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The cessation of mass extermination

The mass extermination of Jews in the gas chambers ended in November 1944. The majority of the Jewish prisoners assigned to labor in the crematorium and gas chamber crews were liquidated in September, October, and November as eyewitnesses to extermination. More than 400 Jews died during a mutiny by a crematorium crew (Sonderkommando) on October 7, 1944. Several score Sonderkommando members were kept alive until the final liquidation of the camp.

Crematorium IV, damaged during the Sonderkommando mutiny, was dismantled by the end of 1944. In November and December, the Germans made preparations to blow up the other three crematorium buildings. They uninstalled the technical equipment in the gas chambers and furnace hall of crematoria II and III and shipped most of it into the depths of Germany. However, they left crematorium V and its gas chambers in working order until the second half of January 1945.

At the end of 1944, as part of the effort to remove evidence of the crimes committed in Auschwitz, they hurriedly liquidated the pits full of human ashes (the pits where they burned corpses and others where they dumped ashes from the crematoria) in Auschwitz-Birkenau. They intensified the routine destruction of records that were no longer needed, including files and lists of prisoners. They also began burning the lists of names of Jews deported to die in Auschwitz.

In the last months when Auschwitz Concentration Camp was in operation, the Germans shipped out large quantities of building materials and items plundered from the Jewish victims of mass extermination.

In mid-January 1945, shortly after the launch of the Red Army’s Vistula-Oder offensive, the Germans commenced the final evacuation and liquidation of the camp.