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A new perspective of Museum historians on the expansion of the Auschwitz camp


"The Expansion of KL Auschwitz 1942-1945 in the Light of the Source Materials", the new English-Polish publication of the Museum, tells us—through an analysis of documents, many of which never published—about the process of development of the German Nazi concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz. The authors of the publication are historians of the Museum Research Centre: Igor Bartosik, Łukasz Martyniak and Piotr Setkiewicz.


'This publication, based on more than 110 previously unpublished or little known documents, depicts the pace at which the Auschwitz complex was enlarged. In 1942, the main camp was one enormous building site, and some 30 various projects were underway around it. In Birkenau, brick and wooden barracks (intended to house 200 thousand prisoners) were being hastily erected, and the system of water mains, sewers, and the sewage treatment plant was being expanded,' said Dr. Piotr Setkiewicz, head of the Museum’s Research Center.


The document that opens the publication is a Zentralbauleitung report for May 1942. An average of 4,390 male prisoners, 2,465 female prisoners, and 1,006 civilian workers were employed at building out the camp infrastructure. The report lists 33 projects at the Auschwitz I camp including the construction of new prisoner blocks, SS barracks, a central bathhouse and disinfection facility, and support/maintenance barracks, as well as the remodeling of the commandant’s house and the hotel known as the Haus der Waffen SS (near the train station). Eleven more projects were underway at the Birkenau camp, including finishing work on 18 brick barracks, kitchens, roads, and sanitation barracks. Additionally, 54 wooden barracks were being erected in segment BII.

In 1942, the Auschwitz I - the main camp - was an enormous construction site, with some 30 different projects underway around it. At Auschwitz II-Birkenau, brick and wooden barracks were being intensively built (with the intention of incarcerating 200,000 prisoners there), and water and sewage systems and treatment plants were being expanded. In addition, a decision was made in Berlin to designate Auschwitz as the main site for the extermination of Jews, which entailed the construction of large gas chambers and crematoria.

Simultaneously, the overcrowding of the blocks and barracks was exacerbating the hygienic-sanitation situation, which led to the outbreak of an epidemic in the camp and influenced the slowing down of some of the gigantic projects. At the same time (1942-1944), the thousands of European Jews being deported to Auschwitz were perishing in an infrastructure of annihilation that was being constantly enhanced.

Numerous German companies engaged in the expansion of the whole complex were present in the vicinity of the camp, and several of them had relocated their production to Auschwitz. Only the approach of the Eastern Front in the fall of 1944 slowed the majority of the work, and had an influence on the gradual shifting of SS projects from Auschwitz to camps in the depths of Germany.

The Soviet Army entered the grounds of KL Auschwitz on January 27, 1945. As the extant documents show, however, the camp was still functioning as an administrative unit. As late as March 1945, the camp administration was operating on a provisional basis in Weimar, and was settling overdue accounts for work done by companies including DAW. Two invoices  and the invoices issued on March 2 and 3, 1945 are the documents that close the publication.

This is the fourth and last title in the series "Auschwitz in the Light of the Source Material." The previous parts were dedicated to the beginnings of the Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II-Birkenau camps, as well as the beginnings of extermination of Jews at Auschwitz.

The book "The Expansion of KL Auschwitz 1942-1945 in the Light of the Source Materials" was published with the support of the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage.