Birkenau Women's Camp

Women's camp at Birkenau

The photo above was taken from the tower on top of the gate house at the Auschwitz II camp, known as Birkenau. The Birkenau camp was originally built in 1941 to house Soviet Prisoners of War. The homes of Polish residents in the village of Birkenau were confiscated and the POWs had to tear down the houses with their bare hands and use the bricks to build barracks buildings.

The photo below shows the main camp road which goes past the women's camp; the wooden guard tower was added after the Birkenau camp became a Memorial site. Notice the poles for electrical lines which were there when the camp was used to house prisoners.

Early morning photo of the former women's camp

Interior gate into women's camp

From a distance, the women's barracks look like nice brick buildings, but wait until you see the interior! The Birkenau camp was built on a marsh and the ground is always wet. It didn't rain the whole time I was there, but the women's barracks were damp inside and they smelled like a basement that leaks.

The photo below shows a close-up of the ground near one of the brick barracks. Notice that the building is built directly on the wet ground with no foundation. The ground has moss growing on it, which indicates that this area was constantly wet. Survivors said that the ground between the barracks in the women's camp was always muddy. Even today, the ground near the barracks is uneven because the mud was churned by millions of feet walking on it.

Brick barracks were built with no foundation

The photo below shows the bunks inside one of the brick buildings in the women's camp. The prisoners slept in three tiers with the bottom tier on the brick floor. The bunks were almost as wide as a double bed, but 5 or more women had to sleep in one bunk. The bunks were very short and any woman over 5 ft. 6 in. tall would not have been able to stretch out. There were no mattresses; the prisoners slept on straw that was damp and worse than nothing at all. It is a miracle that anyone survived in this atmosphere which was conducive to illness.

Three-tier bunks in women's camp

The brick barracks buildings did not have a stove running down the center, as in the wooden barracks. Instead, there were bunks down the center of the building with two rows of beds, back to back. There were two more rows of bunks, one against each outside wall. A brick stove was at the end of each building.

Brick floor in women's barracks is not level

The photo above shows the brick floor in one of the women's barracks. The brick buildings had no foundations and the bricks were just laid on the bare ground. The floor became very uneven as the women walked on it and the muddy ground underneath caused the floor to buckle. At the top of the photo above, you can see the entrance door and a stone floor that is very uneven. On the top left in the photo, you can see the doorway into the tiny room where the block leader had a bed all to herself.

Another barrack building that I entered had a concrete floor, but it was so broken and buckled that it was dangerous to walk on.

Two long wash basins in one of the women's barracks.

The photo above shows a washroom in one of the women's barracks. There are two long basins where the women had to wash with cold water. The men's camp had washrooms in a separate building. The toilets were in another building in both the men's and women's camps.

The women had no soap or towels, no shampoo, no mirrors, no nail files, no toenail clippers, not even a handkerchief to blow their noses. The women who were the most likely to survive were the ones who worked in the clothing warehouses where they could steal items from the luggage of the incoming prisoners, or the women who worked in the kitchen who could steal extra food to trade for clothes or other necessities.

The photo below shows a wooden building in the women's camp with the gate house at the camp entrance in the background on the right. An old photo, taken when the camp was in operation, showed women lined up in front of this building for roll call.

Medical building in Women's camp

According to a sign at this location, "SS doctors and nurses murdered mothers and their newborns with phenol injections" in this building.

Kitchen building in Women's Camp

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This page was last updated on March 24, 2009