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Railroad cars typical of those used to transport deportees to Auschwitz-Birkenau. Depending upon the embarkation point, travel to Auschwitz-Birkenau could take days, a week, or longer.  During that time, those locked inside the railroad cars had little to no food, little to no water, and no sanitation facilities.  Often, the vulnearable, including the young, the sick, and the old, perished before arriving at their destination.




The Main Guard House was the principle guard house as well as the main entryway into the camp.  In addition to a passageway for vehicles and pedestrians, it had a passageway for transports carrying deportees into the camp.  


Construction of the railroad spur into Birkenau facilitated the disembarcation of deportees, the theft of their property, and the selection of those to be gassed in nearby crematoria.



Intersection of the railroad spur that carried deportees into Birkenau with the village road adjacent to the camp.

Construction of the railroad spur was completed in the spring, 1944, in anticipation of the arrival of approximately 440,000 Hungarian Jews.


The "Gate of Death", located in the Main Guard House, Birkenau, was opened to allow transports carrying deportees into Birkenau.

The railroad spur, completed in May, 1944, facilitated the selection of newly arrived deportees.



View of the Main Guard House and railroad spur inside Birkenau.


View of the railroad spur in Birkenau.

The tower offered a 360 degree view of the camp and the surrounding area.


The street on the left, Hauptstrasse (High Street), led from the Main Gate to Crematoria II and III.


In May, 1944, construction of a three track railroad spur into Birkenau was completed.

Construction of the railroad spur allowed transports to carry deportees directly into the camp. This isolated the deportees from the outside world.  It also facilitated their processing and the theft of their possessions.


After disembarkation, prisoners were separated from their possessions.  Women, children, the elderly, and the infirmed were separated from the men.  Ordered to stand in one of two lines, the newly arrived deportees were subjected to their first selection. Those ordered to the left were gassed shortly after their arrival.  Those ordered to the right were sent into the camp to become forced laborers.


In this photograph, the railroad spur's first and second switches are depicted.  


Also depicted is one of the prisoners' greatest hazards, the freezing temperatures of southern Poland's winters.  Inadequately dressed, inadequately fed, beaten and overworked, many prisoners died as a result of exposure to the elements.




In addition to providing an essential means of transport for civilian populations, Europe's extensive railroad system was used to transport vast quantities of goods and war materials, including armaments and soldiers.  It was also used to transport people destined for Germany's extensive system of prisons and concentrations camps.

Individuals to be transported to concentration camps were rounded up and taken to embarkation sites.  There, they were forced into boxcars for a ride that could last a week or longer.  Hidden from view, they passed, inconspicuously, through towns, cities, and countryside to their destinations.  


Deportees arriving Birkenau were forced to disembark at the Judenrampe (Jewish Ramp) or, after its construction, along the railroad spur that extended into Birkenau itself.  


After disembarking from the boxcars, they were subjected to their first selection. 



Main Gate, Auschwitz Concentration and Extermination Camp.

Most deportees brought to Auschwitz-Birkenau were killed outright.  Those who were not selected to be killed were typically selected for forced labor.  Though a relatively few survived their imprisonment, most died as a result of malnutrition, disease, despair, exposure, or by being killed by guards.




This photograph was taken in the Podgórze Ghetto, also known as the Krakow Ghetto.


After being delivered by taxi to the edge of the ghetto, I walked toward the remaining portion of its once existing perimeter wall.  Uncertain as to the ghetto’s borders, it was unclear whether I remained within its limits. 





The one remaining synagogue in Oświeçim was abandoned during the war.  Decades later, it was refurbished and returned to its former use.


This photograph shows the light of a new day on the restored synagogue's floor and prayer benches. 


In less than five years, approximately 1,300,000 men, women, and children were transported to Auschwitz-Birkenau.  Of these, approximately 1,100,000 were murdered shortly after their arrival or died in the camp.  

Approximately 90 percent of those who were murdered or died were Jews.

Snow flakes falling over the Sola River, "Piastowski" Bridge, Oświęcim.

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