Map showing Operation Ketsu-Go, August 1945.

Map showing Operation Ketsu-Go, August 1945.

Map showing Operation Ketsu-Go, August 1945

Map showing Operation Ketsu-Go, August 1945.

The Soviet-German War 1941 - 1945

The enormous scale of this particularly ferocious war is hard to comprehend. It started with Russia totally disadvantaged, but the turn-around was awesome, as Stalin's war machine revved into action. Richard Overy explains how the Soviets turned disaster into a victory that led to the formation of a Communist superpower.


As agreed with the Allies at the Tehran Conference in November 1943 and the Yalta Conference in February 1945, the Soviet Union entered World War II's Pacific Theater within three months of the end of the war in Europe. The invasion began on 9 August 1945, exactly three months after the German surrender on May 8 (9 May, 0:43 Moscow time).

Although the commencement of the invasion fell between the American atomic bombing of Hiroshima, on 6 August, and only hours before the Nagasaki bombing on 9 August, the timing of the invasion had been planned well in advance and was determined by the timing of the agreements at Tehran and Yalta, the long-term buildup of Soviet forces in the Far East since Tehran, and the date of the German surrender some three months earlier on August 3, Marshal Vasilevsky reported to Premier Joseph Stalin that, if necessary, he could attack on the morning of 5 August.

At 11pm Trans-Baikal (UTC+10) time on 8 August 1945, Soviet foreign minister Vyacheslav Molotov informed Japanese ambassador Naotake Satō that the Soviet Union had declared war on Japan, and that from 9 August the Soviet government would consider itself to be at war with Japan. [22] At one minute past midnight Trans-Baikal time on 9 August 1945, the Soviets commenced their invasion simultaneously on three fronts to the east, west and north of Manchuria:

  • the Khingan–Mukden offensive operation (9 August 1945 – 2 September 1945) (Lesser Khingan-Mukden area)
  • the Harbin–Kirin offensive operation (9 August 1945 – 2 September 1945) (Harbin-Jilin area) and
  • the Sungari offensive operation (9 August 1945 – 2 September 1945).

Though the battle extended beyond the borders traditionally known as Manchuria—that is, the traditional lands of the Manchus—the coordinated and integrated invasions of Japan's northern territories has also been called the Battle of Manchuria. [23] It has also been referred to as the Manchurian strategic offensive operation.

The Russo-Japanese War of the early 20th century resulted in a Japanese victory and the Treaty of Portsmouth by which, in conjunction with other later events including the Mukden Incident and Japanese invasion of Manchuria in September 1931, Japan eventually gained control of Korea, Manchuria and South Sakhalin. In the late 1930s there were a number of Soviet-Japanese border incidents, the most significant being the Battle of Lake Khasan (Changkufeng Incident, July–August 1938) and the Battle of Khalkhin Gol (Nomonhan Incident, May–September 1939), which led to the Soviet–Japanese Neutrality Pact [24] [25] of April 1941. The Neutrality Pact freed up forces from the border incidents and enabled the Soviets to concentrate on their war with Germany, and the Japanese to concentrate on their southern expansion into Asia and the Pacific Ocean.

With success at Stalingrad, and the eventual defeat of Germany becoming increasingly certain, the Soviet attitude to Japan changed, both publicly, with Stalin making speeches denouncing Japan, and "privately", with the Soviets building up forces and supplies in the Far East. At the Tehran Conference (November 1943), amongst other things, Stalin, Winston Churchill, and Franklin Roosevelt agreed that the Soviet Union would enter the war against Japan once Germany was defeated. Stalin faced a dilemma: he wanted to avoid a two-front war at almost any cost yet the Soviet leader also wanted to extract gains in the Far East as well as Europe. The only way Stalin could make Far Eastern gains without a two-front war would be for Germany to capitulate before Japan.

Due to the Soviet–Japanese Neutrality Pact, the Soviets made it policy to intern Allied aircrews who landed in Soviet territory following operations against Japan, although airmen held in the Soviet Union under such circumstances were usually allowed to "escape" after some period of time. [26] Nevertheless, even before the defeat of Germany the Soviet buildup in the Far East steadily accelerated. By early 1945 it had become apparent to the Japanese that the Soviets were preparing to invade Manchuria, though they were unlikely to attack prior to Germany's defeat. In addition to their problems in the Pacific, the Japanese realised they needed to determine when and where a Soviet invasion would occur.

At the Yalta Conference (February 1945), amongst other things, Stalin secured from Roosevelt the promise of Stalin's Far Eastern territorial desires, in return for agreeing to enter the Pacific War within two or three months of the defeat of Germany. By the middle of March 1945, things were not going well in the Pacific for the Japanese, and they withdrew their elite troops from Manchuria to support actions in the Pacific. Meanwhile, the Soviets continued their Far Eastern buildup. The Soviets had decided that they did not wish to renew the Neutrality Pact. The terms of the Neutrality Pact required that 12 months before its expiry, the Soviets must advise the Japanese of this, so on 5 April 1945 they informed the Japanese that they did not wish to renew the treaty. [27] This caused the Japanese considerable concern, [28] [29] but the Soviets went to great efforts to assure the Japanese that the treaty would still be in force for another twelve months, and that the Japanese had nothing to worry about. [30]

On 9 May 1945 (Moscow time), Germany surrendered, meaning that if the Soviets were to honour the Yalta agreement, they would need to enter war with Japan by 9 August 1945. The situation continued to deteriorate for the Japanese, and they were now the only Axis power left in the war. They were keen to remain at peace with the Soviets and extend the Neutrality Pact, [30] and they were also keen to achieve an end to the war. Since Yalta they had repeatedly approached, or tried to approach, the Soviets in order to extend the Neutrality Pact, and to enlist the Soviets in negotiating peace with the Allies. The Soviets did nothing to discourage these Japanese hopes, and drew the process out as long as possible (whilst continuing to prepare their invasion forces). [30] One of the roles of the Cabinet of Admiral Baron Suzuki, which took office in April 1945, was to try to secure any peace terms short of unconditional surrender. [31] In late June, they approached the Soviets (the Neutrality Pact was still in place), inviting them to negotiate peace with the Allies in support of Japan, providing them with specific proposals and in return they offered the Soviets very attractive territorial concessions. Stalin expressed interest, and the Japanese awaited the Soviet response. The Soviets continued to avoid providing a response. The Potsdam Conference was held from 16 July to 2 August 1945. On 24 July the Soviet Union recalled all embassy staff and families from Japan. On 26 July the conference produced the Potsdam Declaration whereby Churchill, Harry S. Truman and Chiang Kai-shek (the Soviet Union was not officially at war with Japan) demanded the unconditional surrender of Japan. The Japanese continued to wait for the Soviet response, and avoided responding to the declaration. [30]

The Japanese had been monitoring Trans-Siberian Railway traffic and Soviet activity to the east of Manchuria and in conjunction with the Soviet delaying tactics, this suggested to them that the Soviets would not be ready to invade east Manchuria before the end of August. They did not have any real idea, and no confirming evidence, as to when or where any invasion would occur. [17] They had estimated that an attack was not likely in August 1945 or before Spring 1946 but the Stavka had planned for a mid-August 1945 offensive and had concealed the buildup of a force of 90 divisions. Many had crossed Siberia in their vehicles to avoid straining the rail link. [32]

The Japanese were caught completely by surprise when the Soviets declared war an hour before midnight on 8 August 1945, and invaded simultaneously on three fronts just after midnight on 9 August.

Soviets Edit

The Far East Command, [2] under Marshal of the Soviet Union Aleksandr Vasilevsky, had a plan to conquer Manchuria that was simple but huge in scale, [1] calling for a massive pincer movement over all of Manchuria. This was to be performed by the Transbaikal Front from the west and by the 1st Far Eastern Front from the east the 2nd Far Eastern Front was to attack the center of the pocket from the north. [2] The only Soviet equivalent of a theater command that operated during the war (apart from the short-lived 1941 "Directions" in the west), Far East Command, consisted of three Red Army fronts.

End 1943, the Axis powers lose ground on three major fronts: USSR, the Mediterranean and Asia-Pacific.

Allies concentrate on Germany before seeking victory over Japan.

Normandy landings, June 1944, landings in Provence August 1944.

Surrender by Germany, 8 May 1945.

Official Japanese surrender signed on 2 September 1945.

Soviets invade Czechoslovakia

On the night of August 20, 1968, approximately 200,000 Warsaw Pact troops and 5,000 tanks invade Czechoslovakia to crush the “Prague Spring”𠅊 brief period of liberalization in the communist country. Czechoslovakians protested the invasion with public demonstrations and other non-violent tactics, but they were no match for the Soviet tanks. The liberal reforms of First Secretary Alexander Dubcek were repealed and “normalization” began under his successor Gustav Husak.

Pro-Soviet communists seized control of Czechoslovakia’s democratic government in 1948. Soviet leader Joseph Stalin imposed his will on Czechoslovakia’s communist leaders, and the country was run as a Stalinist state until 1964, when a gradual trend toward liberalization began. However, modest economic reform was not enough for many Czechoslovakians, and beginning in 1966 students and intellectuals began to agitate for changes to education and an end to censorship. First Secretary Antonin Novotny’s problems were made worse by opposition from Slovakian leaders, among them Alexander Dubcek and Gustav Husak, who accused the central government of being dominated by Czechs.

In January 1968, Novotny was replaced as first secretary by Alexander Dubcek, who was unanimously elected by the Czechoslovakian Central Committee. To secure his power base, Dubcek appealed to the public to voice support for his proposed reforms. The response was overwhelming, and Czech and Slovak reformers took over the communist leadership.

In April, the new leadership unveiled its �tion Program,” promising democratic elections, greater autonomy for Slovakia, freedom of speech and religion, the abolition of censorship, an end to restrictions on travel, and major industrial and agricultural reforms. Dubcek declared that he was offering “socialism with a human face.” The Czechoslovakian public greeted the reforms joyously, and Czechoslovakia’s long stagnant national culture began to bloom during what became known as the Prague Spring. In late June, a popular petition called the “Two Thousand Words” was published calling for even more rapid progress to full democracy. The Soviet Union and its satellites Poland and East Germany were alarmed by what appeared to be the imminent collapse of communism in Czechoslovakia.

Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev warned Dubcek to halt his reforms, but the Czechoslovakian leader was buoyed by his popularity and dismissed the veiled threats. Dubcek declined to attend a special meeting of the Warsaw Pact powers in July, but on August 2 he agreed to meet with Brezhnev in the Slovakian town of Cierny. The next day, representatives of European Europe’s communist parties met in the Slovakian capital of Bratislava, and a communiquÉ was issued suggesting that pressure would be eased on Czechoslovakia in exchange for tighter control over the press.

However, on the night of August 20, nearly 200,000 Soviet, East German, Polish, Hungarian, and Bulgarian troops invaded Czechoslovakia in the largest deployment of military force in Europe since the end of World War II. Armed resistance to the invasion was negligible, but protesters immediately took to the streets, tearing down streets signs in an effort to confuse the invaders. In Prague, Warsaw Pact troops moved to seize control of television and radio stations. At Radio Prague, journalists refused to give up the station and some 20 people were killed before it was captured. Other stations went underground and succeeded in broadcasting for several days before their locations were discovered.

Dubcek and other government leaders were detained and taken to Moscow. Meanwhile, widespread demonstrations continued on the street, and more than 100 protesters were shot to death by Warsaw Pact troops. Many foreign nations, including China, Yugoslavia, and Romania, condemned the invasion, but no major international action was taken. Much of Czechoslovakia’s intellectual and business elite fled en masse to the West.

On August 27, Dubcek returned to Prague and announced in an emotional address that he had agreed to curtail his reforms. Hard-line communists assumed positions in his government, and Dubcek was forced gradually to dismiss his progressive aides. He became increasingly isolated from both the public and his government. After anti-Soviet rioting broke out in April 1969, he was removed as first secretary and replaced by Gustav Husak, a “realist” who was willing to work with the Soviets. Dubcek was later expelled from the Communist Party and made a forest inspector based in Bratislava.

In 1989, as communist governments collapsed across Eastern Europe, Prague again became the scene of demonstrations for democratic reform. In December 1989, Gustav Husak’s government conceded to demands for a multiparty parliament. Husak resigned, and for the first time in nearly two decades Dubcek returned to politics as chairman of the new parliament, which subsequently elected playwright and former dissident Vaclav Havel as president of Czechoslovakia. Havel had come to fame during the Prague Spring, and after the Soviet crackdown his plays were banned and his passport confiscated.

The Collapse of Atomic Diplomacy…Again?

The end of the Pacific War historiography of “Atomic Diplomacy” seems destined for a second round of debunking, after the 1980’s declassification of WW2 Ultra files, with what looks like a “Jon Parchell talking to Japanese scholars about Commander Mitsuo Fuchida’s version of Midway” moment. [1]

That is, an accepted American Pacific War historiography is about to be ‘up ended’ by Japanese language scholarship little/unknown in English language for years after its appearance. In this particular case, the ‘scholarship’ is a 2011 NHK documentary titled as follows:

“Atomic bombing – top secret information that was never utilized”

Currently accessible link:

Atomic Bomb Pit #2 – B-29 BocksCar’s Loading Site on Tinian. This was the plane that killed Nagasaki. Japanese intelligence tracked it, but Japanese military leaders could not bring themselves to stop it.

The NHK documentary answers questions that “Atomic Diplomacy” has never bothered to ask. Specifically “What did the Imperial Japanese Military & Government know about the American nuclear weapon program, when did it know it, and what did it do about it.”

NHK’s documentary lays out the following:

  1. The Japanese military knew of the Manhattan project in 1943 and started its own nuclear weapons programs (IJA & IJN) as a result.[2]
  2. The Imperial Japanese Military gave up these nuclear programs in June 1945. [3]
  3. The Imperial Japanese Military & Foreign Ministry were informed of the American Atomic test on July 16, 1945 and refused to believe it was a nuclear detonation.
  4. The code breakers of the Imperial Japanese Army had been tracking the combat operations of the 509th Composite Group including both A-bomb drops.[4] The Imperial General Staff was told of the special message to Washington DC for the Hiroshima attack, sat on the information, and warned no one.
  5. The Imperial General Staff repeated this non-communication performance for the 2 nd nuclear attack on Nagasaki.

Not having Japanese language skills myself, I had a link to a 2013 English language translations of the documentary sent to me by an acquaintance.

(Special Post for August 15 – Part 1) Japan’s General Staff Office Knew About Hiroshima and Nagasaki Atomic Bombing in Advance and Did Nothing, According to 2011 NHK Documentary


(Special Post for August 15 – Part 2) Japan’s General Staff Office Knew About Hiroshima and Nagasaki Atomic Bombing in Advance and Did Nothing, According to 2011 NHK Documentary


The author of these posts is an English language ex-pat whose blog was focused upon the Fukashima earthquake and nuclear meltdown.

Too the extent I have been able to validate the NHK documentary, it checks out.

Specifically, excluding Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the 509 th Composite Group dropped 49 conventional “Pumpkin bombs” on 20, 23, 26 and 29 July and 8 and 14 August 1945 against 14 different targets in mid-sized Japanese cities. [5] These operations gave the IJA codebreaking unit that NHK profiled all the time it needed to take advantage of the indifferent quality of the code clerks of the 20 th Air Force. In particular, the 20 th Air Forces use of uncoded header text starting with a “V” to each message identifying B-29’s as to the island in the Marianas they were based upon.

“June 1945. The special intelligence unit noticed something abnormal. They caught mysterious call signs that they had never heard before. Hasegawa says, “They were call signs in V600s. We’d seen 400s, 500s and 700s, and they come from Saipan, Guam, Tinian. But now, V600s. Something was wrong, we thought.”
They were coming from Tinian Island. On the island that had been using call signs in 700s, there was now a new group of B29 bombers using call signs in 600s. What was their purpose? The unit strengthened its monitoring capability to watch closely.
Tinian Island was taken by the US in August 1944. North Field of Tinian Island, which was the base for Japan bombing raids. A special unit arrived there in June 1945 and started using call signs in V600s. It was the 509th Composite Group, which later dropped atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.”

This sort of mistake was the thing that low level intelligence supporting air operations lived by. Called “Y-Service” in the UK’s Royal Air Force (RAF) and copied by the USAAF with its “Radio Squadron Mobile and the US Navy carrier group flag radio teams. This low level signals intelligence system was pioneered by the German language skilled female signals officers of the RAF in 1939-41 first in the Battle of Britain and then fingerprinting the deployment of the Luftwaffe’s night fighter force. The rapid direction finding, listening on open communications and traffic analysis of Luftwaffe unit code headers like those of the 20 th Air Force let RAF “WAAF” and Royal Navy “WRN” female auxiliaries build Luftwaffe air order of battle. [6]

The failures of the 20 th Air Force had been picked up in “Ultra” code breaking traffic in Washington DC that resulted in a “Visitation” by War Department Military Intelligence in March 1945 to look at the cryptological security of its code clerks and pilots. Much was found, but the War Department Ultra officers were more involved with control-based intrigue with the Navy against the USAAF’s 7 th Air Forces Radio Squadron Mobile than looking at low level vulnerabilities like the Japanese discovered.

So the Japanese Army code breakers had the signals intelligence version of a “ring side seat” for both the Hiroshima and Nagasaki strikes.

The utter failure of the Imperial General staff to act upon intelligence of the Nagasaki strike – which they had both the intelligence to track and the planes to intercept – is a window into the mind set of the Imperial Japanese military for Ketsu-go.

They had to believe there was no second atomic bomb for their decisive battle to happen. So they believed and didn’t act…and Nagasaki died.

This fantasy belief based neo-Samurai fanaticism could only have been broken by a second atomic bomb.

With the arrival of the English translation of the NHK documentary after the Ultra file declassification’s, believers in “Atomic Diplomacy” appears to now be in the same belief-based situation the Japanese flag ranks were on August 10, 1945.

Sources & Notes:

[1] Jon Parchell is the co-author of “Shattered Sword: The Untold Story of the Battle of Midway” and Mitsuo Fuchida was the senior flight commander of the First Air Fleet of the First Carrier Division who led the attack on Pearl Harbor and ended the war as a captain. After the WW2 he and Masatake Okumiya co-authored the book Midway, the Battle that Doomed Japan, the Japanese Navy’s Story. (See link:–A-Tale-of-Three-Whopper)

[2] The Imperial Japanese Military’ s atomic bomb or “Genzai Bakuden” program had a two separate Army and Navy projects the Army’s Ni-Go program and the Navy’s F-Go. Neither of these programs produced a working device, despite 1946 rumors about a test near Hungnam, Korea that were later incorporated into the 1985 book “Japan’s Secret War: Japan’s Race Against Time to Build Its Own Atomic Bomb.”

The pages 720-21 of the closing chapter of John Prados’ 1995 “COMBINED FLEET DECODED: The Secret History of American Intelligence and the Japanese Navy in World War II” mentions the IJN F-Go nuclear program.

Mr. Robert Pfeffer, Physical Scientist, U.S. Army Nuclear and CWMD Agency, “Japan Had an Atomic Bomb (Genzai Bakuden) Program in WWII?”, Combating WMD Journal Issue 7, [Spring/Summer 2011] pages 16 – 19

Japanese Atomic Bomb Project, Wednesday, May 25, 2016

[3] The primary reasons being wishful thinking about American nuclear capabilities, B-29 damage to urban areas removing the industrial means and the higher priority of implementing Ketsu-Go defense plan for Kyushu. “Ketsu-Go” was a series of strategy options outlined in an 8 April 1945 Imperial Japanese Military Directive. It stated that the Imperial Military would endeavor to crush the Americans while the invasion force was still at sea with suicide or “Tokko” forces.

See: Dr. K. Jack Bauer’s and Dr. Alan C. Coox’s “OLYMPIC VS KETSU-GO” Marine Corps Gazette, August 1965, Vol. 49, No. 8., reprinted at the Hyperwar site here:


[4] It is not surprising that the Imperial Japanese Army was so successful at tracking the 509 th Composite Group. The horrid signals insecurity of the USAAF in general and 20 th Air Force in particular has been a consistent theme in secret US government cryptographic histories both at the time and immediately after WW2.



The USAAF suffered from a much smaller base of officers compared to its eventual size compared to the rest of the War Department and this consistently showed up in its code clerks indifferent-to-poor habits in the use of the M-209 Hagelan encoding machine. The M-209 was a US Army medium-level cryptographic system equivalent to the German Enigma. It was used at Division levels and below in the ground forces and theoretically at Wing and below in the Army Air Forces. The M-209 could and should have had a daily change of machine setting to prevent systematic break-ins over long periods. The only theater where this seems to have happened consistently was in General Douglas MacArthur’s SWPA as both Army divisions in England, and USAAF units world wide, had their M-209 messages broken consistently by German and Japanese code breaking units.

Setsuo Fukutomi, “Mathematics and War in Japan.” pgs 153-159 in Mathematics and War, © 2003, Editors: Booß-Bavnbek, Bernhelm, Høyrup, Jens (Eds.) Birkhauser, ISBN:978-3-7643-1634-1

KOTANI Ken, “Japanese Intelligence in WWII: Successes and Failures,” NIDS Security Reports pages 2 – 27

Japanese Intelligence Successes in World War II

Christos Military and Intelligence Corner blog posts:

Japanese codebreakers of WWII

The American M-209 cipher machine

[5] The “Pumpkin Bomb” was the shell of a “Fat Man” plutonium bomb filled with over 5,000-lbs of conventional explosive. It’s operational use and combat effects were well documented, if somewhat ignored by succeeding generations of historians compared to the two nuclear strikes on Japan.



Dates of Survey: 20 October-16 November 1945

Date of Publication: May 1947

History of 509th Composite Group

Activation to 15 August 1945

[6] Aileen Clayton’s memoir “The Enemy is Listening” is the bible of the creation of the “Y-Service” and is a “must read” for understanding intelligence support to air forces in WW2. It is also important in helping to frame the bureaucratic intelligence wars between the senior political/flag rank “Ultra” level code breaking, which was all about centralization and control, versus the need for immediate & actionable intelligence for the soldier/sailor/airman/marine.

For more modern “Y-Service” class intelligence scholarship see the following:

Dr Diane Putney, “USAAF Intelligence and the European War – Daylight Strategic Air War in Europe,” found in

Captain Gilles K. Van Nederveen, USAF, “Wizardry for Air Campaigns Signals Intelligence Support to the Cockpit,” Research Paper 2001-03, August 2001, College of Aerospace Doctrine,, Research and Education, Air University, Maxwell AFB AL 36112-6428

John Stubbington, “Kept in the Dark – The Denial to Bomber Command of Vital Ultra and Other Intelligence During World War II,” Pen & Sword, 2010 432 pages, b/w illustrations, hardcover, Electronic Edition Aug 13, 2013, Amazon Digital Services, : B007ZD13CY, ISBN-13: 978-1848841833

[7] The issue of US Military centralization and control of low level signal intelligence units like the USAAF’s 7 th RSM for “detailed analysis” versus the USAAF’s demand for distributed and immediate exploitation, plus the intrigues there in, are detailed in the following declassified Ultra documents:



SRH- 200 – OP-20-G FILE ON ARMY-NAVY COLLABORATION 1931-1945 PART 2 (1 JUNE 1944 – 22 AUGUST 1945)

11 thoughts on &ldquoThe Collapse of Atomic Diplomacy…Again?&rdquo

Thanks for the info. But is this really surprising? The potential for nuclear bombs was well known in the scientific community before WWII — which is why both Germany and Japan had their own nuclear programs. It is tough to keep secrets from the enemy — remember that VP Truman knew nothing about the development & testing of US nuclear weapons, while Stalin was getting up-to-the-minute reports. The US had been fire bombing most Japanese cities of any size for months — and the Japanese had been able to do almost nothing to stop those attacks, since their air force was so badly depleted.

Only Hiroshima and Nagaski and a couple of other cities had been left untouched. Without breaking any codes, some of the Japanese staff must have wondered what special hell awaited those places. Isn’t it more likely that the Japanese Imperial Staff did nothing about the information on the attack on Nagasaki because in reality there was nothing they could have done?

By the way, let me put in a plug for the movie “Midway”, which also features the important role played by code-breakers. Excellent movie! Although it left this viewer with a sad realization about how far we in the West have fallen in terms of attitudes & confidence.

I don’t recall where or how, but I read about this earlier in the week at some other site.

They had to believe there was no second atomic bomb for their decisive battle to happen. So they believed and didn’t act…and Nagasaki died.This fantasy belief based neo-Samurai fanaticism could only have been broken by a second atomic bomb.One was not enough.

Yet we still hear some “peace-lovers” saying that the US should have invited the Japanese to a demonstration atomic bomb explosion somewhere.

Gavin made exactly the points that I was about to make only more literately.

The B-29s and their fighter escorts dominated the skies over Japan and there was very little the Japanese HQ could do to save any city from bombing.

A supporting fact is that General Curtis LeMay ordered the defensive guns stripped from the B-29s early in the bombing campaign. The lack of Japanese fighter opposition and the American covering fighters meant that the gun-less B-29s could deliver a heavier bomb load to target.

The American fighters usually split off and went into ground attack mode over Japan.

One commenter mentions high altitude as a problem for Japanese fighters but the bombing was poor and LeMay changed the tactics to low altitude when he took over.

There were significant loses to flak and fighters.

From the site linked by Mike K: “B-29s carried out around 33,000 sorties [against Japan] with a loss rate of 1.38% …”

That is astonishingly low. Also, that is an average over the entire war, and it is fairly clear that Japan’s ability to inflict losses declined substantially as the war went on and Japan’s industrial capacity and fuel supplies were diminished.

Back to the obvious conclusion — there was very little that Japan’s military could have done against the nuclear attacks. From other books on those two attacks, it seems that weather was more of an issue for those bombers than Japanese opposition.

I have read, don’t remember where but maybe “Downfall” by Richard Frank, that the reason the Japanese thought there couldn’t be a second bomb was they sent a physicist team to Hiroshima to collect and analyze samples, and determined it was a U-235 bomb. From their own A-bomb program, the Japanese had a good sense of how hard it was to separate enough U-235 isotope to make a bomb, so they thought it impossible that the US could have two. (NOT blind loyalty to Ketsu-Go, but very rational.)

Of course, that was Little Boy. Fat Man at Nagasaki was a Pu-239 implosion bomb and the reactor at Hanford was turning out enough Pu-239 to make 2 or 3 bombs a month. And as soon as the Japanese determined that the Nagasaki bomb was Pu-239 and their physicists described how Pu-239 could be made in quantity, and if the US could produce one it had the capacity–a reactor–to produce many more and they gave up. What surprised them was that the US had made a bomb out of plutonium–which really was a technological tour de force for 1945. The Japanese scientists knew all the basic science of how to make Pu-239, but turning it into a bomb was hugely more complicated than a simple U-235 “gun,” which we never tested because we were so sure it would work.

So, yeah, for reasons the US didn’t understand at the time, the Hiroshima (uranium) bomb was NOT enough, it needed a plutonium bomb to get the message across. And if you ignore what people actually knew at the time, you could argue that the Hiroshima bomb was the unnecessary one because it used the “wrong” fissionable material to intimidate them into surrender. One bomb might have been enough, if it was Pu-239 based.

Mhj is right and I agree it was in Frank’s book.

As to losses, Iwo Jima was taken as a fighter base and a refuge for wounded B 29s. The percentage was low, and probably declined toward the end but there were still a lot of B 29s that made emergency landings. The engines were a problem all along.

Japanese science had no idea that Plutonium existed until August 9, 1945.

It’s discovery at Nagasaki is what killed Ketsu-Go.

Logically, Plutonium (PU) had to be a by-product of uranium enrichment and easier to separate chemically than U-235 from U-238.

That is, PU atomic bombs had to be some larger than one multiple of U-235 atomic bombs.

Thus America had the option of “Nuking Japan from orbit” (30K feet might as well have been orbit for Japanese fighter planes) instead of invading.

That was “Ketsu-Gone” as far as the Imperial Japanese Military leadership was concerned.

Plutonium was discovered by Fermi in 1934 in Rome, so it’s pretty certain that the Japanese knew about it. Whether they could have detected it quickly enough to enter into the calculations of the government is something else. It would have been mixed in with a lot of other fission products, some with very short half lives that would have been challenging given the techniques of the time. They may have been able to tell that two completely different bombs had been used. Fermi’s “hesperium” was a mixture of barium, krypton, and other elements.

Plutonium-238 and PU-239 were isolated as elements in 1940 and 1941 respectively.

Text via wikipedia article link:

“Plutonium (specifically, plutonium-238) was first produced and isolated on December 14, 1940, and chemically identified on February 23, 1941, by Glenn T. Seaborg, Edwin McMillan, Joseph W. Kennedy, and Arthur Wahl by deuteron bombardment of uranium in the 60-inch (150 cm) cyclotron at the Berkeley Radiation Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley.[57][58] In the 1940 experiment, neptunium-238 was created directly by the bombardment but decayed by beta emission with a half-life of a little over two days, which indicated the formation of element 94.[31]

A paper documenting the discovery was prepared by the team and sent to the journal Physical Review in March 1941,[31] but publication was delayed until a year after the end of World War II due to security concerns.[59] At the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge, Egon Bretscher and Norman Feather realized that a slow neutron reactor fuelled with uranium would theoretically produce substantial amounts of plutonium-239 as a by-product. They calculated that element 94 would be fissile, and had the added advantage of being chemically different from uranium, and could easily be separated from it.[21]

McMillan had recently named the first transuranic element neptunium after the planet Neptune, and suggested that element 94, being the next element in the series, be named for what was then considered the next planet, Pluto.[4][note 2] Nicholas Kemmer of the Cambridge team independently proposed the same name, based on the same reasoning as the Berkeley team.[21] Seaborg originally considered the name “plutium”, but later thought that it did not sound as good as “plutonium”.[61] He chose the letters “Pu” as a joke, in reference to the interjection “P U” to indicate an especially disgusting smell, which passed without notice into the periodic table.[note 3] Alternative names considered by Seaborg and others were “ultimium” or “extremium” because of the erroneous belief that they had found the last possible element on the periodic table.[63]”

Map showing Operation Ketsu-Go, August 1945. - History

Timeline with Photos and Text




July 29 - Adolf Hitler becomes leader of National Socialist (Nazi) Party.




September 8 - Germany admitted to League of Nations.


October 29 - Stock Market on Wall Street crashes.


September 14 - Germans elect Nazis making them the 2nd largest political party in Germany.


November 8 - Franklin Roosevelt elected President of the United States.


January 30 - Adolf Hitler becomes Chancellor of Germany.

February 27 - The German Reichstag burns.

March 12 - First concentration camp opened at Oranienburg outside Berlin.

March 23 - Enabling Act gives Hitler dictatorial power.

April 1 - Nazi boycott of Jewish owned shops.

May 10 - Nazis burn books in Germany.

In June - Nazis open Dachau concentration camp.

July 14 - Nazi Party declared Germany's only political party.

October 14 - Germany quits the League of Nations.


June 30 - The Nazi "Night of the Long Knives."

July 25 - Nazis murder Austrian Chancellor Dollfuss.

August 2 - German President Hindenburg dies.

August 19 - Adolf Hitler becomes Führer of Germany.


March 16 - Hitler violates the Treaty of Versailles by introducing military conscription.

September 15 - German Jews stripped of rights by Nuremberg Race Laws.


February 10 - The German Gestapo is placed above the law.

March 7 - German troops occupy the Rhineland.

May 9 - Mussolini's Italian forces take Ethiopia.

July 18 - Civil war erupts in Spain.

August 1 - Olympic games begin in Berlin.

October 1 - Franco declared head of Spanish State.


June 11 - Soviet leader Josef Stalin begins a purge of Red Army generals.

November 5 - Hitler reveals war plans during Hossbach Conference.


March 12/13 - Germany announces 'Anschluss' (union) with Austria.

August 12 - German military mobilizes.

September 30 - British Prime Minister Chamberlain appeases Hitler at Munich.

October 15 - German troops occupy the Sudetenland Czech government resigns.

November 9/10 - Kristallnacht - The Night of Broken Glass.

See also: The History Place - Holocaust Timeline

1939 Return to Top of Page

January 30, 1939 - Hitler threatens Jews during Reichstag speech.

March 15/16 - Nazis take Czechoslovakia.

March 28, 1939 - Spanish Civil war ends.

May 22, 1939 - Nazis sign 'Pact of Steel' with Italy.

August 23, 1939 - Nazis and Soviets sign Pact.

August 25, 1939 - Britain and Poland sign a Mutual Assistance Treaty.

August 31, 1939 - British fleet mobilizes Civilian evacuations begin from London.

September 1, 1939 - Nazis invade Poland.

September 3, 1939 - Britain, France, Australia and New Zealand declare war on Germany.

September 4, 1939 - British Royal Air Force attacks the German Navy.

September 5, 1939 - United States proclaims its neutrality German troops cross the Vistula River in Poland.

September 10, 1939 - Canada declares war on Germany Battle of the Atlantic begins.

September 17, 1939 - Soviets invade Poland.

September 27, 1939 - Warsaw surrenders to Nazis Reinhard Heydrich becomes the leader of new Reich Main Security Office (RSHA).

See also: The History Place - Biography of Reinhard Heydrich.

September 29, 1939 - Nazis and Soviets divide up Poland.

In October - Nazis begin euthanasia on sick and disabled in Germany.

November 8, 1939 - Assassination attempt on Hitler fails.

November 30, 1939 - Soviets attack Finland.

December 14, 1939 - Soviet Union expelled from the League of Nations.

1940 Return to Top of Page

January 8, 1940 - Rationing begins in Britain.

March 12, 1940 - Finland signs a peace treaty with Soviets.

March 16, 1940 - Germans bomb Scapa Flow naval base near Scotland.

April 9, 1940 - Nazis invade Denmark and Norway.

May 10, 1940 - Nazis invade France, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands Winston Churchill becomes British Prime Minister.

May 15, 1940 - Holland surrenders to the Nazis.

May 26, 1940 - Evacuation of Allied troops from Dunkirk begins.

May 28, 1940 - Belgium surrenders to the Nazis.

June 3, 1940 - Germans bomb Paris Dunkirk evacuation ends.

June 10, 1940 - Norway surrenders to the Nazis Italy declares war on Britain and France.

June 14, 1940 - Germans enter Paris.

June 16, 1940 - Marshal Pétain becomes French Prime Minister.

June 18, 1940 - Hitler and Mussolini meet in Munich Soviets begin occupation of the Baltic States.

June 22, 1940 - France signs an armistice with Nazi Germany.

June 23, 1940 - Hitler tours Paris.

June 28, 1940 - Britain recognizes General Charles de Gaulle as the Free French leader.

July 1, 1940 - German U-boats attack merchant ships in the Atlantic.

July 5, 1940 - French Vichy government breaks off relations with Britain.

July 10, 1940 - Battle of Britain begins.

July 23, 1940 - Soviets take Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.

August 3-19 - Italians occupy British Somaliland in East Africa.

August 13, 1940 - German bombing offensive against airfields and factories in England.

August 15, 1940 - Air battles and daylight raids over Britain.

August 17, 1940 - Hitler declares a blockade of the British Isles.

August 23/24 - First German air raids on Central London.

August 25/26 - First British air raid on Berlin.

September 3, 1940 - Hitler plans Operation Sea Lion (the invasion of Britain).

September 7, 1940 - German Blitz against Britain begins.

September 13, 1940 - Italians invade Egypt.

September 15, 1940 - Massive German air raids on London, Southampton, Bristol, Cardiff, Liverpool and Manchester.

September 16, 1940 - United States military conscription bill passed.

September 27, 1940 - Tripartite (Axis) Pact signed by Germany, Italy and Japan.

October 7, 1940 - German troops enter Romania.

October 12, 1940 - Germans postpone Operation Sea Lion until Spring of 1941.

October 28, 1940 - Italy invades Greece.

November 5, 1940 - Roosevelt re-elected as U.S. president.

November 10/11 - Torpedo bomber raid cripples the Italian fleet at Taranto, Italy.

November 14/15 - Germans bomb Coventry, England.

November 20, 1940 - Hungary joins the Axis Powers.

November 22, 1940 - Greeks defeat the Italian 9th Army.

November 23, 1940 - Romania joins the Axis Powers.

December 9/10 - British begin a western desert offensive in North Africa against the Italians.

December 29/30 - Massive German air raid on London.

1941 Return to Top of Page

1942 Return to Top of Page

January 1, 1942 - Declaration of the United Nations signed by 26 Allied nations.

January 13, 1942 - Germans begin a U-boat offensive along east coast of USA.

January 20, 1942 - SS Leader Heydrich holds the Wannsee Conference to coordinate the "Final Solution of the Jewish Question."

January 21, 1942 - Rommel's counter-offensive from El Agheila begins.

January 26, 1942 - First American forces arrive in Great Britain.

In April - Japanese-Americans sent to relocation centers.

April 23, 1942 - German air raids begin against cathedral cities in Britain.

May 8, 1942 - German summer offensive begins in the Crimea.

May 26, 1942 - Rommel begins an offensive against the Gazala Line.

May 27, 1942 - SS Leader Heydrich attacked in Prague.

May 30, 1942 - First thousand-bomber British air raid (against Cologne).

In June - Mass murder of Jews by gassing begins at Auschwitz.

June 4, 1942 - Heydrich dies of wounds.

June 5, 1942 - Germans besiege Sevastopol.

June 10, 1942 - Nazis liquidate Lidice in reprisal for Heydrich's assassination.

June 21, 1942 - Rommel captures Tobruk.

June 25, 1942 - General Dwight D. Eisenhower arrives in London.

June 30, 1942 - Rommel reaches El Alamein near Cairo, Egypt.

July 1-30 - First Battle of El Alamein.

July 3, 1942 - Germans take Sevastopol.

July 5, 1942 - Soviet resistance in the Crimea ends.

July 9, 1942 - Germans begin a drive toward Stalingrad in the USSR.

July 22, 1942 - First deportations from the Warsaw Ghetto to concentration camps Treblinka extermination camp opened.

August 7, 1942 - British General Bernard Montgomery takes command of Eighth Army in North Africa.

August 12, 1942 - Stalin and Churchill meet in Moscow.

August 17, 1942 - First all-American air attack in Europe.

August 23, 1942 - Massive German air raid on Stalingrad.

September 2, 1942 - Rommel driven back by Montgomery in the Battle of Alam Halfa.

September 13, 1942 - Battle of Stalingrad begins.

October 5, 1942 - A German eyewitness observes SS mass murder.

October 18, 1942 - Hitler orders the execution of all captured British commandos.

November 1, 1942 - Operation Supercharge (Allies break Axis lines at El Alamein).

November 8, 1942 - Operation Torch begins (U.S. invasion of North Africa).

November 11, 1942 - Germans and Italians invade unoccupied Vichy France.

November 19, 1942 - Soviet counter-offensive at Stalingrad begins.

December 2, 1942 - Professor Enrico Fermi sets up an atomic reactor in Chicago.

December 13, 1942 - Rommel withdraws from El Agheila.

December 16, 1942 - Soviets defeat Italian troops on the River Don in the USSR.

December 17, 1942 - British Foreign Secretary Eden tells the British House of Commons of mass executions of Jews by Nazis U.S. declares those crimes will be avenged.

December 31, 1942 - Battle of the Barents Sea between German and British ships.

1943 Return to Top of Page

January 2/3 - Germans begin a withdrawal from the Caucasus.

January 10, 1943 - Soviets begin an offensive against the Germans in Stalingrad.

January 14-24 - Casablanca conference between Churchill and Roosevelt. During the conference, Roosevelt announces the war can end only with "unconditional German surrender."

January 23, 1943 - Montgomery's Eighth Army takes Tripoli.

January 27, 1943 - First bombing raid by Americans on Germany (at Wilhelmshaven).

February 2, 1943 - Germans surrender at Stalingrad in the first big defeat of Hitler's armies.

February 8, 1943 - Soviet troops take Kursk.

February 14-25 - Battle of Kasserine Pass between the U.S. 1st Armored Division and German Panzers in North Africa.

February 16, 1943 - Soviets re-take Kharkov.

February 18, 1943 - Nazis arrest White Rose resistance leaders in Munich.

March 2, 1943 - Germans begin a withdrawal from Tunisia, Africa.

March 15, 1943 - Germans re-capture Kharkov.

March 16-20 - Battle of Atlantic climaxes with 27 merchant ships sunk by German U-boats.

March 20-28 - Montgomery's Eighth Army breaks through the Mareth Line in Tunisia.

April 6/7 - Axis forces in Tunisia begin a withdrawal toward Enfidaville as American and British forces link.

April 19, 1943 - Waffen-SS attacks Jewish resistance in the Warsaw ghetto.

May 7, 1943 - Allies take Tunisia.

May 13, 1943 - German and Italian troops surrender in North Africa.

May 16, 1943 - Jewish resistance in the Warsaw Ghetto ends.

May 16/17 - British air raid on the Ruhr.

May 22, 1943 - Dönitz suspends U-boat operations in the North Atlantic.

June 10, 1943 - ' Pointblank' directive to improve Allied bombing strategy issued.

June 11, 1943 - Himmler orders the liquidation of all Jewish ghettos in Poland.

July 5, 1943 - Germans begin their last offensive against Kursk.

July 9/10 - Allies land in Sicily.

July 19, 1943 - Allies bomb Rome.

July 22, 1943 - Americans capture Palermo, Sicily.

July 24, 1943 - British bombing raid on Hamburg.

July 25/26 - Mussolini arrested and the Italian Fascist government falls Marshal Pietro Badoglio takes over and negotiates with Allies.

July 27/28 - Allied air raid causes a firestorm in Hamburg.

August 12-17 - Germans evacuate Sicily.

August 17, 1943 - American daylight air raids on Regensburg and Schweinfurt in Germany Allies reach Messina, Sicily.

August 23, 1943 - Soviet troops recapture Kharkov.

September 8, 1943 - Italian surrender to Allies is announced.

September 9, 1943 - Allied landings at Salerno and Taranto.

September 11, 1943 - Germans occupy Rome.

September 12, 1943 - Germans rescue Mussolini.

September 23, 1943 - Mussolini re-establishes a Fascist government.

October 1, 1943 - Allies enter Naples, Italy.

October 4, 1943 - SS-Reichsführer Himmler gives speech at Posen.

October 13, 1943 - Italy declares war on Germany Second American air raid on Schweinfurt.

November 6, 1943 - Russians recapture Kiev in the Ukraine.

November 18, 1943 - Large British air raid on Berlin.

November 28, 1943 - Roosevelt, Churchill, Stalin meet at Teheran.

December 24-26 - Soviets launch offensives on the Ukrainian front.

1944 Return to Top of Page

1945 Return to Top of Page

January 1-17 - Germans withdraw from the Ardennes.

January 16, 1945 - U.S. 1st and 3rd Armies link up after a month long separation during the Battle of the Bulge.

January 17, 1945 - Soviet troops capture Warsaw, Poland.

January 26, 1945 - Soviet troops liberate Auschwitz.

February 4-11 - Roosevelt, Churchill, Stalin meet at Yalta.

February 13/14 - Dresden is destroyed by a firestorm after Allied bombing raids.

March 6, 1945 - Last German offensive of the war begins to defend oil fields in Hungary.

March 7, 1945 - Allies take Cologne and establish a bridge across the Rhine at Remagen.

March 30, 1945 - Soviet troops capture Danzig.

In April - Allies discover stolen Nazi art and wealth hidden in German salt mines.

April 1, 1945 - U.S. troops encircle Germans in the Ruhr Allied offensive in northern Italy.

April 12, 1945 - Allies liberate Buchenwald and Belsen concentration camps President Roosevelt dies. Harry Truman becomes President.

April 16, 1945 - Soviet troops begin their final attack on Berlin Americans enter Nuremberg.

April 18, 1945 - German forces in the Ruhr surrender.

April 21, 1945 - Soviets reach Berlin.

April 28, 1945 - Mussolini is captured and hanged by Italian partisans Allies take Venice.

April 29, 1945 - U.S. 7th Army liberates Dachau.

April 30, 1945 - Adolf Hitler commits suicide.

May 2, 1945 - German troops in Italy surrender.

May 7, 1945 - Unconditional surrender of all German forces to Allies.

May 8, 1945 - V-E (Victory in Europe) Day.

May 9, 1945 - Hermann Göring is captured by members of the U.S. 7th Army.

May 23, 1945 - SS-Reichsführer Himmler commits suicide German High Command and Provisional Government imprisoned.

June 5, 1945 - Allies divide up Germany and Berlin and take over the government.

June 26, 1945 - United Nations Charter is signed in San Francisco.

July 1, 1945 - American, British, and French troops move into Berlin.

July 16, 1945 - First U.S. atomic bomb test Potsdam Conference begins.

July 26, 1945 - Atlee succeeds Churchill as British Prime Minister.

August 6, 1945 - First atomic bomb dropped, on Hiroshima, Japan.

August 8, 1945 - Soviets declares war on Japan and invade Manchuria.

August 9, 1945 - Second atomic bomb dropped, on Nagasaki, Japan.

August 14, 1945 - Japanese agree to unconditional surrender.

September 2, 1945 - Japanese sign the surrender agreement V-J (Victory over Japan) Day.

October 24, 1945 - United Nations is born.

November 20, 1945 - Nuremberg war crimes trials begin.


October 16 - Hermann Göring commits suicide two hours before his scheduled execution.

Statistics of World War II

Copyright © 1996 The History Place™ All Rights Reserved

See also: The History Place three-part narrative history of Adolf Hitler (62 chapters)
I. The Rise of Hitler - from unknown to dictator of Germany.
II. The Triumph of Hitler - the prewar years of Nazi Germany.
III. The Defeat of Hitler - the quest for a Nazi empire.

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The ideology of National Socialism (Nazism) combined elements of "racial hygiene", eugenics, antisemitism, pan-Germanism, and territorial expansionism, Richard J. Evans writes. [7] Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party became obsessed by the "Jewish question". [8] Both during and immediately after the Nazi seizure of power in Germany in 1933, acts of violence against German Jews became ubiquitous, [9] and legislation was passed excluding them from certain professions, including the civil service and the law. [a]

Harassment and economic pressure encouraged Jews to leave Germany their businesses were denied access to markets, forbidden from advertising in newspapers, and deprived of government contracts. [11] On 15 September 1935, the Reichstag passed the Nuremberg Laws. The Reich Citizenship Law defined as citizens those of "German or related blood who demonstrate by their behaviour that they are willing and suitable to serve the German People and Reich faithfully", and the Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honor prohibited marriage and extramarital relations between those with "German or related blood" and Jews. [12]

When Germany invaded Poland in September 1939, triggering World War II, Hitler ordered that the Polish leadership and intelligentsia be destroyed. [13] The area around Auschwitz was annexed to the German Reich, as part of first Gau Silesia and from 1941 Gau Upper Silesia. [14] The camp at Auschwitz was established in April 1940, at first as a quarantine camp for Polish political prisoners. On 22 June 1941, in an attempt to obtain new territory, Hitler invaded the Soviet Union. [15] The first gassing at Auschwitz—of a group of Soviet prisoners of war—took place around August 1941. [16] By the end of that year, during what most historians regard as the first phase of the Holocaust, 500,000–800,000 Soviet Jews had been killed in mass shootings by a combination of German Einsatzgruppen, ordinary German soldiers, and local collaborators. [17] At the Wannsee Conference in Berlin on 20 January 1942, Reinhard Heydrich outlined the Final Solution to the Jewish Question to senior Nazis, [18] and from early 1942 freight trains delivered Jews from all over occupied Europe to German extermination camps in Poland: Auschwitz, Bełżec, Chełmno, Majdanek, Sobibór, and Treblinka. Most prisoners were gassed on arrival. [19]

Auschwitz I


A former World War I camp for transient workers and later a Polish army barracks, Auschwitz I was the main camp (Stammlager) and administrative headquarters of the camp complex. Fifty km southwest of Kraków, the site was first suggested in February 1940 as a quarantine camp for Polish prisoners by Arpad Wigand, the inspector of the Sicherheitspolizei (security police) and deputy of Erich von dem Bach-Zelewski, the Higher SS and Police Leader for Silesia. Richard Glücks, head of the Concentration Camps Inspectorate, sent Walter Eisfeld, former commandant of the Sachsenhausen concentration camp in Oranienburg, Germany, to inspect it. [21] Around 1,000 m long and 400 m wide, [22] Auschwitz consisted at the time of 22 brick buildings, eight of them two-story. A second story was added to the others in 1943 and eight new blocks were built. [23]

Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler, head of the SS, approved the site in April 1940 on the recommendation of SS-Obersturmbannführer Rudolf Höss of the camps inspectorate. Höss oversaw the development of the camp and served as its first commandant. The first 30 prisoners arrived on 20 May 1940 from the Sachsenhausen camp. German "career criminals" (Berufsverbrecher), the men were known as "greens" (Grünen) after the green triangles on their prison clothing. Brought to the camp as functionaries, this group did much to establish the sadism of early camp life, which was directed particularly at Polish inmates, until the political prisoners took over their roles. [24] Bruno Brodniewitsch, the first prisoner (who was given serial number 1), became Lagerältester (camp elder). The others were given positions such as kapo and block supervisor. [25]

First mass transport

The first mass transport—of 728 Polish male political prisoners, including Catholic priests and Jews—arrived on 14 June 1940 from Tarnów, Poland. They were given serial numbers 31 to 758. [b] In a letter on 12 July 1940, Höss told Glücks that the local population was "fanatically Polish, ready to undertake any sort of operation against the hated SS men". [27] By the end of 1940, the SS had confiscated land around the camp to create a 40-square-kilometer (15 sq mi) "zone of interest" (Interessengebiet) patrolled by the SS, Gestapo and local police. [28] By March 1941, 10,900 were imprisoned in the camp, most of them Poles. [22]

An inmate's first encounter with Auschwitz, if they were registered and not sent straight to the gas chamber, was at the prisoner reception center near the gate with the Arbeit macht frei sign, where they were tattooed, shaved, disinfected, and given a striped prison uniform. Built between 1942 and 1944, the center contained a bathhouse, laundry, and 19 gas chambers for delousing clothes. The prisoner reception center of Auschwitz I became the visitor reception center of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum. [20]

Crematorium I, first gassings

Construction of crematorium I began at Auschwitz I at the end of June or beginning of July 1940. [30] Initially intended not for mass murder but for prisoners who had been executed or had otherwise died in the camp, the crematorium was in operation from August 1940 until July 1943, by which time the crematoria at Auschwitz II had taken over. [31] By May 1942 three ovens had been installed in crematorium I, which together could burn 340 bodies in 24 hours. [32]

The first experimental gassing took place around August 1941, when Lagerführer Karl Fritzsch, at the instruction of Rudolf Höss, killed a group of Soviet prisoners of war by throwing Zyklon B crystals into their basement cell in block 11 of Auschwitz I. A second group of 600 Soviet prisoners of war and around 250 sick Polish prisoners were gassed on 3–5 September. [33] The morgue was later converted to a gas chamber able to hold at least 700–800 people. [32] [c] Zyklon B was dropped into the room through slits in the ceiling. [32]

First mass transport of Jews

Historians have disagreed about the date the all-Jewish transports began arriving in Auschwitz. At the Wannsee Conference in Berlin on 20 January 1942, the Nazi leadership outlined, in euphemistic language, its plans for the Final Solution. [34] According to Franciszek Piper, the Auschwitz commandant Rudolf Höss offered inconsistent accounts after the war, suggesting the extermination began in December 1941, January 1942, or before the establishment of the women's camp in March 1942. [35] In Kommandant in Auschwitz, he wrote: "In the spring of 1942 the first transports of Jews, all earmarked for extermination, arrived from Upper Silesia." [36] On 15 February 1942, according to Danuta Czech, a transport of Jews from Beuthen, Upper Silesia (Bytom, Poland), arrived at Auschwitz I and was sent straight to the gas chamber. [d] [38] In 1998 an eyewitness said the train contained "the women of Beuthen". [e] Saul Friedländer wrote that the Beuthen Jews were from the Organization Schmelt labor camps and had been deemed unfit for work. [40] According to Christopher Browning, transports of Jews unfit for work were sent to the gas chamber at Auschwitz from autumn 1941. [41] The evidence for this and the February 1942 transport was contested in 2015 by Nikolaus Wachsmann. [42]

Around 20 March 1942, according to Danuta Czech, a transport of Polish Jews from Silesia and Zagłębie Dąbrowskie was taken straight from the station to the Auschwitz II gas chamber, which had just come into operation. [43] On 26 and 28 March, two transports of Slovakian Jews were registered as prisoners in the women's camp, where they were kept for slave labour these were the first transports organized by Adolf Eichmann's department IV B4 (the Jewish office) in the Reich Security Head Office (RSHA). [f] On 30 March the first RHSA transport arrived from France. [44] "Selection", where new arrivals were chosen for work or the gas chamber, began in April 1942 and was conducted regularly from July. Piper writes that this reflected Germany's increasing need for labor. Those selected as unfit for work were gassed without being registered as prisoners. [45]

There is also disagreement about how many were gassed in Auschwitz I. Perry Broad, an SS-Unterscharführer, wrote that "transport after transport vanished in the Auschwitz [I] crematorium." [46] In the view of Filip Müller, one of the Auschwitz I Sonderkommando, tens of thousands of Jews were killed there from France, Holland, Slovakia, Upper Silesia, and Yugoslavia, and from the Theresienstadt, Ciechanow, and Grodno ghettos. [47] Against this, Jean-Claude Pressac estimated that up to 10,000 people had been killed in Auschwitz I. [46] The last inmates gassed there, in December 1942, were around 400 members of the Auschwitz II Sonderkommando, who had been forced to dig up and burn the remains of that camp's mass graves, thought to hold over 100,000 corpses. [48]

Auschwitz II-Birkenau


After visiting Auschwitz I in March 1941, it appears that Himmler ordered that the camp be expanded, [49] although Peter Hayes notes that, on 10 January 1941, the Polish underground told the Polish government-in-exile in London: "the Auschwitz concentration camp . can accommodate approximately 7,000 prisoners at present, and is to be rebuilt to hold approximately 30,000." [50] Construction of Auschwitz II-Birkenau—called a Kriegsgefangenenlager (prisoner-of-war camp) on blueprints—began in October 1941 in Brzezinka, about three kilometers from Auschwitz I. [51] The initial plan was that Auschwitz II would consist of four sectors (Bauabschnitte I–IV), each consisting of six subcamps (BIIa–BIIf) with their own gates and fences. The first two sectors were completed (sector BI was initially a quarantine camp), but the construction of BIII began in 1943 and stopped in April 1944, and the plan for BIV was abandoned. [52]

SS-Sturmbannführer Karl Bischoff, an architect, was the chief of construction. [49] Based on an initial budget of RM 8.9 million, his plans called for each barracks to hold 550 prisoners, but he later changed this to 744 per barracks, which meant the camp could hold 125,000, rather than 97,000. [53] There were 174 barracks, each measuring 35.4 by 11.0 metres (116 by 36 ft), divided into 62 bays of 4 square metres (43 sq ft). The bays were divided into "roosts", initially for three inmates and later for four. With personal space of 1 square metre (11 sq ft) to sleep and place whatever belongings they had, inmates were deprived, Robert-Jan van Pelt wrote, "of the minimum space needed to exist". [54]

The prisoners were forced to live in the barracks as they were building them in addition to working, they faced long roll calls at night. As a result, most prisoners in BIb (the men's camp) in the early months died of hypothermia, starvation or exhaustion within a few weeks. [55] Some 10,000 Soviet prisoners of war arrived at Auschwitz I between 7 and 25 October 1941, [56] but by 1 March 1942 only 945 were still registered they were transferred to Auschwitz II, [37] where most of them had died by May. [57]

Crematoria II–V

The first gas chamber at Auschwitz II was operational by March 1942. On or around 20 March, a transport of Polish Jews sent by the Gestapo from Silesia and Zagłębie Dąbrowskie was taken straight from the Oświęcim freight station to the Auschwitz II gas chamber, then buried in a nearby meadow. [43] The gas chamber was located in what prisoners called the "little red house" (known as bunker 1 by the SS), a brick cottage that had been turned into a gassing facility the windows had been bricked up and its four rooms converted into two insulated rooms, the doors of which said "Zur Desinfektion" ("to disinfection"). A second brick cottage, the "little white house" or bunker 2, was converted and operational by June 1942. [58] When Himmler visited the camp on 17 and 18 July 1942, he was given a demonstration of a selection of Dutch Jews, a mass killing in a gas chamber in bunker 2, and a tour of the building site of Auschwitz III, the new IG Farben plant being constructed at Monowitz. [59]

Use of bunkers I and 2 stopped in spring 1943 when the new crematoria were built, although bunker 2 became operational again in May 1944 for the murder of the Hungarian Jews. Bunker I was demolished in 1943 and bunker 2 in November 1944. [60] Piper writes that plans for crematoria II and III show that both had an oven room 30 by 11.24 metres (98.4 by 36.9 ft) on the ground floor, and an underground dressing room 49.43 by 7.93 metres (162.2 by 26.0 ft) and gas chamber 30 by 7 metres (98 by 23 ft). The dressing rooms had wooden benches along the walls and numbered pegs for clothing. Victims would be led from these rooms to a five-yard-long narrow corridor, which in turn led to a space from which the gas chamber door opened. The chambers were white inside, and nozzles were fixed to the ceiling to resemble showerheads. [61] The daily capacity of the crematoria (how many bodies could be burned in a 24-hour period) was 340 corpses in crematorium I 1,440 each in crematoria II and III and 768 each in IV and V. [62] By June 1943 all four crematoria were operational, but crematorium I was not used after July 1943. This made the total daily capacity 4,416, although by loading three to five corpses at a time, the Sonderkommando were able to burn some 8,000 bodies a day. This maximum capacity was rarely needed the average between 1942 and 1944 was 1,000 bodies burned every day. [63]

Auschwitz III-Monowitz

After examining several sites for a new plant to manufacture Buna-N, a type of synthetic rubber essential to the war effort, the German chemical cartel IG Farben chose a site near the towns of Dwory and Monowice (Monowitz in German), about 7 kilometres (4.3 mi) east of Auschwitz I. [64] Tax exemptions were available to corporations prepared to develop industries in the frontier regions under the Eastern Fiscal Assistance Law, passed in December 1940. In addition to its proximity to the concentration camp, a source of cheap labor, the site had good railway connections and access to raw materials. [65] In February 1941, Himmler ordered that the Jewish population of Oświęcim be expelled to make way for skilled laborers that all Poles able to work remain in the town and work on building the factory and that Auschwitz prisoners be used in the construction work. [66]

Auschwitz inmates began working at the plant, known as Buna Werke and IG-Auschwitz, in April 1941, demolishing houses in Monowitz to make way for it. [67] By May, because of a shortage of trucks, several hundred of them were rising at 3 am to walk there twice a day from Auschwitz I. [68] Because a long line of exhausted inmates walking through the town of Oświęcim might harm German-Polish relations, the inmates were told to shave daily, make sure they were clean, and sing as they walked. From late July they were taken to the factory by train on freight wagons. [69] Given the difficulty of moving them, including during the winter, IG Farben decided to build a camp at the plant. The first inmates moved there on 30 October 1942. [70] Known as KL Auschwitz III-Aussenlager (Auschwitz III subcamp), and later as the Monowitz concentration camp, [71] it was the first concentration camp to be financed and built by private industry. [72]

Measuring 270 by 490 metres (890 ft × 1,610 ft), the camp was larger than Auschwitz I. By the end of 1944, it housed 60 barracks measuring 17.5 by 8 metres (57 ft × 26 ft), each with a day room and a sleeping room containing 56 three-tiered wooden bunks. [73] IG Farben paid the SS three or four Reichsmark for nine- to eleven-hour shifts from each worker. [74] In 1943–1944, about 35,000 inmates worked at the plant 23,000 (32 a day on average) died as a result of malnutrition, disease, and the workload. Within three to four months at the camp, Peter Hayes writes, the inmates were "reduced to walking skeletons". [75] Deaths and transfers to the gas chambers at Auschwitz II reduced the population by nearly a fifth each month. [76] Site managers constantly threatened inmates with the gas chambers, and the smell from the crematoria at Auschwitz I and II hung heavy over the camp. [77]

Although the factory had been expected to begin production in 1943, shortages of labor and raw materials meant start-up was postponed repeatedly. [78] The Allies bombed the plant in 1944 on 20 August, 13 September, 18 December, and 26 December. On 19 January 1945, the SS ordered that the site be evacuated, sending 9,000 inmates, most of them Jews, on a death march to another Auschwitz subcamp at Gliwice. [79] From Gliwice, prisoners were taken by rail in open freight wagons to the Buchenwald and Mauthausen concentration camps. The 800 inmates who had been left behind in the Monowitz hospital were liberated along with the rest of the camp on 27 January 1945 by the 1st Ukrainian Front of the Red Army. [80]


Several other German industrial enterprises, such as Krupp and Siemens-Schuckert, built factories with their own subcamps. [81] There were around 28 camps near industrial plants, each camp holding hundreds or thousands of prisoners. [82] Designated as Aussenlager (external camp), Nebenlager (extension camp), Arbeitslager (labor camp), or Aussenkommando (external work detail), [83] camps were built at Blechhammer, Jawiszowice, Jaworzno, Lagisze, Mysłowice, Trzebinia, and as far afield as the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia in Czechoslovakia. [84] Industries with satellite camps included coal mines, foundries and other metal works, and chemical plants. Prisoners were also made to work in forestry and farming. [85] For example, Wirtschaftshof Budy, in the Polish village of Budy near Brzeszcze, was a farming subcamp where prisoners worked 12-hour days in the fields, tending animals, and making compost by mixing human ashes from the crematoria with sod and manure. [86] Incidents of sabotage to decrease production took place in several subcamps, including Charlottengrube, Gleiwitz II, and Rajsko. [87] Living conditions in some of the camps were so poor that they were regarded as punishment subcamps. [88]

SS garrison

Born in Baden-Baden in 1900, [90] Rudolf Höss was named the first commandant of Auschwitz when Heinrich Himmler ordered on 27 April 1940 that the camp be established. [91] Living with his wife and children in a two-story stucco house near the commandant's and administration building, [92] he served as commandant until 11 November 1943, [91] with Josef Kramer as his deputy. [22] Succeeded as commandant by Arthur Liebehenschel, [91] Höss joined the SS Business and Administration Head Office in Oranienburg as director of Amt DI, [91] a post that made him deputy of the camps inspectorate. [93]

Richard Baer became commandant of Auschwitz I on 11 May 1944 and Fritz Hartjenstein of Auschwitz II from 22 November 1943, followed by Josef Kramer from 15 May 1944 until the camp's liquidation in January 1945. Heinrich Schwarz was commandant of Auschwitz III from the point at which it became an autonomous camp in November 1943 until its liquidation. [94] Höss returned to Auschwitz between 8 May and 29 July 1944 as the local SS garrison commander (Standortältester) to oversee the arrival of Hungary's Jews, which made him the superior officer of all the commandants of the Auschwitz camps. [91]

According to Aleksander Lasik, about 6,335 people (6,161 of them men) worked for the SS at Auschwitz over the course of the camp's existence [95] 4.2 percent were officers, 26.1 percent non-commissioned officers, and 69.7 percent rank and file. [96] In March 1941, there were 700 SS guards in June 1942, 2000 and in August 1944, 3,342. At its peak in January 1945, 4,480 SS men and 71 SS women worked in Auschwitz the higher number is probably attributable to the logistics of evacuating the camp. [97] Female guards were known as SS supervisors (SS-Aufseherinnen). [98]

Most of the staff were from Germany or Austria, but as the war progressed, increasing numbers of Volksdeutsche from other countries, including Czechoslovakia, Poland, Yugoslavia, and the Baltic states, joined the SS at Auschwitz. Not all were ethnically German. Guards were also recruited from Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia. [99] Camp guards, around three quarters of the SS personnel, were members of the SS-Totenkopfverbände (death's head units). [100] Other SS staff worked in the medical or political departments, or in the economic administration, which was responsible for clothing and other supplies, including the property of dead prisoners. [101] The SS viewed Auschwitz as a comfortable posting being there meant they had avoided the front and had access to the victims' property. [102]

Functionaries and Sonderkommando

Certain prisoners, at first non-Jewish Germans but later Jews and non-Jewish Poles, [103] were assigned positions of authority as Funktionshäftlinge (functionaries), which gave them access to better housing and food. The Lagerprominenz (camp elite) included Blockschreiber (barracks clerk), Kapo (overseer), Stubendienst (barracks orderly), and Kommandierte (trusties). [104] Wielding tremendous power over other prisoners, the functionaries developed a reputation as sadists. [103] Very few were prosecuted after the war, because of the difficulty of determining which atrocities had been performed by order of the SS. [105]

Although the SS oversaw the killings at each gas chamber, the bulk of the work was done by prisoners known from 1942 as the Sonderkommando (special squad). [106] These were mostly Jews but they included groups such as Soviet POWs. In 1940–1941 when there was one gas chamber, there were 20 such prisoners, in late 1943 there were 400, and by 1944 during the Holocaust in Hungary the number had risen to 874. [107] The Sonderkommando removed goods and corpses from the incoming trains, guided victims to the dressing rooms and gas chambers, removed their bodies afterwards, and took their jewelry, hair, dental work, and any precious metals from their teeth, all of which was sent to Germany. Once the bodies were stripped of anything valuable, the Sonderkommando burned them in the crematoria. [108]

Because they were witnesses to the mass murder, the Sonderkommando lived separately from the other prisoners, although this rule was not applied to the non-Jews among them. [109] Their quality of life was further improved by their access to the property of new arrivals, which they traded within the camp, including with the SS. [110] Nevertheless, their life expectancy was short they were regularly killed and replaced. [111] About 100 survived to the camp's liquidation. They were forced on a death march and by train to the camp at Mauthausen, where three days later they were asked to step forward during roll call. No one did, and because the SS did not have their records, several of them survived. [112]

Tattoos and triangles

Uniquely at Auschwitz, prisoners were tattooed with a serial number, on their left breast for Soviet prisoners of war [113] and on the left arm for civilians. [114] [115] Categories of prisoner were distinguishable by triangular pieces of cloth (German: Winkel) sewn onto on their jackets below their prisoner number. Political prisoners (Schutzhäftlinge or Sch), mostly Poles, had a red triangle, while criminals (Berufsverbrecher or BV) were mostly German and wore green. Asocial prisoners (Asoziale or Aso), which included vagrants, prostitutes and the Roma, wore black. Purple was for Jehovah's Witnesses (Internationale Bibelforscher-Vereinigung or IBV)'s and pink for gay men, who were mostly German. [116] An estimated 5,000–15,000 gay men prosecuted under German Penal Code Section 175 (proscribing sexual acts between men) were detained in concentration camps, of whom an unknown number were sent to Auschwitz. [117] Jews wore a yellow badge, the shape of the Star of David, overlaid by a second triangle if they also belonged to a second category. The nationality of the inmate was indicated by a letter stitched onto the cloth. A racial hierarchy existed, with German prisoners at the top. Next were non-Jewish prisoners from other countries. Jewish prisoners were at the bottom. [118]


Deportees were brought to Auschwitz crammed in wretched conditions into goods or cattle wagons, arriving near a railway station or at one of several dedicated trackside ramps, including one next to Auschwitz I. The Altejudenrampe (old Jewish ramp), part of the Oświęcim freight railway station, was used from 1942 to 1944 for Jewish transports. [119] [120] Located between Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II, arriving at this ramp meant a 2.5 km journey to Auschwitz II and the gas chambers. Most deportees were forced to walk, accompanied by SS men and a car with a Red Cross symbol that carried the Zyklon B, as well as an SS doctor in case officers were poisoned by mistake. Inmates arriving at night, or who were too weak to walk, were taken by truck. [121] Work on a new railway line and ramp (right) between sectors BI and BII in Auschwitz II, was completed in May 1944 for the arrival of Hungarian Jews [120] between May and early July 1944. [122] The rails led directly to the area around the gas chambers. [119]

Life for the inmates

The day began at 4:30 am for the men (an hour later in winter), and earlier for the women, when the block supervisor sounded a gong and started beating inmates with sticks to make them wash and use the latrines quickly. [123] Sanitary arrangements were atrocious, with few latrines and a lack of clean water. Each washhouse had to service thousands of prisoners. In sectors BIa and BIb in Auschwitz II, two buildings containing latrines and washrooms were installed in 1943. These contained troughs for washing and 90 faucets the toilet facilities were "sewage channels" covered by concrete with 58 holes for seating. There were three barracks with washing facilities or toilets to serve 16 residential barracks in BIIa, and six washrooms/latrines for 32 barracks in BIIb, BIIc, BIId, and BIIe. [124] Primo Levi described a 1944 Auschwitz III washroom:

It is badly lighted, full of draughts, with the brick floor covered by a layer of mud. The water is not drinkable it has a revolting smell and often fails for many hours. The walls are covered by curious didactic frescoes: for example, there is the good Häftling [prisoner], portrayed stripped to the waist, about to diligently soap his sheared and rosy cranium, and the bad Häftling, with a strong Semitic nose and a greenish colour, bundled up in his ostentatiously stained clothes with a beret on his head, who cautiously dips a finger into the water of the washbasin. Under the first is written: "So bist du rein" (like this you are clean), and under the second, "So gehst du ein" (like this you come to a bad end) and lower down, in doubtful French but in Gothic script: "La propreté, c'est la santé" [cleanliness is health]. [125]

Prisoners received half a liter of coffee substitute or a herbal tea in the morning, but no food. [126] A second gong heralded roll call, when inmates lined up outside in rows of ten to be counted. No matter the weather, they had to wait for the SS to arrive for the count how long they stood there depended on the officers' mood, and whether there had been escapes or other events attracting punishment. [127] Guards might force the prisoners to squat for an hour with their hands above their heads, or hand out beatings or detention for infractions such as having a missing button or an improperly cleaned food bowl. The inmates were counted and re-counted. [128]

After roll call, to the sound of "Arbeitskommandos formieren" ("form work details"), prisoners walked to their place of work, five abreast, to begin a working day that was normally 11 hours long—longer in summer and shorter in winter. [130] A prison orchestra, such as the Women's Orchestra of Auschwitz, was forced to play cheerful music as the workers left the camp. Kapos were responsible for the prisoners' behavior while they worked, as was an SS escort. Much of the work took place outdoors at construction sites, gravel pits, and lumber yards. No rest periods were allowed. One prisoner was assigned to the latrines to measure the time the workers took to empty their bladders and bowels. [131]

Lunch was three quarters of a liter of watery soup at midday, reportedly foul-tasting, with meat in the soup four times a week and vegetables (mostly potatoes and rutabaga) three times. The evening meal was 300 grams of bread, often moldy, part of which the inmates were expected to keep for breakfast the next day, with a tablespoon of cheese or marmalade, or 25 grams of margarine or sausage. Prisoners engaged in hard labor were given extra rations. [132]

A second roll call took place at seven in the evening, in the course of which prisoners might be hanged or flogged. If a prisoner was missing, the others had to remain standing until the absentee was found or the reason for the absence discovered, even if it took hours. On 6 July 1940, roll call lasted 19 hours because a Polish prisoner, Tadeusz Wiejowski, had escaped following an escape in 1941, a group of prisoners was picked out from the escapee's workmates or barracks and sent to block 11 to be starved to death. [133] After roll call, prisoners retired to their blocks for the night and received their bread rations. Then they had some free time to use the washrooms and receive their mail, unless they were Jews: Jews were not allowed to receive mail. Curfew ("nighttime quiet") was marked by a gong at nine o'clock. [134] Inmates slept in long rows of brick or wooden bunks, or on the floor, lying in and on their clothes and shoes to prevent them from being stolen. [135] The wooden bunks had blankets and paper mattresses filled with wood shavings in the brick barracks, inmates lay on straw. [136] According to Miklós Nyiszli:

Eight hundred to a thousand people were crammed into the superimposed compartments of each barracks. Unable to stretch out completely, they slept there both lengthwise and crosswise, with one man's feet on another's head, neck, or chest. Stripped of all human dignity, they pushed and shoved and bit and kicked each other in an effort to get a few more inches' space on which to sleep a little more comfortably. For they did not have long to sleep. [137]

Sunday was not a work day, but prisoners had to clean the barracks and take their weekly shower, [138] and were allowed to write (in German) to their families, although the SS censored the mail. Inmates who did not speak German would trade bread for help. [139] Observant Jews tried to keep track of the Hebrew calendar and Jewish holidays, including Shabbat, and the weekly Torah portion. No watches, calendars, or clocks were permitted in the camp. Only two Jewish calendars made in Auschwitz survived to the end of the war. Prisoners kept track of the days in other ways, such as obtaining information from newcomers. [140]

Women's camp

About 30 percent of the registered inmates were female. [141] The first mass transport of women, 999 non-Jewish German women from the Ravensbrück concentration camp, arrived on 26 March 1942. Classified as criminal, asocial and political, they were brought to Auschwitz as founder functionaries of the women's camp. [142] Rudolf Höss wrote of them: "It was easy to predict that these beasts would mistreat the women over whom they exercised power . Spiritual suffering was completely alien to them." [143] They were given serial numbers 1–999. [44] [g] The women's guard from Ravensbrück, Johanna Langefeld, became the first Auschwitz women's camp Lagerführerin. [142] A second mass transport of women, 999 Jews from Poprad, Slovakia, arrived on the same day. According to Danuta Czech, this was the first registered transport sent to Auschwitz by the Reich Security Head Office (RSHA) office IV B4, known as the Jewish Office, led by SS Obersturmbannführer Adolf Eichmann. [44] (Office IV was the Gestapo.) [144] A third transport of 798 Jewish women from Bratislava, Slovakia, followed on 28 March. [44]

Women were at first held in blocks 1–10 of Auschwitz I, [145] but from 6 August 1942, [146] 13,000 inmates were transferred to a new women's camp (Frauenkonzentrationslager or FKL) in Auschwitz II. This consisted at first of 15 brick and 15 wooden barracks in sector (Bauabschnitt) BIa it was later extended into BIb, [147] and by October 1943 it held 32,066 women. [148] In 1943–1944, about 11,000 women were also housed in the Gypsy family camp, as were several thousand in the Theresienstadt family camp. [149]

Conditions in the women's camp were so poor that when a group of male prisoners arrived to set up an infirmary in October 1942, their first task, according to researchers from the Auschwitz museum, was to distinguish the corpses from the women who were still alive. [148] Gisella Perl, a Romanian-Jewish gynecologist and inmate of the women's camp, wrote in 1948:

There was one latrine for thirty to thirty-two thousand women and we were permitted to use it only at certain hours of the day. We stood in line to get in to this tiny building, knee-deep in human excrement. As we all suffered from dysentry, we could barely wait until our turn came, and soiled our ragged clothes, which never came off our bodies, thus adding to the horror of our existence by the terrible smell that surrounded us like a cloud. The latrine consisted of a deep ditch with planks thrown across it at certain intervals. We squatted on those planks like birds perched on a telegraph wire, so close together that we could not help soiling one another. [150]

Langefeld was succeeded as Lagerführerin in October 1942 by SS Oberaufseherin Maria Mandl, who developed a reputation for cruelty. Höss hired men to oversee the female supervisors, first SS Obersturmführer Paul Müller, then SS Hauptsturmführer Franz Hössler. [151] Mandl and Hössler were executed after the war. Sterilization experiments were carried out in barracks 30 by a German gynecologist, Carl Clauberg, and another German doctor, Horst Schumann. [148]

Medical experiments, block 10

German doctors performed a variety of experiments on prisoners at Auschwitz. SS doctors tested the efficacy of X-rays as a sterilization device by administering large doses to female prisoners. Carl Clauberg injected chemicals into women's uteruses in an effort to glue them shut. Prisoners were infected with spotted fever for vaccination research and exposed to toxic substances to study the effects. [152] In one experiment Bayer, then part of IG Farben, paid RM 150 each for 150 female inmates from Auschwitz (the camp had asked for RM 200 per woman), who were transferred to a Bayer facility to test an anesthetic. A Bayer employee wrote to Rudolf Höss: "The transport of 150 women arrived in good condition. However, we were unable to obtain conclusive results because they died during the experiments. We would kindly request that you send us another group of women to the same number and at the same price." The Bayer research was led at Auschwitz by Helmuth Vetter of Bayer/IG Farben, who was also an Auschwitz physician and SS captain, and by Auschwitz physicians Friedrich Entress and Eduard Wirths. [153]

The most infamous doctor at Auschwitz was Josef Mengele, the "Angel of Death", who worked in Auschwitz II from 30 May 1943, at first in the gypsy family camp. [154] Interested in performing research on identical twins, dwarfs, and those with hereditary disease, Mengele set up a kindergarten in barracks 29 and 31 for children he was experimenting on, and for all Romani children under six, where they were given better food rations. [155] From May 1944, he would select twins and dwarfs from among the new arrivals during "selection", [156] reportedly calling for twins with "Zwillinge heraus!" ("twins step forward!"). [157] He and other doctors (the latter prisoners) would measure the twins' body parts, photograph them, and subject them to dental, sight and hearing tests, x-rays, blood tests, surgery, and blood transfusions between them. [158] Then he would have them killed and dissected. [156] Kurt Heissmeyer, another German doctor and SS officer, took 20 Polish Jewish children from Auschwitz to use in pseudoscientific experiments at the Neuengamme concentration camp near Hamburg, where he injected them with the tuberculosis bacilli to test a cure for tuberculosis. In April 1945, the children were killed by hanging to conceal the project. [159]

A Jewish skeleton collection was obtained from among a pool of 115 Jewish inmates, chosen for their perceived stereotypical racial characteristics. Rudolf Brandt and Wolfram Sievers, general manager of the Ahnenerbe (a Nazi research institute), delivered the skeletons to the collection of the Anatomy Institute at the Reichsuniversität Straßburg in Alsace-Lorraine. The collection was sanctioned by Heinrich Himmler and under the direction of August Hirt. Ultimately 87 of the inmates were shipped to Natzweiler-Struthof and killed in August 1943. [160] Brandt and Sievers were executed in 1948 after being convicted during the Doctors' trial, part of the Subsequent Nuremberg trials. [161]

Punishment, block 11

Prisoners could be beaten and killed by guards and kapos for the slightest infraction of the rules. Polish historian Irena Strzelecka writes that kapos were given nicknames that reflected their sadism: "Bloody", "Iron", "The Strangler", "The Boxer". [162] Based on the 275 extant reports of punishment in the Auschwitz archives, Strzelecka lists common infractions: returning a second time for food at mealtimes, removing your own gold teeth to buy bread, breaking into the pigsty to steal the pigs' food, putting your hands in your pockets. [163]

Flogging during roll-call was common. A flogging table called "the goat" immobilized prisoners' feet in a box, while they stretched themselves across the table. Prisoners had to count out the lashes—"25 mit besten Dank habe ich erhalten" ("25 received with many thanks")— and if they got the figure wrong, the flogging resumed from the beginning. [163] Punishment by "the post" involved tying prisoners hands behind their backs with chains attached to hooks, then raising the chains so the prisoners were left dangling by the wrists. If their shoulders were too damaged afterwards to work, they might be sent to the gas chamber. Prisoners were subjected to the post for helping a prisoner who had been beaten, and for picking up a cigarette butt. [164] To extract information from inmates, guards would force their heads onto the stove, and hold them there, burning their faces and eyes. [165]

Known as block 13 until 1941, block 11 of Auschwitz I was the prison within the prison, reserved for inmates suspected of resistance activities. [166] Cell 22 in block 11 was a windowless standing cell (Stehbunker). Split into four sections, each section measured less than 1.0 m 2 (11 sq ft) and held four prisoners, who entered it through a hatch near the floor. There was a 5 cm x 5 cm vent for air, covered by a perforated sheet. Strzelecka writes that prisoners might have to spend several nights in cell 22 Wiesław Kielar spent four weeks in it for breaking a pipe. [167] Several rooms in block 11 were deemed the Polizei-Ersatz-Gefängnis Myslowitz in Auschwitz (Auschwitz branch of the police station at Mysłowice). [168] There were also Sonderbehandlung cases ("special treatment") for Poles and others regarded as dangerous to the Third Reich. [169]

Death wall

The courtyard between blocks 10 and 11, known as the "death wall", served as an execution area, including for Poles in the General Government area who had been sentenced to death by a criminal court. [169] The first executions, by shooting inmates in the back of the head, took place at the death wall on 11 November 1941, Poland's National Independence Day. The 151 accused were led to the wall one at a time, stripped naked and with their hands tied behind their backs. Danuta Czech noted that a "clandestine Catholic mass" was said the following Sunday on the second floor of Block 4 in Auschwitz I, in a narrow space between bunks. [170]

An estimated 4,500 Polish political prisoners were executed at the death wall, including members of the camp resistance. An additional 10,000 Poles were brought to the camp to be executed without being registered. About 1,000 Soviet prisoners of war died by execution, although this is a rough estimate. A Polish government-in-exile report stated that 11,274 prisoners and 6,314 prisoners of war had been executed. [171] Rudolf Höss wrote that "execution orders arrived in an unbroken stream". [168] According to SS officer Perry Broad, "[s]ome of these walking skeletons had spent months in the stinking cells, where not even animals would be kept, and they could barely manage to stand straight. And yet, at that last moment, many of them shouted 'Long live Poland', or 'Long live freedom'." [172] The dead included Colonel Jan Karcz and Major Edward Gött-Getyński, executed on 25 January 1943 with 51 others suspected of resistance activities. Józef Noji, the Polish long-distance runner, was executed on 15 February that year. [173] In October 1944, 200 Sonderkommando were executed for their part in the Sonderkommando revolt. [174]

Family camps

Gypsy family camp

A separate camp for the Roma, the Zigeunerfamilienlager ("Gypsy family camp"), was set up in the BIIe sector of Auschwitz II-Birkenau in February 1943. For unknown reasons, they were not subject to selection and families were allowed to stay together. The first transport of German Roma arrived on 26 February that year. There had been a small number of Romani inmates before that two Czech Romani prisoners, Ignatz and Frank Denhel, tried to escape in December 1942, the latter successfully, and a Polish Romani woman, Stefania Ciuron, arrived on 12 February 1943 and escaped in April. [176] Josef Mengele, the Holocaust's most infamous physician, worked in the gypsy family camp from 30 May 1943 when he began his work in Auschwitz. [154]

The Auschwitz registry (Hauptbücher) shows that 20,946 Roma were registered prisoners, [177] and another 3,000 are thought to have entered unregistered. [178] On 22 March 1943, one transport of 1,700 Polish Sinti and Roma was gassed on arrival because of illness, as was a second group of 1,035 on 25 May 1943. [177] The SS tried to liquidate the camp on 16 May 1944, but the Roma fought them, armed with knives and iron pipes, and the SS retreated. Shortly after this, the SS removed nearly 2,908 from the family camp to work, and on 2 August 1944 gassed the other 2,897. Ten thousand remain unaccounted for. [179]

Theresienstadt family camp

The SS deported around 18,000 Jews to Auschwitz from the Theresienstadt ghetto in Terezin, Czechoslovakia, [180] beginning on 8 September 1943 with a transport of 2,293 male and 2,713 female prisoners. [181] Placed in sector BIIb as a "family camp", they were allowed to keep their belongings, wear their own clothes, and write letters to family they did not have their hair shaved and were not subjected to selection. [180] Correspondence between Adolf Eichmann's office and the International Red Cross suggests that the Germans set up the camp to cast doubt on reports, in time for a planned Red Cross visit to Auschwitz, that mass murder was taking place there. [182] The women and girls were placed in odd-numbered barracks and the men and boys in even-numbered. An infirmary was set up in barracks 30 and 32, and barracks 31 became a school and kindergarten. [180] The somewhat better living conditions were nevertheless inadequate 1,000 members of the family camp were dead within six months. [183] Two other groups of 2,491 and 2,473 Jews arrived from Theresienstadt in the family camp on 16 and 20 December 1943. [184]

On 8 March 1944, 3,791 of the prisoners (men, women and children) were sent to the gas chambers the men were taken to crematorium III and the women later to crematorium II. [185] Some of the group were reported to have sung Hatikvah and the Czech national anthem on the way. [186] Before they died, they had been asked to write postcards to relatives, postdated to 25–27 March. Several twins were held back for medical experiments. [187] The Czechoslovak government-in-exile initiated diplomatic manoeuvers to save the remaining Czech Jews after its representative in Bern received the Vrba-Wetzler report, written by two escaped prisoners, Rudolf Vrba and Alfred Wetzler, which warned that the remaining family-camp inmates would be gassed soon. [188] The BBC also became aware of the report its German service broadcast news of the family-camp murders during its women's programme on 16 June 1944, warning: "All those responsible for such massacres from top downwards will be called to account." [189] The Red Cross visited Theresienstadt in June 1944 and were persuaded by the SS that no one was being deported from there. [182] The following month, about 2,000 women from the family camp were selected to be moved to other camps and 80 boys were moved to the men's camp the remaining 7,000 were gassed between 10 and 12 July. [190]

Gas chambers

The first gassings at Auschwitz took place in early September 1941, when around 850 inmates—Soviet prisoners of war and sick Polish inmates—were killed with Zyklon B in the basement of block 11 in Auschwitz I. The building proved unsuitable, so gassings were conducted instead in crematorium I, also in Auschwitz I, which operated until December 1942. There, more than 700 victims could be killed at once. [192] Tens of thousands were killed in crematorium I. [47] To keep the victims calm, they were told they were to undergo disinfection and de-lousing they were ordered to undress outside, then were locked in the building and gassed. After its decommissioning as a gas chamber, the building was converted to a storage facility and later served as an SS air raid shelter. [193] The gas chamber and crematorium were reconstructed after the war. Dwork and van Pelt write that a chimney was recreated four openings in the roof were installed to show where the Zyklon B had entered and two of the three furnaces were rebuilt with the original components. [29]

In early 1942, mass exterminations were moved to two provisional gas chambers (the "red house" and "white house", known as bunkers 1 and 2) in Auschwitz II, while the larger crematoria (II, III, IV, and V) were under construction. Bunker 2 was temporarily reactivated from May to November 1944, when large numbers of Hungarian Jews were gassed. [195] In summer 1944 the combined capacity of the crematoria and outdoor incineration pits was 20,000 bodies per day. [196] A planned sixth facility—crematorium VI—was never built. [197]

From 1942, Jews were being transported to Auschwitz from all over German-occupied Europe by rail, arriving in daily convoys. [198] The gas chambers worked to their fullest capacity from May to July 1944, during the Holocaust in Hungary. [199] A rail spur leading to crematoria II and III in Auschwitz II was completed that May, and a new ramp was built between sectors BI and BII to deliver the victims closer to the gas chambers (images top right). On 29 April the first 1,800 Jews from Hungary arrived at the camp. [200] From 14 May until early July 1944, 437,000 Hungarian Jews, half the pre-war population, were deported to Auschwitz, at a rate of 12,000 a day for a considerable part of that period. [122] The crematoria had to be overhauled. Crematoria II and III were given new elevators leading from the stoves to the gas chambers, new grates were fitted, and several of the dressing rooms and gas chambers were painted. Cremation pits were dug behind crematorium V. [200] The incoming volume was so great that the Sonderkommando resorted to burning corpses in open-air pits as well as in the crematoria. [201]


According to Polish historian Franciszek Piper, of the 1,095,000 Jews deported to Auschwitz, around 205,000 were registered in the camp and given serial numbers 25,000 were sent to other camps and 865,000 were killed soon after arrival. [202] Adding non-Jewish victims gives a figure of 900,000 who were killed without being registered. [203]

During "selection" on arrival, those deemed able to work were sent to the right and admitted into the camp (registered), and the rest were sent to the left to be gassed. The group selected to die included almost all children, women with small children, the elderly, and others who appeared on brief and superficial inspection by an SS doctor not to be fit for work. [204] Practically any fault—scars, bandages, boils and emaciation—might provide reason enough to be deemed unfit. [205] Children might be made to walk toward a stick held at a certain height those who could walk under it were selected for the gas. [206] Inmates unable to walk or who arrived at night were taken to the crematoria on trucks otherwise the new arrivals were marched there. [207] Their belongings were seized and sorted by inmates in the "Kanada" warehouses, an area of the camp in sector BIIg that housed 30 barracks used as storage facilities for plundered goods it derived its name from the inmates' view of Canada as a land of plenty. [208]

Inside the crematoria

The crematoria consisted of a dressing room, gas chamber, and furnace room. In crematoria II and III, the dressing room and gas chamber were underground in IV and V, they were on the ground floor. The dressing room had numbered hooks on the wall to hang clothes. In crematorium II, there was also a dissection room (Sezierraum). [210] SS officers told the victims they had to take a shower and undergo delousing. The victims undressed in the dressing room and walked into the gas chamber signs said "Bade" (bath) or "Desinfektionsraum" (disinfection room). A former prisoner testified that the language of the signs changed depending on who was being killed. [211] Some inmates were given soap and a towel. [212] A gas chamber could hold up to 2,000 one former prisoner said it was around 3,000. [213]

The Zyklon B was delivered to the crematoria by a special SS bureau known as the Hygiene Institute. [214] After the doors were shut, SS men dumped in the Zyklon B pellets through vents in the roof or holes in the side of the chamber. The victims were usually dead within 10 minutes Rudolf Höss testified that it took up to 20 minutes. [215] Leib Langfus, a member of the Sonderkommando, buried his diary (written in Yiddish) near crematorium III in Auschwitz II. It was found in 1952, signed "A.Y.R.A": [216]

It would be difficult to even imagine that so many people would fit in such a small [room]. Anyone who did not want to go inside was shot [. ] or torn apart by the dogs. They would have suffocated from the lack of air within several hours. Then all the doors were sealed tight and the gas thrown in by way of a small hole in the ceiling. There was nothing more that the people inside could do. And so they only screamed in bitter, lamentable voices. Others complained in voices full of despair, and others still sobbed spasmodically and sent up a dire, heart-rending weeping. . And in the meantime, their voices grew weaker and weaker . Because of the great crowding, people fell one atop another as they died, until a heap arose consisting of five or six layers atop the other, reaching a height of one meter. Mothers froze in a seated position on the ground embracing their children in their arms, and husbands and wives died hugging each other. Some of the people made up a formless mass. Others stood in a leaning position, while the upper parts, from the stomach up, were in a lying position. Some of the people had turned completely blue under the influence of the gas, while others looks entirely fresh, as if they were asleep. [217]

Use of corpses

Sonderkommando wearing gas masks dragged the bodies from the chamber. They removed glasses and artificial limbs and shaved off the women's hair [215] women's hair was removed before they entered the gas chamber at Bełżec, Sobibór, and Treblinka, but at Auschwitz it was done after death. [218] By 6 February 1943, the Reich Economic Ministry had received 3,000 kg of women's hair from Auschwitz and Majdanek. [218] The hair was first cleaned in a solution of sal ammoniac, dried on the brick floor of the crematoria, combed, and placed in paper bags. [219] The hair was shipped to various companies, including one manufacturing plant in Bremen-Bluementhal, where workers found tiny coins with Greek letters on some of the braids, possibly from some of the 50,000 Greek Jews deported to Auschwitz in 1943. [220] When they liberated the camp in January 1945, the Red Army found 7,000 kg of human hair in bags ready to ship. [219]

Just before cremation, jewelry was removed, along with dental work and teeth containing precious metals. [221] Gold was removed from the teeth of dead prisoners from 23 September 1940 onwards by order of Heinrich Himmler. [222] The work was carried out by members of the Sonderkommando who were dentists anyone overlooking dental work might themselves be cremated alive. [221] The gold was sent to the SS Health Service and used by dentists to treat the SS and their families 50 kg had been collected by 8 October 1942. [222] By early 1944, 10–12 kg of gold were being extracted monthly from victims' teeth. [223]

The corpses were burned in the nearby incinerators, and the ashes were buried, thrown in the Vistula river, or used as fertilizer. Any bits of bone that had not burned properly were ground down in wooden mortars. [224]

Death toll

At least 1.3 million people were sent to Auschwitz between 1940 and 1945, and at least 1.1 million died. [5] Overall 400,207 prisoners were registered in the camp: 268,657 male and 131,560 female. [141] A study in the late 1980s by Polish historian Franciszek Piper, published by Yad Vashem in 1991, [225] used timetables of train arrivals combined with deportation records to calculate that, of the 1.3 million sent to the camp, 1,082,000 had died there, a figure (rounded up to 1.1 million) that Piper regarded as a minimum. [5] That figure came to be widely accepted. [h]

The Germans tried to conceal how many they had killed. In July 1942, according to Rudolf Höss's post-war memoir, Höss received an order from Heinrich Himmler, via Adolf Eichmann's office and SS commander Paul Blobel, that "[a]ll mass graves were to be opened and the corpses burned. In addition the ashes were to be disposed of in such a way that it would be impossible at some future time to calculate the number of corpses burned." [229]

Earlier estimates of the death toll were higher than Piper's. Following the camp's liberation, the Soviet government issued a statement, on 8 May 1945, that four million people had been killed on the site, a figure based on the capacity of the crematoria. [230] Höss told prosecutors at Nuremberg that at least 2,500,000 people had been gassed there, and that another 500,000 had died of starvation and disease. [231] He testified that the figure of over two million had come from Eichmann. [232] In his memoirs, written in custody, Höss wrote that Eichmann had given the figure of 2.5 million to Höss's superior officer Richard Glücks, based on records that had been destroyed. [233] Höss regarded this figure as "far too high. Even Auschwitz had limits to its destructive possibilities," he wrote. [234]

(Source: Franciszek Piper) [2]
Registered deaths
Unregistered deaths
Jews 95,000 865,000 960,000
Ethnic Poles 64,000 10,000 74,000 (70,000–75,000)
Roma and Sinti 19,000 2,000 21,000
Soviet prisoners of war 12,000 3,000 15,000
Other Europeans:
Soviet citizens (Byelorussians, Russians, Ukrainians),
Czechs, Yugoslavs, French, Germans, Austrians
10,000–15,000 n/a 10,000–15,000
Total deaths in Auschwitz, 1940–1945 200,000–205,000 880,000 1,080,000–1,085,000

Around one in six Jews killed in the Holocaust died in Auschwitz. [235] By nation, the greatest number of Auschwitz's Jewish victims originated from Hungary, accounting for 430,000 deaths, followed by Poland (300,000), France (69,000), Netherlands (60,000), Greece (55,000), Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia (46,000), Slovakia (27,000), Belgium (25,000), Germany and Austria (23,000), Yugoslavia (10,000), Italy (7,500), Norway (690), and others (34,000). [236] Timothy Snyder writes that fewer than one percent of the million Soviet Jews murdered in the Holocaust were killed in Auschwitz. [237] Of the at least 387 Jehovah's Witnesses who were imprisoned at Auschwitz, 132 died in the camp. [238]

Camp resistance, flow of information

Camp of Death pamphlet (1942) by Natalia Zarembina [239]

Halina Krahelska report from Auschwitz Oświęcim, pamiętnik więźnia ("Auschwitz: Diary of a prisoner"), 1942. [240]

Information about Auschwitz became available to the Allies as a result of reports by Captain Witold Pilecki of the Polish Home Army [241] who, as "Tomasz Serafiński" (serial number 4859), [242] allowed himself to be arrested in Warsaw and taken to Auschwitz. [241] He was imprisoned there from 22 September 1940 [243] until his escape on 27 April 1943. [242] Michael Fleming writes that Pilecki was instructed to sustain morale, organize food, clothing and resistance, prepare to take over the camp if possible, and smuggle information out to the Polish military. [241] Pilecki called his resistance movement Związek Organizacji Wojskowej (ZOW, "Union of Military Organization"). [243]

The resistance sent out the first oral message about Auschwitz with Dr. Aleksander Wielkopolski, a Polish engineer who was released in October 1940. [244] The following month the Polish underground in Warsaw prepared a report on the basis of that information, The camp in Auschwitz, part of which was published in London in May 1941 in a booklet, The German Occupation of Poland, by the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The report said of the Jews in the camp that "scarcely any of them came out alive". According to Fleming, the booklet was "widely circulated amongst British officials". The Polish Fortnightly Review based a story on it, writing that "three crematorium furnaces were insufficient to cope with the bodies being cremated", as did The Scotsman on 8 January 1942, the only British news organization to do so. [245]

On 24 December 1941, the resistance groups representing the various prisoner factions met in block 45 and agreed to cooperate. Fleming writes that it has not been possible to track Pilecki's early intelligence from the camp. Pilecki compiled two reports after he escaped in April 1943 the second, Raport W, detailed his life in Auschwitz I and estimated that 1.5 million people, mostly Jews, had been killed. [246] On 1 July 1942, the Polish Fortnightly Review published a report describing Birkenau, writing that "prisoners call this supplementary camp 'Paradisal', presumably because there is only one road, leading to Paradise". Reporting that inmates were being killed "through excessive work, torture and medical means", it noted the gassing of the Soviet prisoners of war and Polish inmates in Auschwitz I in September 1941, the first gassing in the camp. It said: "It is estimated that the Oswiecim camp can accommodate fifteen thousand prisoners, but as they die on a mass scale there is always room for new arrivals." [247]

The Polish government-in-exile in London first reported the gassing of prisoners in Auschwitz on 21 July 1942, [248] and reported the gassing of Soviet POWs and Jews on 4 September 1942. [249] In 1943, the Kampfgruppe Auschwitz (Combat Group Auschwitz) was organized within the camp with the aim of sending out information about what was happening. [250] The Sonderkommando buried notes in the ground, hoping they would be found by the camp's liberators. [251] The group also smuggled out photographs the Sonderkommando photographs, of events around the gas chambers in Auschwitz II, were smuggled out of the camp in September 1944 in a toothpaste tube. [252]

According to Fleming, the British press responded, in 1943 and the first half of 1944, either by not publishing reports about Auschwitz or by burying them on the inside pages. The exception was the Polish Jewish Observer, a City and East London Observer supplement edited by Joel Cang, a former Warsaw correspondent for the Manchester Guardian. The British reticence stemmed from a Foreign Office concern that the public might pressure the government to respond or provide refuge for the Jews, and that British actions on behalf of the Jews might affect its relationships in the Middle East. There was similar reticence in the United States, and indeed within the Polish government-in-exile and the Polish resistance. According to Fleming, the scholarship suggests that the Polish resistance distributed information about the Holocaust in Auschwitz without challenging the Allies' reluctance to highlight it. [253]

Escapes, Auschwitz Protocols

From the first escape on 6 July 1940 of Tadeusz Wiejowski, at least 802 prisoners (757 men and 45 women) tried to escape from the camp, according to Polish historian Henryk Świebocki. [254] [i] He writes that most escapes were attempted from work sites outside the camp's perimeter fence. [256] Of the 802 escapes, 144 were successful, 327 were caught, and the fate of 331 is unknown. [255]

Four Polish prisoners—Eugeniusz Bendera (serial number 8502), Kazimierz Piechowski (no. 918), Stanisław Gustaw Jaster (no. 6438), and Józef Lempart (no. 3419)—escaped successfully on 20 June 1942. After breaking into a warehouse, three of them dressed as SS officers and stole rifles and an SS staff car, which they drove out of the camp with the fourth handcuffed as a prisoner. They wrote later to Rudolf Höss apologizing for the loss of the vehicle. [257] On 21 July 1944, Polish inmate Jerzy Bielecki dressed in an SS uniform and, using a faked pass, managed to cross the camp's gate with his Jewish girlfriend, Cyla Cybulska, pretending that she was wanted for questioning. Both survived the war. For having saved her, Bielecki was recognized by Yad Vashem as Righteous Among the Nations. [258]

Jerzy Tabeau (no. 27273, registered as Jerzy Wesołowski) and Roman Cieliczko (no. 27089), both Polish prisoners, escaped on 19 November 1943 Tabeau made contact with the Polish underground and, between December 1943 and early 1944, wrote what became known as the Polish Major's report about the situation in the camp. [259] On 27 April 1944, Rudolf Vrba (no. 44070) and Alfréd Wetzler (no. 29162) escaped to Slovakia, carrying detailed information to the Slovak Jewish Council about the gas chambers. The distribution of the Vrba-Wetzler report, and publication of parts of it in June 1944, helped to halt the deportation of Hungarian Jews to Auschwitz. On 27 May 1944, Arnost Rosin (no. 29858) and Czesław Mordowicz (no. 84216) also escaped to Slovakia the Rosin-Mordowicz report was added to the Vrba-Wetzler and Tabeau reports to become what is known as the Auschwitz Protocols. [260] The reports were first published in their entirety in November 1944 by the United States War Refugee Board, in a document entitled The Extermination Camps of Auschwitz (Oświęcim) and Birkenau in Upper Silesia. [261]

Bombing proposal

In January 1941 the Commander-in-Chief of the Polish Army and prime minister-in-exile, Władysław Sikorski, arranged for a report to be forwarded to Air Marshal Richard Pierse, head of RAF Bomber Command. [262] Written by Auschwitz prisoners in or around December 1940, the report described the camp's atrocious living conditions and asked the Polish government-in-exile to bomb it:

The prisoners implore the Polish Government to have the camp bombed. The destruction of the electrified barbed wire, the ensuing panic and darkness prevailing, the chances of escape would be great. The local population will hide them and help them to leave the neighbourhood. The prisoners are confidently awaiting the day when Polish planes from Great Britain will enable their escape. This is the prisoners unanimous demand to the Polish Government in London. [263]

Pierse replied that it was not technically feasible to bomb the camp without harming the prisoners. [262] In May 1944 Slovak rabbi Michael Dov Weissmandl suggested that the Allies bomb the rails leading to the camp. [264] Historian David Wyman published an essay in Commentary in 1978 entitled "Why Auschwitz Was Never Bombed", arguing that the United States Army Air Forces could and should have attacked Auschwitz. In his book The Abandonment of the Jews: America and the Holocaust 1941–1945 (1984), Wyman argued that, since the IG Farben plant at Auschwitz III had been bombed three times between August and December 1944 by the US Fifteenth Air Force in Italy, it would have been feasible for the other camps or railway lines to be bombed too. Bernard Wasserstein's Britain and the Jews of Europe (1979) and Martin Gilbert's Auschwitz and the Allies (1981) raised similar questions about British inaction. [265] Since the 1990s, other historians have argued that Allied bombing accuracy was not sufficient for Wyman's proposed attack, and that counterfactual history is an inherently problematic endeavor. [266]

Sonderkommando revolt

The Sonderkommando who worked in the crematoria were witnesses to the mass murder and were therefore regularly killed themselves. [268] On 7 October 1944, following an announcement that 300 of them were to be sent to a nearby town to clear away rubble—"transfers" were a common ruse for the murder of prisoners—the group, mostly Jews from Greece and Hungary, staged an uprising. [269] They attacked the SS with stones and hammers, killing three of them, and set crematorium IV on fire with rags soaked in oil that they had hidden. [270] Hearing the commotion, the Sonderkommando at crematorium II believed that a camp uprising had begun and threw their Oberkapo into a furnace. After escaping through a fence using wirecutters, they managed to reach Rajsko, where they hid in the granary of an Auschwitz satellite camp, but the SS pursued and killed them by setting the granary on fire. [271]

By the time the rebellion at crematorium IV had been suppressed, 212 members of the Sonderkommando were still alive and 451 had been killed. [272] The dead included Zalmen Gradowski, who kept notes of his time in Auschwitz and buried them near crematorium III after the war, another Sonderkommando member showed the prosecutors where to dig. [273] The notes were published in several formats, including in 2017 as From the Heart of Hell. [274]

Evacuation and death marches

The last mass transports to arrive in Auschwitz were 60,000–70,000 Jews from the Łódź Ghetto, some 2,000 from Theresienstadt, and 8,000 from Slovakia. [275] The last selection took place on 30 October 1944. [196] On 1 or 2 November 1944, Heinrich Himmler ordered the SS to halt the mass murder by gas [276] and on 25 November he ordered that Auschwitz's gas chambers and crematoria be destroyed. The Sonderkommando and other prisoners began the job of dismantling the buildings and cleaning up the site. [277] On 18 January 1945, Engelbert Marketsch, a German criminal transferred from Mauthausen, became the last prisoner to be assigned a serial number in Auschwitz, number 202499. [278]

According to Polish historian Andrzej Strzelecki, the evacuation of the camp was one of its "most tragic chapters". [279] Himmler ordered the evacuation of all camps in January 1945, telling camp commanders: "The Führer holds you personally responsible for . making sure that not a single prisoner from the concentration camps falls alive into the hands of the enemy." [280] The plundered goods from the "Kanada" barracks, together with building supplies, were transported to the German interior. Between 1 December 1944 and 15 January 1945, over one million items of clothing were packed to be shipped out of Auschwitz 95,000 such parcels were sent to concentration camps in Germany. [281]

Beginning on 17 January, some 58,000 Auschwitz detainees (about two-thirds Jews)—over 20,000 from Auschwitz I and II and over 30,000 from the subcamps—were evacuated under guard, at first heading west on foot, then by open-topped freight trains, to concentration camps in Germany and Austria: Bergen-Belsen, Buchenwald, Dachau, Flossenburg, Gross-Rosen, Mauthausen, Dora-Mittelbau, Ravensbruck, and Sachsenhausen. [282] Fewer than 9,000 remained in the camps, deemed too sick to move. [283] During the marches, the SS shot or otherwise dispatched anyone unable to continue "execution details" followed the marchers, killing prisoners who lagged behind. [279] Peter Longerich estimated that a quarter of the detainees were thus killed. [284] By December 1944 some 15,000 Jewish prisoners had made it from Auschwitz to Bergen-Belsen, where they were liberated by the British on 15 April 1945. [285]

On 20 January, crematoria II and III were blown up, and on 23 January the "Kanada" warehouses were set on fire they apparently burned for five days. Crematorium IV had been partly demolished after the Sonderkommando revolt in October, and the rest of it was destroyed later. On 26 January, one day ahead of the Red Army's arrival, crematorium V was blown up. [286]


The first in the camp complex to be liberated was Auschwitz III, the IG Farben camp at Monowitz a soldier from the 100th Infantry Division of the Red Army entered the camp around 9 am on Saturday, 27 January 1945. [287] The 60th Army of the 1st Ukrainian Front (also part of the Red Army) arrived in Auschwitz I and II around 3 pm. They found 7,000 prisoners alive in the three main camps, 500 in the other subcamps, and over 600 corpses. [288] Items found included 837,000 women's garments, 370,000 men's suits, 44,000 pairs of shoes, [289] and 7,000 kg of human hair, estimated by the Soviet war crimes commission to have come from 140,000 people. [219] Some of the hair was examined by the Forensic Science Institute in Kraków, where it was found to contain traces of prussic acid, the main ingredient of Zyklon B. [290] Primo Levi described seeing the first four soldiers on horseback approach Auschwitz III, where he had been in the sick bay. They threw "strangely embarrassed glances at the sprawling bodies, at the battered huts and at us few still alive . ": [291]

They did not greet us, nor did they smile they seemed oppressed not only by compassion but by a confused restraint, which sealed their lips and bound their eyes to the funereal scene. It was that shame we knew so well, the shame that drowned us after the selections, and every time we had to watch, or submit to, some outrage: the shame the Germans did not know, that the just man experiences at another man's crime the feeling of guilt that such a crime should exist, that it should have been introduced irrevocably into the world of things that exist, and that his will for good should have proved too weak or null, and should not have availed in defence. [292]

Georgii Elisavetskii, a Soviet soldier who entered one of the barracks, said in 1980 that he could hear other soldiers telling the inmates: "You are free, comrades!" But they did not respond, so he tried in Russian, Polish, German, Ukrainian. Then he used some Yiddish: "They think that I am provoking them. They begin to hide. And only when I said to them: 'Do not be afraid, I am a colonel of Soviet Army and a Jew. We have come to liberate you' . Finally, as if the barrier collapsed . they rushed toward us shouting, fell on their knees, kissed the flaps of our overcoats, and threw their arms around our legs." [289]

The Soviet military medical service and Polish Red Cross (PCK) set up field hospitals that looked after 4,500 prisoners suffering from the effects of starvation (mostly diarrhea) and tuberculosis. Local volunteers helped until the Red Cross team arrived from Kraków in early February. [293] In Auschwitz II, the layers of excrement on the barracks floors had to be scraped off with shovels. Water was obtained from snow and from fire-fighting wells. Before more help arrived, 2,200 patients there were looked after by a few doctors and 12 PCK nurses. All the patients were later moved to the brick buildings in Auschwitz I, where several blocks became a hospital, with medical personnel working 18-hour shifts. [294]

The liberation of Auschwitz received little press attention at the time the Red Army was focusing on its advance toward Germany and liberating the camp had not been one of its key aims. Boris Polevoi reported on the liberation in Pravda on 2 February 1945 but made no mention of Jews [295] inmates were described collectively as "victims of Fascism". [296] It was when the Western Allies arrived in Buchenwald, Bergen-Belsen, and Dachau in April 1945 that the liberation of the camps received extensive coverage. [297]

Trials of war criminals

Only 789 Auschwitz staff, up to 15 percent, ever stood trial [6] most of the cases were pursued in Poland and the Federal Republic of Germany. [298] According to Aleksander Lasik, female SS officers were treated more harshly than male of the 17 women sentenced, four received the death penalty and the others longer prison terms than the men. He writes that this may have been because there were only 200 women overseers, and therefore they were more visible and memorable to the inmates. [299]

Camp commandant Rudolf Höss was arrested by the British on 11 March 1946 near Flensburg, northern Germany, where he had been working as a farmer under the pseudonym Franz Lang. He was imprisoned in Heide, then transferred to Minden for interrogation, part of the British occupation zone. From there he was taken to Nuremberg to testify for the defense in the trial of SS-Obergruppenführer Ernst Kaltenbrunner. Höss was straightforward about his own role in the mass murder and said he had followed the orders of Heinrich Himmler. [300] [j] Extradited to Poland on 25 May 1946, [301] he wrote his memoirs in custody, first published in Polish in 1951 then in German in 1958 as Kommandant in Auschwitz. [302] His trial before the Supreme National Tribunal in Warsaw opened on 11 March 1947 he was sentenced to death on 2 April and hanged in Auschwitz I on 16 April, near crematorium I. [303]

On 25 November 1947, the Auschwitz trial began in Kraków, when Poland's Supreme National Tribunal brought to court 40 former Auschwitz staff, including commandant Arthur Liebehenschel, women's camp leader Maria Mandel, and camp leader Hans Aumeier. The trials ended on 22 December 1947, with 23 death sentences, seven life sentences, and nine prison sentences ranging from three to 15 years. Hans Münch, an SS doctor who had several former prisoners testify on his behalf, was the only person to be acquitted. [304]

Other former staff were hanged for war crimes in the Dachau Trials and the Belsen Trial, including camp leaders Josef Kramer, Franz Hössler, and Vinzenz Schöttl doctor Friedrich Entress and guards Irma Grese and Elisabeth Volkenrath. [305] Bruno Tesch and Karl Weinbacher, the owner and chief executive officer of the firm Tesch & Stabenow, one of the suppliers of Zyklon B, were arrested by the British after the war and executed for knowingly supplying the chemical for use on humans. [306] The 180-day Frankfurt Auschwitz trials, held in West Germany from 20 December 1963 to 20 August 1965, tried 22 defendants, including two dentists, a doctor, two camp adjudants and the camp's pharmacist. The 700-page indictment, presenting the testimony of 254 witnesses, was accompanied by a 300-page report about the camp, Nationalsozialistische Konzentrationslager, written by historians from the Institut für Zeitgeschichte in Germany, including Martin Broszat and Helmut Krausnick. The report became the basis of their book, Anatomy of the SS State (1968), the first comprehensive study of the camp and the SS. The court convicted 19 of the defendants, giving six of them life sentences and the others between three and ten years. [307]


In the decades since its liberation, Auschwitz has become a primary symbol of the Holocaust. Historian Timothy D. Snyder attributes this to the camp's high death toll and "unusual combination of an industrial camp complex and a killing facility", which left behind far more witnesses than single-purpose killing facilities such as Chełmno or Treblinka. [308] In 2005 the United Nations General Assembly designated 27 January, the date of the camp's liberation, as International Holocaust Remembrance Day. [309] Helmut Schmidt visited the site in November 1977, the first West German chancellor to do so, followed by his successor, Helmut Kohl, in November 1989. [310] In a statement on the 50th anniversary of the liberation, Kohl said that "[t]he darkest and most awful chapter in German history was written at Auschwitz." [311] In January 2020, world leaders gathered at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem to commemorate the 75th anniversary. [312] It was the city's largest-ever political gathering, with over 45 heads of state and world leaders, including royalty. [313] At Auschwitz itself, Reuven Rivlin and Andrzej Duda, the presidents of Israel and Poland, laid wreaths. [314]

Notable memoirists of the camp include Primo Levi, Elie Wiesel, and Tadeusz Borowski. [235] Levi's If This is a Man, first published in Italy in 1947 as Se questo è un uomo, became a classic of Holocaust literature, an "imperishable masterpiece". [315] [k] Wiesel wrote about his imprisonment at Auschwitz in Night (1960) and other works, and became a prominent spokesman against ethnic violence in 1986, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. [317] Camp survivor Simone Veil was elected President of the European Parliament, serving from 1979 to 1982. [318] Two Auschwitz victims—Maximilian Kolbe, a priest who volunteered to die by starvation in place of a stranger, and Edith Stein, a Jewish convert to Catholicism—were named saints of the Catholic Church. [319]

In 2017, a Körber Foundation survey found that 40 percent of 14-year-olds in Germany did not know what Auschwitz was. [320] [321] The following year a survey organized by the Claims Conference, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and others found that 41 percent of 1,350 American adults surveyed, and 66 percent of millennials, did not know what Auschwitz was, while 22 percent said they had never heard of the Holocaust. [322] A CNN-ComRes poll in 2018 found a similar situation in Europe. [323]

Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum

On 2 July 1947, the Polish government passed a law establishing a state memorial to remember "the martyrdom of the Polish nation and other nations in Oswiecim". [324] The museum established its exhibits at Auschwitz I after the war, the barracks in Auschwitz II-Birkenau had been mostly dismantled and moved to Warsaw to be used on building sites. Dwork and van Pelt write that, in addition, Auschwitz I played a more central role in the persecution of the Polish people, in opposition to the importance of Auschwitz II to the Jews, including Polish Jews. [325] An exhibition opened in Auschwitz I in 1955, displaying prisoner mug shots hair, suitcases, and shoes taken from murdered prisoners canisters of Zyklon B pellets and other objects related to the killings. [326] UNESCO added the camp to its list of World Heritage Sites in 1979. [327] All the museum's directors were, until 1990, former Auschwitz prisoners. Visitors to the site have increased from 492,500 in 2001, to over one million in 2009, [328] to two million in 2016. [329]

There have been protracted disputes over the perceived Christianization of the site. Pope John Paul II celebrated mass over the train tracks leading to Auschwitz II-Birkenau on 7 June 1979 [330] and called the camp "the Golgotha of our age", referring to the crucifixion of Jesus. [331] More controversy followed when Carmelite nuns founded a convent in 1984 in a former theater outside the camp's perimeter, near block 11 of Auschwitz I, [332] after which a local priest and some survivors erected a large cross—one that had been used during the pope's mass—behind block 11 to commemorate 152 Polish inmates shot by the Germans in 1941. [333] [334] After a long dispute, Pope John Paul II intervened and the nuns moved the convent elsewhere in 1993. [335] The cross remained, triggering the "War of the Crosses", as more crosses were erected to commemorate Christian victims, despite international objections. The Polish government and Catholic Church eventually agreed to remove all but the original. [336]

On 4 September 2003, despite a protest from the museum, three Israeli Air Force F-15 Eagles performed a fly-over of Auschwitz II-Birkenau during a ceremony at the camp below. All three pilots were descendants of Holocaust survivors, including the man who led the flight, Major-General Amir Eshel. [337] On 27 January 2015, some 300 Auschwitz survivors gathered with world leaders under a giant tent at the entrance to Auschwitz II to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the camp's liberation. [338] [l]

Museum curators consider visitors who pick up items from the ground to be thieves, and local police will charge them as such the maximum penalty is a 10-year prison sentence. [340] In 2017 two British youths from the Perse School were fined in Poland after picking up buttons and shards of decorative glass in 2015 from the "Kanada" area of Auschwitz II, where camp victims' personal effects were stored. [341] The 16-ft Arbeit Macht Frei sign over the main camp's gate was stolen in December 2009 by a Swedish former neo-Nazi and two Polish men. The sign was later recovered. [342]

In 2018 the Polish government passed an amendment to its Act on the Institute of National Remembrance, making it a criminal offence to make false suggestions of Polish complicity in the Holocaust, which would include referring to Auschwitz and other camps as "Polish death camps". [343] Staff at the museum were accused by nationalist media in Poland of focusing too much on the fate of the Jews in Auschwitz at the expense of ethnic Poles. The brother of the museum's director, Piotr Cywiński, wrote that Cywiński had experienced "50 days of incessant hatred". [344] After discussions with Israel's prime minister, amid international concern that the new law would stifle research, the Polish government adjusted the amendment so that anyone falsely accusing Poland of complicity would be guilty only of a civil offence. [345]


  1. ^ The Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service, passed on 7 April 1933, excluded most Jews from the legal profession and civil service. Similar legislation deprived Jewish members of other professions of the right to practise. [10]
  2. ^Danuta Czech (Auschwitz 1940–1945, Volume V, Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, 2000): "June 14 [1940]: The first transport of Polish political prisoners arrived from the Tarnów prison: 728 men sent to Auschwitz by the commander of the Sipo u. SD (Security Police and Security Service) in Cracow. These prisoners were given camp serial numbers 31 to 758. The transport included many healthy young men fit for military service, who had been caught trying to cross the Polish southern border in order to make their way to the Polish Armed Forces being formed in France. The organizers of this illegal emigration operation were also in this transport, along with resistance organizers, political and community activists, members of the Polish intelligentsia, Catholic priests, and Jews, arrested in the 'AB' (Außerordentliche Befriedungsaktion) operation organized by Hans Frank in the spring of 1940. At the same time, a further 100 SS men—officers and SS enlisted men—were sent to reinforce the camp garrison." [26]
  3. ^Franciszek Piper writes that, according to post-war testimony from several inmates, as well as from Rudolf Höss (Auschwitz commandant from May 1940), the gas chamber at Auschwitz I could hold 1,000 people. [32]
  4. ^Danuta Czech (Auschwitz 1940–1945, Volume V, Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, 2000): "February 15, 1942: "The first transport of Jews arrested by the Stapo (State Police) in Katowice and fated to die at Auschwitz arrived from Beuthen. They were unloaded at the ramp on the camp railroad siding and ordered to leave their baggage there. The camp SS flying squad received the Jews from the Stapo and led the victims to the gas chamber in the camp crematorium. There, they were killed with the use of Zyklon B gas." [37]
  5. ^Mary Fulbrook (A Small Town Near Auschwitz: Ordinary Nazis and the Holocaust, Oxford University Press, 2012): "Gunter Faerber, for example, recalled the moment in February 1942 when the Jews of Beuthen (Bytom in Polish), where his grandmother lived, were brought through Bedzin on their way to Auschwitz. . Two large army trucks of Jewish women from Beuthen were brought 'straight to the station, they were queuing at the station . I was still given a chance to say goodbye because we knew already . that the women of Beuthen are arriving' . I went down to the station, I saw the long queue of women.' Faerber asked permission of a Gestapo guard to go up to his grandmother, who was with her sister, 'and I said goodbye, and that was the last I saw of them and the whole transport was moved out by train . '" [39]
  6. ^Danuta Czech (Auschwitz 1940–1945, Volume V, 2000): "March 26, 1942: Nine hundred ninety-nine Jewish women from Poprad in Slovakia arrived, and were assigned numbers 1000–1998. This was the first registered transport sent to Auschwitz by RSHA IV B4 (the Jewish Office, directed by SS-Obersturmbannführer Adolf Eichmann)." [44]
  7. ^ This was the third set of serial numbers started in the camp. [115]
  8. ^Robert Jan van Pelt (The Case for Auschwitz, 2002): "This figure [1.1 million] has been endorsed by all serious, professional historians who have studied the complex history of Auschwitz in some detail, by the Holocaust research institute at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, and by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C." [226]

Earlier estimates included Raul Hilberg's 1961 work, The Destruction of the European Jews, which estimated that up to one million Jews had died in the camp. [227] In 1983 French scholar George Wellers was one of the first to use German data on deportations to calculate the death toll he arrived at a figure of 1,471,595 deaths, including 1.35 million Jews and 86,675 non-Jewish Poles. [228]


  1. ^"The unloading ramps and selections". Auschwitz-Birkenau State. Archived from the original on 21 January 2019.
  2. ^ abcPiper 2000b, p. 230.
  3. ^
  4. "Auschwitz I, Auschwitz II-Birkenau, Auschwitz III-Monowitz". Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum. Archived from the original on 22 January 2019.
  5. ^Dwork & van Pelt 2002, p. 166.
  6. ^ abcPiper 2000b, pp. 230–231 also see Piper 1998b, pp. 71–72.
  7. ^ abLasik 2000b, p. 116, n. 19.
  8. ^Evans 2005, p. 7.
  9. ^Browning 2004, p. 424.
  10. ^Longerich 2010, pp. 32–35, 41.
  11. ^Longerich 2010, pp. 38–39.
  12. ^Longerich 2010, pp. 41, 67–69.
  13. ^Longerich 2010, p. 60.
  14. ^Browning 2004, pp. 24–26 Longerich 2010, p. 144.
  15. ^Haar 2009, pp. 41–46.
  16. ^Cesarani 2016, p. xxxiii.
  17. ^Piper 2000b, p. 117.
  18. ^Matthäus 2004, p. 244.
  19. ^Gerlach 2016, pp. 84–85.
  20. ^
  21. "Killing Centers: An Overview". Holocaust Encyclopedia. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Archived from the original on 14 September 2017.
  22. ^ abDwork & van Pelt 2002, p. 362.
  23. ^Piper 2000a, pp. 52–53 Dwork & van Pelt 2002, p. 166.
  24. ^ abcGutman 1998, p. 16.
  25. ^Piper 2000a, pp. 52–53 also see Iwaszko 2000b, p. 51 Dwork & van Pelt 2002, p. 166
  26. ^Iwaszko 2000a, p. 15.
  27. ^Czech 2000, p. 121 for serial number 1, Strzelecka & Setkiewicz 2000, p. 65.
  28. ^Czech 2000, pp. 121–122.
  29. ^Strzelecka & Setkiewicz 2000, p. 71.
  30. ^Strzelecka & Setkiewicz 2000, pp. 72–73.
  31. ^ abDwork & van Pelt 2002, p. 364.
  32. ^Piper 2000b, p. 121.
  33. ^Piper 2000b, pp. 121, 133 Piper 1998c, pp. 158–159.
  34. ^ abcdPiper 2000b, p. 128.
  35. ^Dwork & van Pelt 2002, p. 292 Piper 1998c, pp. 157–158 Piper 2000b, p. 117.
  36. ^Czech 2000, p. 142 Świebocki 2002, pp. 126–127, n. 50.
  37. ^Piper 2000a, p. 61.
  38. ^Höss 2003, p. 148.
  39. ^ abCzech 2000, p. 142.
  40. ^van Pelt 1998, p. 145 Piper 2000a, p. 61 Steinbacher 2005, p. 107 "Anniversary of the First Transport of Polish Jews to Auschwitz". Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, 13 February 2006.
  41. ^Fulbrook 2012, pp. 220–221, 396, n. 49.
  42. ^Friedländer 2007, p. 359.
  43. ^Browning 2004, p. 357.
  44. ^Wachsmann 2015, p. 707.
  45. ^ abCzech 2000, p. 143.
  46. ^ abcdeCzech 2000, p. 144.
  47. ^Piper 2000a, p. 62.
  48. ^ abPiper 2000b, p. 133, n. 419.
  49. ^ abMüller 1999, p. 31 Piper 2000b, p. 133.
  50. ^Piper 2000b, p. 132, for more on the corpses, p. 140 for 400 prisoners and over 107,000 corpses, see Czech 2000, p. 165.
  51. ^ abPiper 2000b, p. 144.
  52. ^Hayes 2003, p. 335.
  53. ^Piper 2000b, pp. 144, 155 for Kriegsgefangenenlager.
  54. ^Strzelecka & Setkiewicz 2000, pp. 80–83.
  55. ^van Pelt 1998, pp. 118–119.
  56. ^van Pelt 1998, pp. 122–123.
  57. ^Strzelecka & Setkiewicz 2000, p. 87.
  58. ^Czech 2000, pp. 138–139.
  59. ^Steinbacher 2005, p. 94.
  60. ^Piper 2000b, pp. 134–136 also see Piper 1998c, p. 161.
  61. ^Pressac & van Pelt 1998, pp. 214–215 also see Piper 2000b, p. 138.
  62. ^Piper 2000b, p. 143.
  63. ^Piper 2000b, pp. 165–166.
  64. ^Piper 2000b, p. 159.
  65. ^Piper 2000b, p. 164.
  66. ^Steinbacher 2005, p. 45.
  67. ^Hilberg 1998, pp. 81–82.
  68. ^Steinbacher 2005, p. 49.
  69. ^Strzelecka & Setkiewicz 2000, p. 108 for "IG-Auschwitz", see Hayes 2001, p. xii.
  70. ^Strzelecka & Setkiewicz 2000, p. 108.
  71. ^Strzelecka & Setkiewicz 2000, pp. 109–110.
  72. ^Strzelecka & Setkiewicz 2000, pp. 111–112.
  73. ^Lasik 2000a, pp. 151–152.
  74. ^Steinbacher 2005, p. 53.
  75. ^Strzelecka & Setkiewicz 2000, p. 112.
  76. ^Hayes 2001, p. 353.
  77. ^Hayes 2001, p. 359.
  78. ^Krakowski 1998, p. 57.
  79. ^Hayes 2001, p. 364.
  80. ^Steinbacher 2005, pp. 52, 56.
  81. ^Hayes 2001, p. 367 Strzelecka & Setkiewicz 2000, p. 115 that when the camp was evacuated, 9,054 of the 9,792 inmates were Jews, see Strzelecka & Setkiewicz 2000, p. 113.
  82. ^Strzelecka & Setkiewicz 2000, p. 115.
  83. ^Steinbacher 2005, p. 57.
  84. ^Strzelecka & Setkiewicz 2000, pp. 103–104.
  85. ^Strzelecka & Setkiewicz 2000, pp. 103, 119 Gutman 1998, p. 17.
  86. ^Gutman 1998, p. 18 Piper 1998a, p. 45 Steinbacher 2005, p. 58.
  87. ^Gutman 1998, pp. 17–18.
  88. ^Strzelecka & Setkiewicz 2000, p. 106 Kubica 2009, pp. 233–234.

Also see "The Budy Massacre—A grim anniversary". Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, 10 October 2007.

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Aftermath [ edit | edit source ]

Following the capture of Papar, the Australians ceased offensive actions on Borneo and the situation remained largely static until a ceasefire came into effect in mid August. ⎠] In early August 1945, two atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and on 15 August the Japanese Emperor, Hirohito, effectively announced an end to hostilities, with the formal surrender being signed on 2 September 1945. ⎣] As a result of the ceasefire, the planned Allied invasion of Japan was no longer required and as a result, the strategic gains provided by the capture of North Borneo were arguably negated. To some extent, this has led to claims in Australia that the Oboe operations—as well as the campaigns in the Aitape–Wewak region of New Guinea and on Bougainville and New Britain—had been "unnecessary" and had therefore resulted in needless casualties. ⎤] Throughout the course of the fighting on North Borneo, the Australians lost 114 men killed or died of wounds while another 221 men were wounded. Against this, the Japanese lost at least 1,234 men, while 130 had been captured. ⎞] ⎥] On top of this, a further 1,800 Japanese were estimated to have been killed by guerrilla forces operating as part of the clandestine Services Reconnaissance Department. ⎦]

After the fighting was over, the Australians began the task for establishing British civil administration, rebuilding the infrastructure that had been damaged and providing for the civilians that had been displaced in the fighting. Ώ] ⎧] Following the ceasefire, there were still a large number of Japanese troops in North Borneo—by October 1945 it was estimated that there was over 21,000 Japanese soldiers and civilians still in North Borneo—and the 9th Division was made responsible for organising the surrender, provisioning and protection of these personnel. ⎨] They were also tasked with liberating the Allied civilian internees and prisoners of war that were being held at Batu Lintang camp in Kuching, Sarawak. ⎩]

As civil administration was slowly restored, in October 1945, the Australian demobilisation process began. ⎪] Initially this process was slow as there were few troops able to relieve the Australian forces in Borneo and as such only long service personnel were released for return to Australia. ⎦] The 9th Division remained in North Borneo performing garrison duties until January 1946, when it was relieved by the 32nd Indian Brigade, and subsequently disbanded. ⎫] For the majority of the 9th Division's personnel a return to civilian life followed, however, as part of Australia's contribution to the occupation of Japan, a number of men from the 9th Division were transferred to the 67th Battalion which was being formed as part of the 34th Brigade. ⎬] Such was the relationship formed between the 9th Division and the civilian population of North Borneo, that the division's Unit Colour Patch was incorporated into the coat of arms of the Colony of British Borneo following the war, remaining as such until 1963, when the region was subsumed by the Malaysian state of Sabah. Ώ]

Watch the video: Japans Special Attack Units. Operation Ketsu GoUnboxing Factz #history