MEMORIAL AND MUSEUM

AUSCHWITZ-BIRKENAU

FORMER GERMAN NAZI
CONCENTRATION AND EXTERMINATION CAMP

Roma children

Gypsy children and young people made up the second most numerous group. For 17 months (February 1943-August 1944), like the Jews from Terezin, they stayed in a special family camp in Birkenau (sector BIIe). Among the 11 thousand children and young people who passed through this camp, almost 9.5 thousand were under 15, and 378 children were born there. For a short time, these children enjoyed certain privileges: they could live with their loved ones, and they received slightly better food. On orders from the head SS physician in the Gypsy camp, Dr. Mengele, a so-called Kindergarten was set up in sector BIIe in the summer of 1943. It had the role of a day-care center and preschool, and featured a playground equipped with a carousel, sandbox, and swings. Dr. Mengele experimented on the children from the Kindergarten.

The “privileged” position of the Gypsy children was short-lived. Catastrophic sanitary-hygienic conditions led to the outbreaks of typhus, scabies, and other epidemics that significantly raised the death rate among the Gypsies, especially the children. For some of the children, Dr. Mengele’s experiments ended in death by lethal injection of phenol so that the autopsy, the final stage of the experiment, could be carried out. The gradual liquidation of the family camp began in May 1944, and ended on August 2 with the death of the last 3 thousand men, women, and children in the Birkenau gas chambers.