Tuesday, December 16, 2014

THE GYPSY CAMP (B IIe) IN BIRKENAU (Researcher Miriam Bistrovic)

Heinrich Himmler’s so-called “Auschwitz decree” passed on 16th December 1942, according to which all “gypsies’ half-breeds, Romanies gypsies and members of gypsies’ clans from the Balkan […] are to be committed to a concentration camp”, this sealed and marked the beginning of the deportation of Sinti and Romanies from, among other countries, Germany and Austria to concentration and extermination camps. The implementing regulations for this order, issued by the RSHA on January 29, 1943, specified that Auschwitz was the place of deportation.  Translating the decree into practical policy, the Nazis deported an approximate number of 23,000 Sinti and Romanies to Auschwitz. Already by the summer of 1944, about 18,000 of them failed to survive life conditions in Auschwitz – having either died from hunger, consumption or medical experiments, or been eliminated in the gas chambers. The first attempt at killing the people accommodated in this area launched in May 1944 had been thwarted by the desperate resistance the men put up defending themselves by means of spades and clubs.

On February 26th 1943, the first transport arrived with Gypsies from the Reich into the still unfinished gypsy camp in section B IIe of Auschwitz-Birkenau . After the new arrivals were registered with a separate number series starting with "Z",[meaning 'Z'igeuner, the German word for Gypsies] they had to build the camp facilities. They erected 32 wooden huts of the type 260/9 so called 'pre-fabs and re-placeable horse stables, usually without windows', which had to accommodate 1,000 people in the coming months. Along the camp road there  were 16 barracks erected on each side, on the left side they had been marked with even numbers, on the right side with uneven  block-numbers. In addition to this two kitchen barracks were completed, and a storage shack. The Block Leader's room was already outside this section and from the first July 1943 separated by an electric fence, which limited excess to this this part. At the other end of the rows of barracks arose some wash-rooms, a latrine, and in late summer of 1943 an operational 'sauna' with showers and a room for the disinfection of clothing had been completed . However, improvements of sanitary conditions in the camp did not stand through synthesis buildings. The latrines were emptied only irregularly, and water-pipes through which would flow, yellow germ-contaminated water was postponed until months later to the wash-rooms. The blocks 1,2,3 and 8 held the warehouse offices, which included the Political Department, a clothing store, a  food storage hut and a canteen. There, inmates could purchase against Reichsmarks, cigarettes, additional  food and soap. For most prisoners, these desirable goods were prohibitive, so they were dependent on allocated  food rations only. Five prisoners had to share  daily one Kommisbrot [Expression for a standard German Army bread loaf]. In addition, each adult received a spoonful of jam, half a kilo, either boiled or raw turnips and the occasional bit of sausage and margarine.
Of the remaining barracks, all windowless apartment blocks were initially used . Their roofs were often leaky, and the floors were usually made of clay, which was later covered with cement or bricks. Each family had a platform (Pritsche) with two blankets regardless of the number of persons within a family. As a result of overcrowded barracks, inadequate sanitation and poor nutrition, diseases of epidemic proportion broke out . The most common findings were scabies, measles, tuberculosis, and abdominal typhus, smallpox and what affected mainly the children was primarily Noma (water cancer). In order at least to separate the healthy from the sick, two barracks were used as hospitals, which were overcrowded in a short time. In autumn 1943, the infirmary complex included the former residential blocks, 24, 26, 28, 30, and 32, whose structure hardly changed despite the new use. 400 to 600 patients were housed per block. In the back of the rooms, a lavatory, a shower room, a provisionally kitchen and a makeshift morgue which had to absorb an average of 30 deaths per day, had been provided.. Although 30 prison doctors in addition to 60 helpers took care of the sick, by April 1943, the mortality rate did not fall, there was a lack of clean water, medicines and dressings.

ENTER PICTURE:http://www.scrapbookpages.com/AuschwitzScrapbook/History/Articles/Birkenau01B2.html  'Gypsy children suffered from an illness called Noma'

The special features of the Gypsy Camp differed not only in the accommodation as a  family unit, but also permission to keep civilian clothes and let the hair grow again after shearing them at the arrival of the transports. Pregnant women and children up to the age of six should at the request of Himmler from the 15 April 1943 receive supplementary rations, such as milk, butter and white bread, sometimes even meat and chocolate. In practice, the soon abolished supplementary rations were embezzled by the SS or functionary prisoners. From the work details outside the camp, Sinti and Roma were excluded at the beginning, instead they were used for the camp's Internal hard laborious tasks , among others the drainage channels within their compound and for the construction of the 'Ramp'. Even children were not spared from this work: 'The older children aged 10 and over had to carry cobblestones for the camp road'.
On March 23, 1943 1,700 Roma from Bialystok arrived in Birkenau. They were typhus carriers and without registration or in depth investigation, isolated and put into blocks 20 and 22 and suffocated with gas as a closed group Approximately 16,000 Sinti and Roma were deported up to the end of May 1943 into the overcrowded gypsy camp, until a decree of the Reich Criminal Police Office on May 15, 1943 came into force, that ongoing admissions into B IIe 'until further notice' to be avoided, due to the risk of speeding the disease.
Meanwhile, the camp administration tried to isolate the typhoid epidemic by more murders [i.e.gassings]. So on the 25th May 1943 there were 507 men and 528 women who been held as suspect typhoid-carriers, killed. At the end of 1943 70% of the inmates lived no longer. The remaining Sinti and Roma now  had to move on the right side of the camp road into the blocks, while on the left about 1,000 Hungarian Jews were quartered until their elimination [murder] beginning in July 1944.
On 15 May 1944, the camp commandant decided the liquidation of the Gypsy camp. The next night, the SS surrounded this section and ordered the inmates to leave the blocks. Only a fraction of the Sinti and Roma obeyed the command sequence and were transported to the crematoria. The majority had heard of the intention of the SS and barricaded themselves with 'weapons', like', crowbars, spades, knives and stones . Since the SS had not expected resistance, they broke off the action. Eight days later, on May 23rd 1944 former members of the Wehrmacht were listed with their families in the camp-office and routed alongside with other 'fit for work' prisoners from the gypsy camp into the blocks 10 and 11 of the main camp, from where they would be deported to other concentration camps , Also a part of the Polish nursing staff was removed from the hospital and transferred to other compounds of the camp complex. (There is no indication given as to the reason of members of the Wehrmacht and their families had been held there, other than Kladivova's writing in: Sinti and Roma, page 314)

ENTER MAP:http://www.holocaust-lestweforget.com/auschwitz-birkenau-the-camp.html:LOCATION OF THE VARIOUS CAMP FACILITIES WITH REGARD TO THE TOWN OF AUSCHWITZ

On 1 August 1944 a final selection took place. The 'able working age' men should report for work. 1,408 prisoners arrived after this call, 2,897 were left behind. On the following day the SS imposed after the evening roll a camp lock-out (Lagersperre) all over Birkenau and block lock on the Gypsy-lager. The barracks were surrounded and prisoners compelled to leave by force if needed. Again this time, the Sinti and Roma tried to defend themselves "They were in an uproar and shouted with all their might. But the SS-men brought them out individually from the individual blocks'. Who resisted were met with kicks or beaten. All persons found were murdered on the night of the 2nd and 3rd August 1944 in the crematoria II and V. The next morning the vacated Gypsy-lager was again examined for survivors  those found were killed (getötet) as before. More than 23.000 from at least eleven countries, including Germany and Austria, had been from February 26, 1943 and 1 August 1944 deported into the Gypsy-Camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau. Only a fraction survived. Approximately 5,600 were gassed and more than 13,600 died from the poor living conditions in the camp.

ENTER DOCUMENT:http://en.auschwitz.org/m/index.php?option=com_ponygallery&Itemid=17&func=detail&id=448#ponyimg: 'Registry book of the Gypsy camp"
                                                    A page from the registry book of the Gypsy camp; the visible damage was make because of humidity. The document was hidden undergound in Birkenau by three Polish prisoners working at the camp registration office.