may have noticed that in a scene in the movie, the whole Jewish family swallowed their valuables like gold ring, by first wrapping them with bread.  The Nazi soldiers usually dissect the bodies of the prisoners before they were sent to the crematorium.  How did the soldiers know if someone had swallowed gold or valuables?  Well, they just make a guess based on the person’s looks or body shape (if a person was wealthy, he or she probably ate better food, and thus, looked better).   Gold teeth were extracted because they can be sold for good money.

q Click here for slideshow of what's left today of the Crematoria



qMore stories and photos from this journey:


AuschwitzII-Birkenau Barracks


The Memorial

See Auschwitz-Birkenau map

See Ariel MAP OF AUSCHWITZ I and II taken by the Allied forces (June 26, 1944)



Sources and more info about the crematoria: (external)


iEARN. Resistance during the Holocaust.

Holocaust Encyclopedia- Auschwitz

Holocaust Survivors website - The Crematoria and Crematoria II, West View

Remember.org webite. Birkenau map.

Remember.org website.  Other Birkenau map resources.



Additional photos of this site. Click to enlarge.









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