As the Allies began to move into German held territory, they began to liberate the concentration camps and came across horrifying
discoveries. The Nazis had concentration camps set up and run by the SS (one of Hitler's secret police force). Many prisoners
were Jews, but some were political prisoners who had been brave enough to speak out against the Nazis.
In 1942, Hitler and the Nazis came up with one of the most horrifying, disgusting plans in history. They decided the every
Jew -man, woman, and child- would be transported to a concentration camp for "extermination". Hitler had called
this the Final Solution to the "Jewish problem" in Europe.
|A stockpile of Zyklon-B found at the Majdanek concentration camp in 1944
In Dachau and Bergen-Belsen concentration camps, slave labour was used on the Jewish people.
At places like Treblinka, Sobibor, and Maidanek in Poland, hanging, shooting, torturing, and overworking were all methods
of killing Jews. At Auschwitz, victims were crowded into what appeared to be a shower room. In actuality it was a gas chamber.
The rooms were then sealed and Zyklon B (a chemical which oxidizes when exposed to air) was dropped into the rooms through
small holes in the ceilings. The gas took anywhere from 3 to 15 minutes to kill a human. Gold fillings from victims were taken
to be melted down into gold bars. Other valuables such as rings, bracelets, and watches were taken and deposited in a bank
security vault for future use. The bodies were then placed into a large over for cremation. 6000 people could be killed in
one day at Auschwitz.
Before the war had ended, Berlin sent orders out for the concentration camps to be destroyed to keep them a secret. Time began
to run out however, as Russian, British, Canadian, and American troops overran the camps. The first of the soldiers who entered
these camps often broke down from the site before them. Tha Allies then decided that some parts of the concentration camps
should be preserved as a constant reminder of the Holocaust and the Nazi's systematic extermination of millions (it has been
estimated to be over 6 million) Jewish people.