All photographs copyright © Alan Jacobs.

The Rear of Birkenau:
The Final Moments

This fence line is the extreme end of the main Birkenau camp. We are facing west. Scroll a bit past the guard tower to view the back end of the Memorial with its flag poles for all the countries who's citizens lost their live here. Scroll past the memorial and we are at the back end of Krematorium II.



This is where people just off the trains were brought and told they were about to receive a disinfecting shower, and afterward... work. This is the last of the world they would see. This is the last moment in the open air.



They were instructed to undress in the room below and put their clothes on numbered wall pegs so they could find them afterward.



After awhile they would be herded into the gas chamber. The cutaway of a pillar you see in the model photo is where the Zyclon B would be dropped in, from the ceiling. On the outside SS with gas masks opened the cans of crystals and poured them into these pillars.

As soon as the people inside realized what was happening, they struggled to get away from the gas seeping from them. There were peep holes for the SS to observe what was happening inside. When all were dead the prisoner-workers (Sonderkommando) opened the chamber, pulled out the bodies, shaved hair for use in German industry, and pulled out gold fillings from teeth.

The photos are close-ups of a clay model of Krematorium II, which is on exhibit at the Auschwitz Museum. A panorama of the model can be seen here.