The first transport of political prisoners to Auschwitz consisted almost exclusively of Poles. It was for them that the camp was founded, and the majority of prisoners were Polish for the first two years. They died of starvation, brutal mistreatment, beating, and sickness, and were executed and killed in the gas chambers. They are customarily thought of as resistance fighters or the Polish elite, but many of them were in fact arrested at random during roundups on the city streets, or during various terror operations. Until the mass transports of Jews began arriving in 1942, Poles occupied the lowest rung in the prisoner hierarchy. Their treatment did not improve significantly later. It is estimated that around half of the 140 thousand Poles deported to Auschwitz were murdered. Those who survived until evacuation in late 1944 and at the beginning of 1945 were transferred to other German concentration camps. For the wartime Polish public, “Oświęcim” was a synonym for suffering and martyrdom. Many Polish families lost loved ones here.
Form: lecture, illustrated with documents and photos
Audiences: Museum guides, intermediate- and secondary-school students, university students, teachers, educators.
Languages: Polish, English
Lecturer: Piotr Setkiewicz, Ph.D.Illustration: A list of newly arrived prisoners in a transport from Warsaw on October 4, 1941.