MEMORIAL AND MUSEUM

AUSCHWITZ-BIRKENAU

FORMER GERMAN NAZI
CONCENTRATION AND EXTERMINATION CAMP

Starvation to death

In 1941, the camp authorities punished prisoners by starvation to death. They applied this penalty after escapes. During roll call, they selected hostages from the escapee’s block or labor detail. They took the hostages to dark cells in block 11 and held them there, without food, until the escapee was caught. In all known cases, however, the hostages starved to death. During the selection of hostages at the turn of July/August 1941, the Franciscan Maksymilian Kolbe volunteered to take the place of one of the hostages. After almost two weeks in the starvation cell, he was killed by a lethal injection of phenol. In 1943, the camp authorities used execution by starvation sporadically, and they later abandoned the practice entirely.