Auschwitz Guards: The faces that oversaw a genocide, 1940-1945


These mugshots from the Auschwitz Guards were published by Poland's Institute of National Remembrance and you can see the evils that ran the deadliest concentration camp of World War II.

There are over 25,000 records in the entire database covering personnel from several concentration camps. Among them, thousands belonged to the people who worked in Auschwitz – which was not a single camp, but a network of camps, which housed Jews, Poles, political prisoners, Roma people, homosexuals, the mentally ill and disabled, and others. People were enslaved and killed.

Various estimates indicate that Auschwitz was besieged by 700 commanders and guards in 1941, about 2 thousand in June 1942, about 3 thousand in April 1944, and by about 3,300 SS men and women observers in August 1944.

The peak figure came in connection with the final evacuation of the camp in mid-January 1945, when there were 4,480 SS men and 71 women SS observers.

During the entire period when the camp existed, a total of 8,000 to 8,200 SS men and some 200 female guards served in the garrison.

The majority of the Auschwitz garrison was made up of Germans who had German citizenship (Reichsdeutsche). There were also ethnically German SS men (Volksdeutsche) who had obtained citizenship in previously occupied countries or in Third Reich satellite countries such as Romania, Slovakia and Hungary.

Education records of 1,209 Auschwitz SS guards indicate that they had relatively little schooling. 70% of them had received elementary education, 21,5% secondary and 5.5% had higher education. Among those with higher education, most were doctors or architects working in SS construction offices.

More members of the Auschwitz SS garrison underwent trials in Poland than anywhere else. From 1946 to 1949, about 1,000 people suspected of committing war crimes in Auschwitz were extradited to Poland, most of them from US-held territory in Germany. Charges were framed against 673 people, including 21 women.

The most common sentences for lower-ranking members of the Auschwitz garrison were three years in prison (203 times for 31.9% of all sentences) and 4 years (111 times, 17.5%). Death and life imprisonment were relatively rare (41 times, 6.1%).

Between 1940 and 1945 at least 1.3 million people were deported to Auschwitz and at least 1.1 million died. Altogether 400,207 prisoners were registered in the camp: 268,657 males and 131,560 females.

A study published in 1991 by Polish historian Franciszek Piper in the late 1980s used train arrival timetables, combined with deportation records, to calculate that 1,082,000 of the 1.3 million deported to the camp were used. There were casualties, a figure (rounded to 1.1 million) that Piper considered the minimum. This figure became widely accepted.

Nearly one in six Jews killed in the Holocaust died in Auschwitz. By nation, the largest number of Jewish victims of Auschwitz originated from Hungary, with 430,000 deaths, followed by Poland (300,000), France (69,000), the Netherlands (60,000), Greece (55,000), the protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia ( 46,000), Slovakia (27,000), Belgium (25,000), Germany and Austria (23,000), Yugoslavia (10,000), Italy (7,500), Norway (690), and others (34,000).

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