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New online lesson "Extermination of Jews at KL Auschwitz"


"The extermination of Jews at KL Auschwitz" is a new online lesson created by the International Center for Education about Auschwitz and the Holocaust. It's available in English, French, German, Polish and Spanish. The author of the lesson is Dr. Piotr Setkiewicz, the head of the Research Center of the Auschwitz Memorial.


In the introduction he explains why in the contemporary collective awareness, Auschwitz became a generally recognized symbol of the fate of European Jews during the Second World War.

"The prime decisive factor was the fact that Auschwitz was the site in which the largest number of victims were killed. Secondly, many documents and accounts by the Survivors became available nearly immediately after the end of the war, and the Survivors themselves were capable of describing the operation of the crematoria and gas chambers in great detail. Thirdly, significantly more elements of the camp infrastructure have been preserved in Auschwitz than in the centers of mass destruction in the eastern areas of occupied Poland that were nearly entirely destroyed. Fourthly and finally, the industrialized character of the process of the extermination, and the involvement of multiple agendas of the modern state and numerous private companies posed a threatening reminder for the fears growing at the time, and raised awareness of the threats that the future had in store," we read.

"Although Jews were killed in very many places, it is nonetheless the tragedy of Auschwitz that is currently known and perceived as the message all around the world. Even among people whose knowledge of the history of 20th-century Europe is infinitesimal," wrote Piotr Setkiewicz.

The lesson has been divided to 19 chapters.

"At the beginning it describes the history of Jewish prisoners that Germans brought to Auschwitz before the beginning of mass extermination in gas chambers. Several Jews were already in the first transport of 728 prisoners sent from Tarnów on 14 June 1940," said Agnieszka Juskowiak-Sawicka, head of the E-learning at ICEAH.

Between June 1940 and the end of March 1942, that is until the first mass transports of Jews were sent to Auschwitz, around 2,000 Jews become prisoners of the camp. Vast majority of them were killed.

"The lesson then analyses the chronology of events in spring 1942 when Auschwitz was turned into a center of extermination of Jews in gas chambers, it describes the situation of of Jewish prisoners, history of the Jewish resistance as well as a unique story of a family camp for Jews deported from Theresienstadt ghetto as well as transit camps created in Birkenau. The last chapter tells about evacuation and liberation of KL Auschwitz", added Juskowiak-Sawicka.

In total around 1,1 million Jews were deported by Germans to the Auschwitz camp. About 900,000 of them were murdered in the gas chambers immediately after arrival and selection on the ramp. About 200,000 were registered in the camp, where more than half died as a result of brutal treatment by SS men and prisoner functionaries, work exceeding their strength, malnutrition, terrible hygienic conditions and the associated sicknesses and epidemics and selection in the camp.