MEMORIAL AND MUSEUM

AUSCHWITZ-BIRKENAU

FORMER GERMAN NAZI
CONCENTRATION AND EXTERMINATION CAMP

Executions

Auschwitz was also a place of execution. Prisoners sent to the camp as hostages, or with their files marked “return not desired” or “do not transfer,” were killed in Auschwitz. These notations meant that the prisoners should be killed after a certain time in the camp. The commandant, camp director, or head of the political department (camp Gestapo) could also order executions. This was usually the basis for killing the prisoners jailed in block 11, where they were serving disciplinary penalties or being held during investigations. Poles, sentenced to the death by the summary courts of the Katowice Administrative District or the General Government for political or, less frequently, criminal offenses, were also executed in Auschwitz. From 1943, people under investigation in cases before the Summary Court in Katowice were held in separate cells in block 11. This court usually passed death sentences, which were also carried out in the camp. Poles were also executed in Auschwitz on the basis of “special treatment”—people regarded as a threat to the Third Reich were sentenced to death without trial. Gestapo headquarters in a given province or district sent a request to the Reich Main Security Office in such instances, and Reichsführer SS Heinrich Himmler made the final decision. It is highly probable that the majority of Poles who were not registered in the camp were killed on the basis of “special treatment.”

Execution was carried out by shooting, gassing, hanging, and starvation.