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On Auschwitz

On Auschwitz

By Auschwitz Memorial
The official podcast of the Auschwitz Memorial. The history of Auschwitz is exceptionally complex. It combined two functions: a concentration camp and an extermination center. Nazi Germany persecuted various groups of people there, and the camp complex continually expanded and transformed itself. In the podcast "On Auschwitz," we discuss the details of the history of the camp as well as our contemporary memory of this important and special place.

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"On Auschwitz" (24): New Research on the History of Auschwitz
It might seem that we already know everything about the history of places such as Auschwitz, because several decades have passed since the events and we have access to a great many documents and thousands of testimonies. However, this is not true. We are constantly learning new facts about the history of the camp, as Dr. Piotr Setkiewicz, the head of the Memorial Research Centre, explains in our podcast.
September 15, 2022
"On Auschwitz" (23): the sacrifice and death of father Maximilian Kolbe
At the end of July 1941 the camp commander Karl Fritzch selected 10 hostages from among the prisoners in Block 14 in retaliation for the escape of a prisoner. He condemned them to death by starvation in the bunker of Block 11. During the selection, a Polish prisoner who was a Franciscan monk and missionary, Maksymilian Kolbe (no. 16670), stepped out of link and asked the camp commander to take him instead of a desperate selected prisoner Franciszek Gajowniczek (np. 5659). After a brief dispute with Father Kolbe, Fritzch agreed to the substitution, especially when he found out that Kolbe is a Catholic priest. The 10 selected prisoners were led off to Block 11. In the Bunker Register the admission of them is noted without listing names, numbers, day of admission or day of death. Franciszek Gajowniczek survived the war and died in 1995. Maksymilian Kolbe was murdered with a poisonous injection on 14 August 1941. He was canonized by the pope John Paul II in October 1982. Teresa Wontor Cichy from the Auschwitz Memorial Research Center talk about Father Maksymilian Kolbe. The Germans incarcerated at least 464 priests, seminarians & monks as well as 35 nuns in #Auschwitz. Learn about the fate of Christian clergy and religious life in the camp:
August 13, 2022
"On Auschwitz" (22): The Archives of the Auschwitz Memorial
The Archives of the Auschwitz Memorial collect, preserve, and provide access to documents and materials connected mainly with the history of the Auschwitz camp. The collection includes original German camp records, copies of documents obtained from other institutions in Poland and abroad, source material of postwar provenance (memoirs, accounts by survivors, material from the trials of Nazi war criminals, etc.), photographs, microfilms, negatives, documentary films, scholarly studies, reviews, lectures, exhibition scenarios, film scripts, and research results. Dr. Wojciech Płosa, the head of the Archives, talks about the activity of this part of the Museum. The document in the picture is one of the first plans of the main Auschwitz camp from mid-1940.
July 12, 2022
"On Auschwitz" (21): The Revolt of Sonderkommando Prisoners
On October 7, 1944 a revolt took place at the Auschwitz II-Birkenau camp, in the Sonderkommando - the special work unit that consisted mainly of Jewish prisoners whom the Germans forced to work in gas chambers, burning pits areas and crematoria. Dr. Igor Bartosik of the Auschwitz Memorial Research Center talks about the background of resistance of the Sonderkommando and the revolt itself. In the picture: gas chamber and crematorium IV at Auschwitz that was set on fire by Sonderkommando prisoners during the revolt.
June 17, 2022
The interview with Dr. Piotr Cywiński about his book "Auschwitz. A Monograph on the Human".
“Auschwitz. A Monograph on the Human” is a new book by the Auschwitz Museum Director Dr. Piotr Cywiński. It is the first attempt - on a global scale - to delve so deeply into human emotions inside the camp. It is a must-read for those seeking to understand what Auschwitz was all about. The gathering of materials and work on the publication took almost six years. Piotr Cywiński analysed nearly 250 books with memoirs of survivors of the German Nazi camp Auschwitz and extensive hitherto unpublished archival material containing their accounts. On this basis, he presented an in-depth reflection on the condition of people subjected to the process of turning into prisoners of the concentration camp. Listen to the interview with Dr. Piotr Cywiński about the book in the podcast. Buy the book “Auschwitz. A Monograph on the Human” in our online bookstore. Read more about the book. 
May 20, 2022
"On Auschwitz" (20): SS garrison in the Auschwitz camp
During the time of operation of Auschwitz, some 8,100-8,200 SS men worked there as part of the camp garrison. In our podcast Dr. Piotr Setkiewicz, the head of Research Center of the Auschwitz Memorial, talks about functioning of the SS garrison in the Auschwitz camp complex, its organizational structure and everyday work in the management, functioning, and isolation of the camp. We also recommend our online lesson:
May 17, 2022
"On Auschwitz" (19): registration photographs of Auschwitz prisoners
In the thousands of preserved registration photographs of Auschwitz prisoners, we can see faces of the men and women imprisoned in the camp.  Dr Wojciech Płosa, the head of Auschwitz Memorial Archives, talks about the history of these photographs.
April 06, 2022
"On Auschwitz" (18): sub-camps
The Auschwitz concentration camp had almost 50 sub‑camps. The largest of them had extensive administrative structures, separate hospital barracks, showers and even small crematoria. In the smaller ones, prisoners were locked up for the night in rooms or cellars—there were no fences or guard towers there and meals were delivered from the main camp. The majority of prisoners were employed in the armaments and extractive industries, or agriculture. At the beginning of 1945, they held 35,000 men and women prisoners, more than Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II-Birkenau combined (31,000). Dr. Piotr Setkiewicz, the head of the Memorial research center talks about the history of Auschwitz sub-camps. (in the picture: Trzebinia sub-camp)
March 04, 2022
"On Auschwitz" (17): prisoners with purple triangles - Jehovah’s Witnesses in Auschwitz
Activities by the Jehovah’s Witnesses were banned in the Third Reich in 1933 because of the Witnesses’ religious principles and pacifistic views, as well as their organization’s international connections. As a result, many of them were imprisoned in concentration camps. Teresa Wontor-Cichy from the Auschwitz Memorial Research Center talks about the history and fate of some 400 Jehovah’s Witnesses incarcerated in the camp. --- In the picture: A German Jehovah’s Witness Marta Proppe born on 26 December 1899 In #Auschwitz from 12 November 1942 No. 24418 She was transferred to KL Gross-Rosen. She survived. 
February 15, 2022
"On Auschwitz" (16): The research on the number of victims of the camp
The historians of the Memorial today estimate, that the Germans murdered around 1,1 million out of 1,3 million people deported to Auschwitz. Dr. Piotr Setkiewicz, the head of the Museum Research Centre, talks about the history of research on the number of Auschwitz victims.
January 26, 2022
"On Auschwitz" (15): The camp through eyes of a child
The fate children who were registered in Auschwitz as prisoners was no different in principle from that of adults. Just like them, they suffered from hunger and cold, were used as laborers, and were punished, put to death, and used as subjects in criminal experiments by SS doctors. Dr. Wanda Witek-Malicka from Memorial’s Research Center talks about the Auschwitz camp through the eyes of a child. --- Listen also to the podcast "Children in Auschwitz":
January 13, 2022
"On Auschwitz" (14): Starvation and slave labour of Auschwitz prisoners
Two extremely important factors in the exhaustion, deprivation and destruction of prisoners at Auschwitz were hunger and hard slave labour. Dr. Jacek Lachendro of the Auschwitz Memorial Research Centre talks in our podcast about this aspect of the camp's functioning. --- Listen also to the podcast about living and sanitary conditions as well as camp clothing:
December 27, 2021
"On Auschwitz" (13): The fate of Sonderkommando prisoners
One of the darkest chapters of the history of Auschwitz is undoubtedly the story of the Sonderkommando - a group of prisoners, mainly Jews - forced by the Germans to work in gas chambers and crematoria of the camp. Prisoners assigned to this unit, employed in places of mass extermination, could not refuse to do their work or ask to be transferred to perform other tasks in the camp. Failure to carry out the instructions of the SS would result in immediate death. Dr. Igor Bartosik from the Research Center of the Memorial talks about the fate of Sonderkommando prisoners. --- Listen also to our podcast about the first crematorium and the beginnings of the Sonderkommando:
December 20, 2021
"On Auschwitz" (12): Polish and Jewish prisoners in the camp
During its entire existence, slightly over 400 thousand people were registered at Auschwitz as prisoners - including 131 thousand women. The two largest groups of prisoners were Jews - about 200 thousand - and Poles, some 140 thousand. Since Germans established the camp in spring 1940 with the members of Polish resistance and intelligentsia in mind, Poles dominated in the camp at first. This situation began to change in March 1942, when mass deportations of Jews for extermination began. Dr. Piotr Setkiewicz, the head of the Auschwitz Memorial Research Center, talks about the situation of Polish and Jewish prisoners in the camp.
November 30, 2021
"On Auschwitz" (11): Sport and sportspeople in Auschwitz
The term "sport" in KL Auschwitz was distorted by using it to refer to the exhausting exercises combined with the drill and singing applied on a mass scale. This form of sport, referred to after the war as pseudo-sport, was usually a way of enforcing discipline and punishing prisoners. However, among people deported by the Germans to Auschwitz, there were pre-war sportsmen and sportswomen: Olympians and national champions. Some prisoners had also the opportunity to practice some sports in the camp. These included wrestling and boxing, as well as games such as soccer, volleyball, and basketball. Mind sports were also popular among prisoners, particularly chess, but also card games. Renata Koszyk, an educator at the Auschwitz Memorial and curator of the exhibition dedicated to this topic, talks about sport and sportspeople in Auschwitz.
October 30, 2021
"On Auschwitz" (10): Living and sanitary conditions as well as camp clothing at Auschwitz
The horrible living conditions created by the SS authorities in the block and barracks in all parts of the Auschwitz complex as well as the appalling sanitary conditions contributed to the exhaustion and death of many prisoners. The clothing which was completely inadequate for the weather conditions also had negative effect on the condition and health of the prisoners. Dr. Jacek Lachendro of the Auschwitz Memorial Research Center talks about the living and sanitary conditions and types of camp clothing.
October 06, 2021
"On Auschwitz" (9): Auschwitz III-Monowitz camp
The Auschwitz III-Monowitz camp was established in October 1942 on the site of the displaced and expelled Polish village of Monowice, located 6 km from the Auschwitz I camp. It was connected with the construction of the synthetic rubber and fuel plant by a German chemical company IG Farbenindustrie. Dr. Piotr Setkiewicz, head of the Memorial Research Center, talks about the history of the third part of the Auschwitz camp complex. You can also listen to "On Auschwitz" (4) that explains the role of the German company IG Farbenindustrie in the expansion of Auschwitz, creation of Birkenau & why in March 1942 the concentration camp became also an extermination center for Jewish people:
September 22, 2021
"On Auschwitz" (8): Children at Auschwitz
Using only estimates based on the examination of the existing incomplete documentation, it can only be acknowledged that there were around 232,000 children aged under 15 and youth aged under 18 among the at least 1.3 million people deported to the German Nazi Auschwitz camp during the almost 5-year period of its operation. This number includes around 216,000 children and youth of Jewish origin, 11,000 Roma and Sinti, at least 3000 Polish, and over 1000 Belarusian, Russian, Ukrainian and other children and youth. The number of children registered as prisoners in the first years of operation of Auschwitz was low, but it steadily increased to reach a maximum in the latter half of 1944. Dr Wanda Witek Malicka from the Memorial’s Research Center talks about the fate of children in Auschwitz.
September 04, 2021
"On Auschwitz" (7): the fate of Roma and Sinti in Auschwitz
At least 23,000 Roma and Sinti people - including 11 thousand children were deported by the Nazi German regime to Auschwitz. After the Jews and Poles they are the third largest groups of the victims of the camp. The vast majority lost their lives as a result of hunger, brutal treatment, pseudo-medical experiments or were murdered in gas chambers. According to the documentation over 91 percent of the Roma deported to Auschwitz were murdered in the camp I spoke to Teresa Wontor Cichy from the Research Center of the Memorial about the fate or Roma and Sinti in Auschwitz.
August 09, 2021
"On Auschwitz" (6): the first crematorium and the Sonderkommando in Auschwitz
From the beginning of the existence of the German Auschwitz camp, the bodies of murdered prisoners were incinerated. The first crematorium on the grounds of the camp was opened in August 1940 and, of course, prisoners of the camp had to work there. The situation of this work group changed when the killing of people in gas chambers began in the camp. The Sonderkommando was then formed. Paweł Sawicki spoke to Dr. Igor Bartosik of the Memorial Research Centre about the beginnings of this special work unit.
July 22, 2021
"On Auschwitz" (5): Criminal pseudo-medical experiments in Auschwitz
A particularly drastic example of betrayal of medical ethics is the participation of many German doctors in the criminal pseudo-medical experiments carried out on concentration camp prisoners. Paweł Sawicki spoke to Teresa Wontor-Cichy from the Memorial Research Centre about the experiments conducted in Auschwitz.
July 08, 2021
"On Auschwitz" (4): Transformation of Auschwitz concentration camp into an extermination center
In planning the construction of Auschwitz, the Germans assumed that the camp would eventually hold some 30,000 prisoners. As late as the beginning of 1941, there were no indications that, over the next few months, both the plans for employment and the number of prisoners, as well as the function of the camp itself, would change dramatically. In this podcast we talk about the role played by the German chemical company IG Farbenindustrie in the expansion of the camp, why the Auschwitz II-Birkenau and Auschwitz III-Monowitz camps were established and why the expanding Auschwitz concentration camp also became an extermination camp for Jews in March 1942.
June 24, 2021
"On Auschwitz" (3): What to read? Literature based on the history of the camp.
Recent years have seen an increased interest among writers in the subject of Auschwitz. Their books are set in the realities of the camp - with very mixed results. Agnieszka Juskowiak-Sawicka talks to Wanda Witek-Malicka from the Research Center of the Memorial about whether it is worth reaching for these books and how to distinguish between valuable and less valuable literature.
May 23, 2021
"On Auschwitz" (2): Medicine in Auschwitz
The Auschwitz camp complex had an extensive organizational structure, which also included a separate department responsible for protecting the health of both the SS garrison and - at least in theory - the prisoners of the camp. Paweł Sawicki talks about medicine in Auschwitz with Teresa Wontor-Cichy, a historian at the Research Center of the Auschwitz Memorial.
May 20, 2021
"On Auschwitz" (1): The beginnings of Auschwitz
The German Nazi Auschwitz camp was established by the SS in the occupied city of Oświęcim, on the Polish territory annexed by the Third Reich at the beginning of World War II. Paweł Sawicki talks to Dr. Piotr Setkiewicz, head of the Museum Research Center, about the details of the decision-making process which led to the creation of the camp and about its first prisoners.
May 19, 2021