The Death Camps Where Millions Were Murdered

by Fr. Shay Cullen

The memory of the horrific genocide that killed six million Jews and a million other innocent people by the Nazi regime will hopefully live forever in the collective memory of the human race. It is the anniversary of the liberation by Russian soldiers of the most notorious Nazi extermination camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland on 27 January 1945. To recall the history is vital today as Neo-Nazi extreme right-wing racist groups and political parties emerge once again in Europe and white supremacist groups march in the United States.

Only the brave of heart will read this whole article. It has to be written, the truth has to be told again and again so the racist ideology behind mass murder, genocide and torture will be opposed, condemned and stopped and those who kill and have a policy of killing will be held accountable. Killing and murder can never ever be justified, it is always evil.

The recent anniversary events held in Israel and Poland recalled the mass murder of millions of people, most of them of the Jewish, race by the German Nazi regime. The Nazi death camps and all torture cells everywhere today are the hell holes of evil on earth. Auschwitz-Birkenau is just one of forty concentration extermination camps set up in Poland after it was invaded by Hitler, September 1, 1939. There were many more throughout Germany.

As many as 1.3 million people were incarcerated in Auschwitz-Birkenau- men, women and little children some as young as two years old and of them 1.1 million were systematically murdered and exterminated in gas chambers. They were brought from all over Europe in cattle cars, treated as valueless, marched to specially built gas chambers and were told to strip naked as if for a shower then deadly poison gas was showered on them. They died twisting and crying out in agony.

The masses of bodies were carried out by prisoners, dumped in mass graves but most were brought to the ovens and burnt like rubbish, their ashes scattered in marshes. It is the most horrific genocide ever. What twisted grotesque evil in humankind can do such terrible atrocities is what we need to ask and answer. In all, as many as six million Jews were exterminated by the Nazis between 1941 and 1945.

The German Nazi regime that came to power in 1933 headed by Adolf Hitler, an Austrian, set out to exterminate all who disagreed and opposed it by harassment, violence and death squads. They had extrajudicial killing squads, death camps and all-out war. The prime target of the Nazis were the Jewish people, whom Hitler blamed for the economic and social problems of Germany and Europe and he and his cronies organized mass murder known as the Holocaust. It has come to mean the mass slaughter and extermination of six million Jewish people. Millions of other people too were slaughtered: political prisoners, Soviet prisoners of war, gypsies, intellectually and physically disabled, Roma and gay people and any group that did not meet the Nazi standard of racial purity.

The mass murder was driven by racism that is an ingrained attitude of one group that believes itself to be superior and having hatred, discrimination and antagonism towards others who are considered to be inferior, unwanted human beings.

Racists single out and target others for exclusion or extermination because they are of a different race, skin color, religion, low status in life or are poor drug dependents. The Nazis considered themselves the master race. They had the power that could humiliate, vanquish and destroy whoever they liked to kill continuously, with impunity and no accountability. Hitler promoted, protected and awarded the most effective assassins and killers.

I have not been to visit the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp which is a memorial to the more than six million murdered Jewish people and more millions of abused, tortured, starved, worked to death and shot or poised to death by gas between 1933 and 1945. I have been to visit the Nazi concentration extermination camp of Buchenwald in Germany, near the historic cultural city of Weimar. Buchenwald camp was set up in 1937. The prisoners were slaves. I walked in the freezing cold where they died of hypothermia, where they suffered, where they were worked to death, where they starved, suffered cruelty and unbearable torture. I saw where they died after being hung from the trees by their hands tied behind their backs as they screamed in agony. Others were subjected to cruel medical experiments. The Nazi doctors set them on fire to test cures for burns. They poisoned others to test the speed of death. When it didnít work, they were strangled to death. I walked in the death room where others were hung up on hooks with wire and left to die.

I stood with great sadness in a killing room. The prisoner was made to stand against a wall outside the room whose height was to be supposedly measured. I saw the hole through which he was shot in the head. Over a thousand were killed in this way. Their bodies were elevated in a large steel bin to the ovens on the floor above. There, I stared in shock at the six ovens in a row where the bodies were burnt day and night. The grey smoke of burring bodies poured out of the chimney.

The thousands of prisoners working nearby choked on the foul-smelling fumes of the incinerated humans. They waited for a similar fate like animals to the slaughter. They were brutally and shamelessly murdered at Buchenwald, almost with glee by the sadistic killers, assassins, murdering criminals who vowed to kill as many as they could.
I saw the photographs of piles of the dead skeletal bodies piled high like garbage. In all, 56,545 people out of 280,000 who were sent to the Buchenwald death camp were murdered, many Jews and people of all backgrounds. I went to touch the memorial slab. It is constant 37 degrees, a continual universal temperature of the human skin. In the freezing cold that the prisoners awaiting death endured, I walked along the once electrified fence to the entrance tower and looked up at the clock. It said 3:15, the time the US liberating troops arrived on 11 April 1945.

There are no words, actions, policies, social problems that can ever justify killing of other human beings. Wanton mass killing is a horrendous crime, never right, always wrong, never to be justified. We have to say no, no, no, stop it, and never again.

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