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February 13, 2011

Block 24 at Auschwitz — the brothel

Filed under: Holocaust — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 9:51 am

Block 24 is the first building that visitors see on a tour of the main Auschwitz camp. This building was the location of the brothel and the camp library; both facilities were for the use of the inmates.

Arbeit Macht Frei gate at the Auschwitz main camp with Block 24 in the background

You have to get up pretty early in the morning to get a photo of the gate with Block 24 in the background.  The camp opens at 8 o’clock in the morning and there are tour groups already lined up outside the visitor’s center and more tour groups inside the camp, ready to enter through the Arbeit Macht Frei gate.  Last year, there were 1.3 million visitors to the Auschwitz Museum and this year, there will be many more, as the story of Auschwitz-Birkenau grows in popularity.

Early morning photo of Block 24 at Auschwitz I

Note the black sign at the base of the building.  When I took the photo above in 2005, the sign did NOT identify the building as the brothel and library.

The famous Arbeit Macht Frei gate with the brothel building in the background

The famous Arbeit Macht Frei gate with the brothel building in the background

Auschwitz was not the only camp to have a brothel and a library. According to Laurence Rees, in his book, Auschwitz, A New History, Auschwitz was the fifth camp within the Nazi state to offer such a “service.”

This quote is from Auschwitz, A New History:

Himmler had decided that providing brothels across the concentration camp network would increase productivity by offering “hard-working” prisoners (excluding Jews) an incentive to work even harder. He had ordered brothels to be constructed at Mauthausen and Gusen camps in Austria after an inspection as far back as May 1941 (they were finally opened in the summer of 1942). Then, in March 1943, he visited Buchenwald and demanded that another brothel be established there and also at other camps. His faithful factotum Oswald Pohl issued the necessary orders to concentration camp commandants in 1943.

The small rooms of the former Auschwitz brothel are now used to store archival documents.  The doors into the rooms still have peepholes.  This was for the protection of the women, in case one of the prisoners became violent during his visit. The prisoners were only allowed to have sex in the missionary position and an SS man had to watch in order to make sure that no “perverted” sex acts were committed.  Each man was allowed only 15 minutes for his turn with one of the women.

Most of the women in the brothels came from the Ravensbrueck camp for women, but according to Rees, the women in the Auschwitz brothel were selected from the Auschwitz II (Birkenau) camp.  On page 197 of his book, Rees wrote that the women in the Auschwitz brothel “were forced to have sex with approximately six men every day.”  He also wrote that one of the Auschwitz prisoners said that “the girls were treated very well”  and that they were given “good food” and allowed to “take walks.”

The girls who served the prisoners in the brothels were never Jewish girls because this would have been against Hitler’s Nuremberg laws of 1935.  Jewish prisoners were not allowed to visit the brothels for the same reason.  In spite of this, there are stories told by Auschwitz survivors that the women in the brothel were Jewish.  You can read one of these stories on this blog.

You can read here about the story of Gustav Petrat, a soldier who was put on trial by the American Military Tribunal after World War II.  Testimony at his trial included claims made by one of the women in the brothel at Mauthausen.  Read more about the brothel at Mauthausen on my website here.

6 Comments »

  1. if a woman is a prisoner, and desperate for food she may ‘volunteer’ to be raped many times a day in order to survive. Brothel is not the right word to describe the place women suffered in this block. Just as those people who killed guards to escape camps were not murderers. Rape rooms maybe a more realistic choice. Every male prisoner who forced sex on those women were rapists, they didnt need sex to survive, they chose to. It saddens me none would have been prosecuted after the war ended. Only being raped in one position and having the ‘luxury’ of a walk was little comfort to the women i imagine.

    Comment by tora — December 8, 2011 @ 10:14 am

    • If they CHOOSE to participate for any reason, it is NOT rape. Just as if you kill you are a murderer despite the reason. Quit picking and choosing the definition of a word to fit your desired agenda.

      Comment by Sunshine — March 19, 2012 @ 8:16 pm

      • Exactly. “Volunteer to be raped”. Does that people know how absurd they are, saying stupid stuff like? Trading sex for something is prostitution, not rape.

        Comment by Fel — August 19, 2012 @ 9:21 am

        • Another name might be Survival Sex, a term being used lately to describe the trading of sex for goods/accommodation/food/drugs etc and often by people who do not consider themselves prostitutes.

          Comment by Jessie Rochas — August 28, 2012 @ 8:37 pm

  2. Whatever the nightmares of war, there always seems to be another level of that hell reserved for women. I hope anyone reading this and feeling disgusted educates themselves about the current and ongoing trafficking of women and children for “brothels” – that has such a happy sound, tarts in corsets having a laugh and drinking whiskey – the reality is rape on an almost industrailised scale, of girls, boys and women who had just hoped to live a decent life and have a family.

    Comment by Charlie — July 14, 2011 @ 1:55 pm

    • In the case of the brothels, the women were prisoners who volunteered in order to get better food and housing. There was the case of Gustave Petrat, a guard at Mauthausen, which sheds some light on how the women were treated in the brothels. Petrat was convicted by the American Military Tribunal at Dachau, mainly on the testimony of a beautiful Polish woman named Danuta Drbuszenska, who was 19 years old at the time that she claimed that Petrat beat her in the camp. Petrat was around the same age. According to court reporter Joseph Halow, Petrat blushed a deep red and wore a sheepish grin on his face as Danuta testified. Halow wrote that he “guessed immediately that there had been not cruelty, but deep intimacy between the two.”

      Halow wrote that Danuta lived in the barrack which was a brothel for the SS men and some of the prisoners. Major Oates, the defense lawyer for Petrat, asked Danuta on the witness stand if she had had a love affair with Petrat, but she dodged the question and said, “I would kill him if I could.” The defense then asked Danuta if she had been trying to kill Petrat at the time that he struck her with an object. She answered that she had been swearing at Petrat at the time because she didn’t want to have anything to do with him.

      Comment by furtherglory — July 14, 2011 @ 2:42 pm


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