Imagine being dead asleep in bed, dreaming peacefully, not a care in the world, then being woken up by Nazi soldiers. They come into the person’s house and drag them out, still wearing their night clothes. They make them stand out in the cold, barefooted, freezing to death. They all are wondering what is happening. Why is this happening to them? Where are they going to be taken? Little did they know it was not where they were being taken that mattered most; It was if they were going to make it out of this alive or not. In March 1933, one of the most gruesome events started in Germany.
Hitler was established as chancellor and came into complete power. After that had happened, everything began to change. Hitler disliked like the Jews. He never was fond of them. So of course, Hitler started targeting the Jews. Hitler believed all Jews should be punished, and that is exactly what he did. He created concentration camps; treating Jews like slaves instead of the human beings they were and forced them to do harsh labor with little or no food. By the time the surviving Jews were found, they looked more like skeletons than they did people.
Hitler had many different units for each concentration camps that he held all the prisoners to live in. He also forced all the prisoners to sleep in the same room together with no heat or air conditioning. The Jew’s society was more a distaste to the Nazi’s than any other organization. During the 1930s, the population of Jews were decreasing in the concentration camps. The Jews were forced to do labor, even if that included death. These prisoners were worked so hard every day with little to no food in their stomach that this, among other things, was the reason many prisoners died.
One prisoner who witnessed the Nazi’s illing the Jews stated, “A few days ago we were going out as usual to work. All of a sudden the Jewish prisoners – Goldmann, a merchant, Benario, a lawyer from Nuremberg, and the merchants Artur and Erwin Kahn – were ordered to fall out of ranks. Without even a word, some Stormtroop men shot at them. They had not made any attempt to escape- all were killed on the spot all had bullet wounds in their foreheads. The four Jews were buried secretly, no one being allowed to be present. Then a meeting was called, and a Stormtrooper made a speech in which he told us that it was a good thing these four Jewish Sows were dead.
They had been hostile elements who had no right to live in Germany – they had received their due punishment” (Holocaust Research Project). After this had occurred, the camp turned into a bloodbath of Jews. Many innocent women, men, and children were murdered all because they were not considered human beings or have the same beliefs as the Nazi’s. Afterwards, the Nazi’s started to kill off the Jews. There were several different concentration camps created between the 1930s and 1940s. Hitler’s main goal was to capture all of the Jews and assassinate them.
He did not want any Jews to come out breathing after everything he planned to do. The Jews were most likely thinking that exact same thing. Hitler made thousands of camps all over Germany, stating that one was not enough. The first camp that he had ever established was called the Dachau. “The Dachau concentration camp was established in March 1933. It was the first regular concentration camp established by the National Socialist (Nazi) government. Heinrich Himmler, as a police present of Munich, officially described the camp as ‘the first concentration camp for political prisoners” (United States Holocaust Memorial Museum).
The Dachau was located south of Germany placed at an abandoned factory. This building held over four thousand prisoners inside. The Nazi’s had a various amount of different types of individuals inside these camps. Some of them were: Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, and other criminal offenders. Another camp produced was called Chelmno. The leader of this camp was SSGruppenfuhrer Wilhelm Koppe, the SS and Police Leader in the Warthegau, who was under the direct command of Heinrich Himmler. On December eighth 1941, the first panicked group arrived to the Chelmno camp.
Chelmno was separated into two different parts, the manor camp and the forest camp and this was designed to kill the Jews, Poland, and the ghetto. “In the manor camp prisoners were unloaded, forced to undress, and then loaded back onto trucks where they were killed with carbon monoxide gas. The bodies were then taken to the forest camp, where they were buried in mass graves or burned in open ovens” (Chelmno Extermination Camp). This was one of the first camps arranged to kill Jews on a large ranking.
Over 300,00 individuals were killed at Chelmno camp. On 17 January 1945, the Nazis murdered 45 of the last 48 Jewish prisoners as the Soviet army edged closer to the camp. These last few Jews at the camp had fought against the fleeing Nazis, but only three of them succeeded in escaping” (The Holocaust Explained). The camp came to an end in March 1942 because the Nazi’s murdered all the Jews in that area. The Belzec camp is similar to the Chelmno camp because they both were separated into different sections. The three different sections was administration section, barracks and storage for plundered goods, and extermination section, but later, it was divided into two sections.
The Belzec camp was organized to slaughter the Polish Jews in the German-occupied portions of Poland. The camp was fairly limited and surrounded with a barbed wire fence. As soon as the Jews arrived to the camp, the guards divided them into groups and had each group get undressed for their “shower” and the women were forced to shave their heads. After everyone was undressed, they were crammed into the gas chamber that was disguised as the showers. “The gas chambers were half-lined with tin and equipped with two airtight doors, one for entry and one through which corpses were removed.
The carbon monoxide gas was piped in from a diesel engine mounted outside. Once the gas chambers were filled and the doors shut, the killing process took up to 30 minutes” (Belzec Extermination Camp). Some of the other Jewish workers had to remove the gold from the corpse bodies and also had to go through their personal belongings. “By Spring 1943, the Germans had burned most of the bodies and plowed over the site to make it look like a farm in order to hide the truth of the Nazis disgusting disregard for human life” (Belzec Extermination Camp). Even one of the guards became a farmer there from the Belzec camp.
Most concentration camps was just for men, but the Ravensbruck concentration camp was just meant mostly for women and it was stationed in Germany. The first prisoners to arrive in Ravensbruck was in May 1939. The number of women in the camp kept multiplying more and more everyday. Even all the women were forced to do labor as well as the men in the other concentration camps. “The major private firm that used slave labor at Ravensbruck was the Siemens Electric Company, today the second largest electric company in the world” (Jason Levine). Other women had to wove carpets, fur, clothing, and leather at the factories.
Women also had to work outside just like the men had too. They also worked on construction and pulled these rollers to pave the streets. Thousands of women died in this camp because lack of food and the harsh weather and working conditions. This camp came to an end in 1945. One of the most deadliest and largest concentration camp known was the Auschwitz. The Auschwitz was positioned south of Poland and was prepared as a detention center for the political prisoners. The leaders of this camp was Rudolf Hoss, Arthur Liebehenschel, and Richard Baer.
Many families were split apart at this time and little did they know that they was not likely to see their loved ones ever again. The Nazi soldiers divided them into two lines; The ones who looked powerless and unfit (such as the elders, women, children, and some men) were sent to the left and the ones who looked more healthy, tough, and forceful were sent to the right. The ones who were sent to the left were directed to the gas chambers and the ones on the right were sent to the concentration camps that were forced to do labor. The soldiers took any personal items the prisoners might have on them or in their homes.
The ones who were sent to the left did not have the slightest clue about what was going to happen. They did not know that they was chosen for death and they would never have the chance to say their goodbyes to the ones that they love. Many of them had thought they was being sent to the shower houses, but instead, was appointed into the gas chambers. Once the doors were locked, they all soon started to realize what was about to occur. They all rushed to the doors, knocking each other over to start clawing at the doors until their fingers started bleeding while screaming bloody murder begging them to let them go.
Soon after, the poisonous gas started seeping through the roof and within minutes, they all were deceased. “Once everyone in the room was dead, special prisoners assigned this horrible task (Sonderkommandos) would air out the room and then remove the bodies. The bodies would be searched for gold and then placed into the crematoria” (About Education). After the bodies were searched for gold and other jewelry, they were sent to be burned so no one could smell the bodies decaying. The ones who were sent to the right did not know they was about to live as a prisoner for twelve long harsh years.
They also had to strip to nothing, give up their personal items and had to completely shave their heads. The prisoners were given striped prison outfits and a pair of shoes. During the evenings, all the men were crammed into bunk houses to sleep in. In the mornings, the prisoners had to stand outside for roll call (which could take up to several hours) regardless of the weather conditions. Some worked in factories and some had to do hard physical labor. After long hours of hard work (eleven hours per day), they all had to be gathered again for another roll call.
They was given little food sources such as soup and bread. It was not healthy for those men to work all day in any weather condition with little to no food. It is not healthy for anyone to just have soup and bread even if they were not contributing any hard physical labor. Bountiful amount of men died from starvation. Even some were used as lab rats for the doctors to construct experiments on. “Their favorite choices were twins and dwarves, but also anyone who in any way looked physically unique, such as having different colored eyes, would be pulled from the line for experiments” (About Education).
One of the doctors was hoping to use a twin and compose a clone to form the best Arvan. There were several different ways the Nazi’s killed the Jews. The most common used method was the gas chambers. They packed hundreds of women, children, and men into a cramped chamber. The soldiers forced the Jews to strip down to nothing (so they could spare themselves the trouble of stripping the dead) and filled the air with a poisonous gas seeping through the roof. Within minutes everyone was dead. Then the soldiers would take the bodies to the firehouse and burn the bodies so there would be no evidence – or smell of rotting bodies – left.
Another method that was similar to killing in the gas chambers was gassing trucks or – something that is very commonly known today – mass shootings. “The Nazis began experimenting with poison gas for the purpose of mass murder in late 1939 with the killing of mental patients (“euthanasia”). A Nazi euphemism, “euthanasia” referred to the systematic killing of those Germans whom the Nazis deemed “unworthy of life” because of mental illness or physical disability” (United States Holocaust Museum). Not everything the Jews did was forced labor.
Some days they were forced to run from camp to camp. Think about it. There are people all different ages and sizes running, trying to keep ahead of the men in the back holding guns, ready to fire if any of them fall behind. These men make them run for hours, not caring what kind of weather conditions are occurring. Abounding amount of men did die from the gas chambers or died from what the Nazi’s had plan for them, but also died from other causes. One reason the Jews died was of starvation. They were only given around one-thousand and three hundred calories per day with only soup and bread.
This was not enough to keep them strong and healthy especially when they were forced to work over ten hours a day, every single day that they lived. Either they died from starvation, or they became too weak to do their daily chores and one of the soldiers shot them for not keeping up with the other prisoners. Another main reason the prisoners passed away was because of diseases. The Nazi soldiers did not give them the medication they needed if one was to be ill. The prisoners were exposed to any type of disease such as typhoid fever and tuberculosis.
Also, when they worked constantly, the soldiers do not give them the time to rest and heal from the illness. “Typhoid fever is a disease spread through dirty water supply. It is a type of fever that is very hard to get rid of. The fatality rate of Typhoid fever was 20%. Tuberculosis is a disease that spreads in the air ,and you have to breathe it in to get the disease. Tuberculosis can cause pneumonia” (Courtnie coffman). The prisoners were not given the healthiest water supply either. If one person caught a sickness, then anyone around them could receive it because they are breathing, coughing, and sneezing around them.
Once one person has it, it starts to spread everywhere, endangering all the prisoners. The living conditions were almost as awful as working in any weather situation. In each building, there was built in bunk beds. “Two types of barracks, brick and wooden, housed prisoners in Birkenau concentration camp. The brick buildings were erected in great haste, without suitable insulation, on marshy ground. More than 700 people were assigned to each barrack, although in practice the figure was sometimes higher. These barracks lacked any true heating; nor did they contain sanitary facilities”(Jason Levine).
The prisoners had to make a straw pallet to sleep on top of because that was the only thing they had to keep warm during the bitter winters. They did not have any heating or cooling systems installed into their unit. The Nazi’s did not care if there ceilings were leaking from the heavy rain or also if mold was growing in the walls which could get everyone around it ill and then following, death. One of the last of several reasons why the prisoners had passed away was from the hard labor they was forced to complete.
Most of the labor they were suppose to achieve was back breaking. Many worked in the coal mines, stone quarries and was obligated to work for the construction labor the Nazi’s had programmed for them. This kind of labor was nearly impossible to do every single day, twenty-four seven, seven days a week. They never had a break or a day off. They hardly ate anything or slept enough hours for them to keep continuing to work under any condition or situation the Nazi soldiers gave them to accomplish. Even though the tasks were never really finished.
Not many prisoners felt as if they did achieve anything because it was never ending and they was not doing any of those tasks for themselves, but just as another day to stay breathing. The holocaust was a petrified part of our history. Hitler did not like the Jews and so, therefore; they were to be punished. Many families and loved ones were separated from one another and was never to be seen again. Some of them could not cope with the fact that their loved ones were murdered and they did not get the chance to say goodbye. Most of the prisoners did not mind dying.
Most of them fantasised the ways they could die. But they did not want the Nazi soldiers to have that satisfaction of ending another Jew’s life. But they did not want to keep continuing everyday to be a slave for Hitler. Everyday and every night the prisoners would pray to God that he would help and somehow save them all from this awful nightmare. After awhile, they just had hope that one day this excruciating pain would come to an end and they could try to finish their life and find a new source of happiness to help them make it through the end.
It started as months waiting, then it turned to years and everyone was exhausted and was tired of a miracle of some sort to happen over night. So, they lost the faith they needed to remain strong and gave up on God. Except when they did pray, they prayed that they would just croak already. They also started to pray that they would just hurry up and die from starvation, from diseases, or from them falling behind and the Nazi’s finally had another satisfaction of murdering another innocent Jew. In April 1945, there was a new beginning of hope again.
The allies and the Soviet started taking over the thousand concentration camps Hitler conceived and soon, Hitler was no longer in power. Once the Auschwitz was liberated, that was a breakthrough into ending the camps. “When the Allied forces finally invaded Germany in 1945, Adolf Hitler knew he had been defeated. Whether out of cowardice and fear of punishment, or based on Nazi ideals of death before dishonor, Adolf Hitler committed suicide in April of 1945 before the Allies had a chance to capture him.
Thousands of Nazis committed suicide during this year, as they were taught that it was a more favorable option than being captured and punished for their beliefs. However, hundreds more were caught and punished for their involvement in the Holocaust” (Hitler’s Children). Hitler knew he had been thrown out of power and had to quickly had to come up with an suggestion to save him for what the Soviet had planned for him. He already knew he was going to be prosecuted regardless, therefore; he committed suicide. The survivors faced many problems after they were released back to freedom.
All there homes and personal belongings had disappeared to nothing. It was not just the Nazi’s that had taken their personal items, but also some of the local people had taken those things into possession as there own. All they had left was just a memory that was slowly fading into dust. Even some of the prisoners did not make it after the liberation because they were already too weak from the harsh labor, lack of energy, and lack of food. In fact, most of the freed prisoners were just skin and bones, almost to nothing. Some became depressed because of everything they have been through and all their loved ones were gone.
They had nowhere safe to go and they continued to live in despair. It took a very long time for the survivors to feel safe again and to have closure they needed and wanted. They slowly gained hope back and worked hard for some of the things they had lost, back. Even though the prisoners were set free, they never lived a “normal” life. They will always have that certain question they thought about and asked before they were held captive as prisoners for over twelve years: Why is this happening to them? This question never had a valid explanation as of why this did happen to them.
All they knew was Hitler disliked them and they were to be punished in any way possible. They have been through more than anyone could possibly imagine. They also knew that the camps were not going to end anytime soon and this is how they will spend the remaining of their life. The concentration camps was not meant to be simple and easy. All the camps were a death trap waiting for an innocent victim to fall behind. But after all the long tragic nights of praying for a miracle to occur, it finally arrived. This tragedy did end in 1945, but a new beginning had just arrived.