The Central Sauna

The Central Sauna at Birkenau

The photo above shows the brick building which the SS called "die zentrale Sauna." The building is shaped like the letter I and the other side of it is a mirror image. When the Birkenau camp was in operation, this building contained a shower room, but it was also used for disinfecting the prisoners' clothing with hot steam or hot air. In the photo above, the center part of the building has two long hallways. Steam chambers were located against the wall that divided the hallways; on each side of the wall were doors into the chambers.

The wing of the building, which is on the right in the photo above, was where the shower room was located. In the wing of the building, shown on the left, are two exit doors; the door on the left in this wing of the building was the exit from the room where the men were given their prisoner clothing and the door on the right was the exit for the women. The entrance door for both sexes is on the other side of the building, not shown here.

The two photos below show the steam chambers used for delousing the clothing. Note that the first photo shows an exit door on the other side of the wall.

Closeup of steam chamber for delousing clothes

Steam chambers for delousing clothing at Birkenau

The steam chambers were manufactured by the Topf company, which also provided the crematory ovens at Birkenau and other Nazi concentration camps. At the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg, the Soviet Union charged the Nazi war criminals with killing Jews with steam at Treblinka, another death camp that used steam to disinfect the clothing.

The photo below shows one of the hot air ovens in the Central Sauna. These ovens were also used for killing lice in the clothing in an attempt to prevent epidemics of typhus.

Hot Air oven in the Central Sauna, used for killing lice in clothing

The Central Sauna was located directly across the road from a group of wooden warehouse buildings. The prisoners called this section of the camp "Canada" because of all the riches that could be found there. This was where the clothing, brought to the death camp by the Jews, was sorted and packed for shipment to Germany, to be given to the German civilians who had lost everything when their homes were bombed. During World War II, factories in Germany concentrated on making uniforms for the soldiers and civilian clothing was in short supply.

A sign marks the location of the clothing warehouses at Birkenau

In the background of the photo above is the location of the ruins of the Krema IV gas chamber building, which was blown up by the prisoners who worked there in October 1944.

The photo below shows a small pond where the ashes from Krema IV were dumped. In the background, you can see the Sauna building and to the right in the background are the ruins of Krema IV and Krema V, two of the four gas chamber buildings at Birkenau. The open space in front of the Sauna is the former location of the clothing warehouses, which were burned by the Nazis when they abandoned the camp.

Ash pond with the Central Sauna in the background


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