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Selections and lethal injections

The first selection in Auschwitz, within the framework of the euthanasia program, took place on July 28, 1941. A special medical commission came to the camp that day and chose 575 disabled, chronically ill, and elderly prisoners, mostly from among the hospital patients. The commission sent them to the Sonnenstein mental institution in Saxony, where they were put to death with carbon monoxide.

As a follow-on to this selection, there were trials in 1941 of killing seriously ill prisoners by injecting highly concentrated solutions into their veins, using hydrogen perhydrol, ether, hydrogen peroxide, benzene, Evipan, and phenol. SS physicians found that the most efficient killing method was injecting phenol into the prisoners’ hearts. A room in block 20 called the Behandlungszimmer soon became the place for the regular killing of prisoners in this way. The method was also applied in Birkenau (barracks 8 in sector BIb and barracks 25 and 28 in sector BIa).

At almost the same time as the introduction of phenol to kill prisoners, the SS began testing the effectiveness of Zyklon B. This method was used in the cellars of block 11 to kill some 250 sick prisoners selected from the hospital, along with about 600 Soviet POWs, on September 3, 1941.

As a way of combating a typhus epidemic, SS doctors selected 746 patients suffering or recovering from typhus in the hospital blocks on August 29, 1942. They sent them to the Birkenau gas chambers. When carrying out selection in the hospitals, until November 1944, SS doctors sometimes picked several thousand prisoners at a time. As indicated above, only Jews were subject to such selection after August 1943.