Imagine leaving your family, your house, your possessions, and your life behind. You do not know where you’re going, or how long it will take to get there. You are cramped into a small space with around a hundred other people; some dead, some dying, some hoping for death to come. It’s hard to stay positive in a situation like this. You are on your way to the most famous – and most deadly – Nazi concentration camp. Its name is Auschwitz, and you are a Jew in Nazi Germany during World War II. Your future is beginning to look bleak. The thought of ever leaving this place is the only hope that you and those around you really have, and the chance of that is slim. As you finally arrive at your destination after two full days of travelling without food or water, you and the other people in the car are herded into two lines. One line consists of women and children, while the other is for the men. Women and men cry and take their last embraces, never knowing when they will see one another again. Mothers clutch their children close to them, whispering to them to behave, and trying to no avail to shield them from this place. Everyone is thirsty, hungry and tired, but most of all, afraid. A deep seeded fear begins to plant itself inside of everyone present at the sight of tall smokestacks billowing a putrid, indescribable smoke that seems to hang over everything around you. Upon walking a short distance, you are confronted by a large iron gate, with the words “Arbeit macht frei” or “Work makes you free” on it. Little does anyone know, what awaits them here will do anything but that.
Auschwitz, or Auschwitz-Birkenau, is the best known of all Nazi death camps, though Auschwitz was just one of six extermination camps. It was also a labor camp, extracting prisoners’ value from them in the form of hard labor. This camp was the end of the line for millions of Jews, gypsies, Jehovah’s witnesses, homosexuals, and other innocents. Since I was young, World War II, and the stories surrounding it have fascinated me. I have read innumerable books on the subject, including fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. Although, throughout all my research and broad understanding I have gained from this reading, I am still interested to know more about Auschwitz and the people that were imprisoned there. For example, what was daily life like for the prisoners? How did people feel inside the camp, and how did they cope with the stress of imprisonment? What is the history of Auschwitz itself? What was life like for those who survived? What kinds of people were inside the camp? and, What exactly is “Zyklon B” and why was it used?
What was daily life like for the prisoners?
Each morning, before dawn, prisoners were rounded into what was called “roll call”. Forming into groups and ordered by the SS guard, the prisoners were accounted for and checked off an attendance list. This procedure often took several hours in which the prisoners were forced to stand in...