The history of Auschwitz, a small town located about sixty kilometers West of Krakow, was nothing special among the annals of other towns and villages of Poland until January 1945. During the Vistula-Oder operation, the Soviet troops came to the set order of the boundaries, occupying the area of Auschwitz and Birkenau (the name taken by the Germans after capturing the territory in 1939). What they saw the soldiers shook them. The inscription on the gates of Auschwitz, its meaning, disappearance and acquisition

What the Soviet soldiers saw

No, it’s not the mere existence of a death camp that caused the confusion of Soviet soldiers and officers. Some of our military men knew, sometimes from their own life experience, that institutions of a similar profile exist in the USSR, and not only in Kolyma. Shock caused pedantry and systematic process of mass deprivation of life. The cynical inscription on the gates of Auschwitz read: "Labor makes it free." Everything was put on a wide industrial foot, the things of the killed prisoners were systematically folded. Toothbrushes, shoes, suitcases, cut hair (they were used to insulate durable submarine hulls), suits, dresses and much more was sorted and loaded into separate stores. At the crematorium, the Soviet military found a whole lake, but instead of water it was filled with human fat. Ash served as a fertilizer for agricultural land. As it turned out later, there were several similar camps in fascist Germany, and each of them had its own “motto”. For example, above the gate of Buchenwald was written: "To each his own."

General information about the organization

The camp was arranged in German sensibly. After his release, part of it was even used by the People’s Commissariat of Internal Affairs for about two years for its intended purpose. The history of this place of mass destruction of "subhumans" began in 1939, after part of Polish territory became part of the Reich. The rest of the occupied lands for the most part throughout the war maintained the status of the occupied. In May 1940, work began to rebuild the old barracks of the Polish (and earlier Austro-Hungarian) army to isolate "undesirable elements", such as Jews, Gypsies, communists, homosexuals, members of the resistance, etc. The second floors were built, local evictions were made. residents, buildings appeared special purpose. From February 1942, new prisoners appeared in the camp - Soviet prisoners of war, mostly political workers. A robust barbed wire fence was erected, to which high voltage was applied, and then an inscription appeared on the gates of Auschwitz. Actually, the camp here was not one, but a whole network, which included three main camps, divided, in turn, into units. Each category of prisoners was kept separately, with the exception of those whose work could not be profitably used. Such destroyed immediately.

Thus, constantly expanding and improving technology, increased productivity of the largest concentration camp in Auschwitz in the Third Reich. The death factory worked at full capacity, its crematorium did not always cope with the load, and then the corpses were burned in the moats. Every day, several echelons with “human material” entered the gates, filtration was immediately carried out, and gas chambers, which were commissioned in 1943, were waited for those who had no value.


The inscription on the gates of Auschwitz fully corresponded to its murderously troublesome essence. Work really should have a lot. All the hard and dirty work was done by the prisoners themselves, and six thousand guards from the SS Division “Dead Head” only guarded and kept order. The furnaces interrupted their work for three hours a day - at this time ash was discharged from them. In total there were 46, 30 in the first two crematoriums and another 16 in the “second stage”. The total average productivity was eight thousand burned corpses per day.

It was not easy to estimate the number of victims of this death factory, the Nazis tried to hide the scale of the crime. Even the camp commander did not have a clue about the number of people killed by him, calling an approximate figure of two and a half million during the Nuremberg trials. According to historian J. Weller, more than 1.6 million prisoners entered and did not return to Auschwitz, of whom 1.1 million were Jews.

Medical experiments

It was here that the sinister Dr. Mengele conducted his research. Under his leadership, other doctors who, without any exaggeration, can be called killer doctors, did unthinkable things with prisoners. They infected prisoners with deadly viruses, performed amputations and abdominal operations without anesthesia, just for training. Experiments were carried out on the massive deprivation of childbearing functions by irradiation, sterilization and castration. The effects of chemicals on the body, the effects of freezing were studied, and many other anti-human experiments were carried out. Most savages suffered a well-deserved punishment. The first camp commandant, R. Hess, hoped to escape retribution, surrendering to the Allies, but was transferred by the British to the Poles. He was hanged near the crematorium number 1 in 1947. Well, to each his own.

Story with an inscription

Collectors are strange people, in their passion they sometimes violate the boundaries of reasonable. Who could have imagined that one of them was haunted by the inscription on the gates of Auschwitz, which became an open-air museum? However, at the end of 2009, it disappeared. Five people took part in the theft: they cut a fragment of the fence and cut it to pieces. The customer of the crime was a Swedish citizen, who so far managed to escape responsibility. How much he promised to pay performers - and still remains a mystery.

After restoration, the famous ominous inscription will take place in the museum exposition of Auschwitz, and they will not place it in its place.