All photographs copyright © Alan Jacobs.

Men's Barracks - BIIa Quarantine

In three tiered bunks, or hutches, there were at times 9–12 persons on each level, especially during the arrival of the Hungarian Jewish transports in the Spring and Summer of 1944. The bunks were about 3 meters wide. If prisoners wanted to turn, the whole row had to turn over with them. BIIa had only one row of barracks. Most of the other sub-camps, BIIb-e, had two rows.

These barracks were actually prefabricated wooden stables (Pferdestallbaracken, OKH-Typ 260/9), originally intended for use on the Eastern Front in Russia. They had rings attached to the walls for tying horses. There were 153 of these barracks in BII, the men's camp, and the camp hospital, not including toilet and washing barracks. The three deck hutches were originally intended to hold 15 prisoners, the total population about 400. In reality the number of prisoners in each barrack varied according to the size and number of arriving transports. In May-June of 1944 the Quarantine barracks could hold as many as 2,000 prisoners each. The long brick structure is part of an oven at each end, supposedly to radiate heat.

See painting by Auschwitz and Birkenau survivor, the late Mieczyslaw Koscielniak at [link]. The last two stalls were used to store buckets for excrement as there was no running water.

Survivor/author Tadeusz Borowski wrote: "If the barracks walls were suddenly to fall away, many thousands of people, packed together, squeezed tightly in their bunks, would remain suspended in mid-air. Such a sight would be more gruesome than the medieval paintings of the Last Judgment. For one of the ugliest sights to a man is that of another man sleeping on his tiny portion of the bunk, of the space he must occupy, because he has a body - a body that has been exploited to the utmost: with a number tattooed to save on dog tags, with just enough sleep at night to work during the day, and just enough time to eat. And just enough food so that he will not die wastefully. As for actual living, there is only one place for it - a piece of bunk. The rest belongs to the camp, to the fatherland"*

*Borowski, T. 1967. This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen, trans. Barbara Vedder. New York: Viking. p.110f.