Auschwitz I Concentration Camp, 
Oswiecim, Poland

(all photographs by J. Gerencher)

In 1939, the Germany defeated Poland in a quick military campaign and occupied the region which included the rural Polish town of Oswiecim, which they renamed Auschwitz.  A former Polish army camp there was converted into a prison camp, named KL Auschwitz, and received its first inmates in June of 1940.  Prison labor was used to expand the original 20 buildings, most of which were one-story, into two-story structures, and to build 8 additional buildings for use as prison blocks.  The entire compound was located behind a tall brick wall.

The average number of prisoners within Auschwitz fluctuated between 13,000 to 16,000, and in 1942 reached a record 20,000.  In 1941, construction of a second and larger camp, called "Auschwitz II - Birkenau," was begun on the site of the rural farming village of Brzezinka, which is located only 3 kilometers away.  Additional expansion of the camp system in the region produced many satellite camps to provide slave labor to the mines and industries of the region.

Sign at entrance:  Arbeit Macht Frei
Sign over the entrance to the camp.
"Arbeit Macht Frei" translates as "Work Makes You Free"

Blocks for prisoners
Prison blocks along main avenue.  
The facility was originally a Polish army camp.

Courtyard between blocks
Courtyard between cell blocks.

Prison wire
Fencing separating areas within the prison.
Chimneys to the left are part of kitchen.

Electrified barbed wire fencing
Paired electrified barbed-wire fences with guard tower.

Electrified prison fencing
Warning sign for paired electrified barbed-wire fences.

Marked suitcases
Labeled suitcases from unloaded transports of victims.

Gas chamber
Interior of gas chamber.

Oven room with tracks and carts
Rail system for efficiently feeding bodies into ovens.

Oven pair
Ovens used to consume bodies.

Artificial limbs
Artificial limbs from murdered victims.

Hair and hair products
Human hair and cloth made from human hair.
Liberating Russian soldiers discovered 7 tons of human hair
 in warehouses near the camp,
 although retreating Germans burned most warehouses.

Plan of camp.
Map showing layout of the Auschwitz camp.
Note the wall surrounding the camp.