MEMORIAL AND MUSEUM

AUSCHWITZ-BIRKENAU

FORMER GERMAN NAZI
CONCENTRATION AND EXTERMINATION CAMP

The fate of the children

The fate of child and youth prisoners was no different in principle from that of adults (with the exception of the children in the family camps). Just like adults, they suffered from hunger and cold, were used as laborers, and were punished, put to death, and used as subjects in criminal experiments by SS doctors.

At the end of 1943, separate barracks were set up for children above the age of 2. These did not differ in any way from the barracks assigned to adults. The camp authorities did not even distribute milk or appropriate food rations for infants, thus sentencing them to starve to death. Only the children in the camp hospital were a little better off—the prisoner nursing and medical staffs tried to provide them with additional blankets, food, clothing, and medicine.

The hardest thing was trying to help the Jewish children who were at risk of selection for the gas chambers.

The extermination of children in Auschwitz and their transfer to other camps, especially in the final stages, ensured that few of them survived until liberation.

The available records indicate that there were at least 700 children and youth prisoners, including about 500 under 15, in Auschwitz when the Soviet soldiers arrived. More than half of these children were Jewish.

The liberated children were badly exhausted. Many of them ended up in the camp hospitals organized by the Soviets and the Polish Red Cross on the grounds of the main camp immediately after liberation.

After examining 180 children aged 6 months to 14 years, a forensic medical commission reported that the majority of them were suffering from diseases acquired in the camp. 60 percent showed vitamin deficiency and overall weakening of the organism, and 40% of them had tuberculosis. All of the children were underweight by 5 to 17 kilograms, despite the fact that the majority of them had been transported to Auschwitz in the second half of 1944, and had spent only a few months there.