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January 24, 2012

the alleged “Arbeit Macht Frei” sign at Auschwitz III, aka Monowitz

Filed under: Holocaust — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 11:04 am

The question of the alleged Arbeit Macht Frei sign at the Monowitz (Auschwitz III) camp came up in a recent comment on my blog.  As proof that this sign taunted the prisoners in the Monowitz camp, as well as in other Nazi camps, we have the eye-witness account written by Primo Levi, who was a prisoner at Monowitz.  I previously blogged about Primo Levi here, but I didn’t include the information that Levi mentioned the sign on page 22 of the book Survival in Auschwitz, the Nazi Assault on Humanity.

On page 19, Levi wrote this about his arrival at Auschwitz on a transport train:  “A vast platform appeared before us, lit up by reflectors.”  This is a reference to the Judenrampe, which was a large train platform, near the Birkenau camp, which was used from 1942 to May 1944. The Judenrampe was torn down when the train tracks were extended inside the Birkenau death camp, so that the prisoners could be brought to a spot within a few feet of the gas chambers in Krema II and Krema III.  (God forbid that the Jews should have to walk to the gas chambers.)

Levi’s description of his arrival at Monowitz begins on page 22:

The journey [to Monowitz from the Judenrampe] did not last more than twenty minutes.  Then the lorry [truck] stopped and we saw a large door, and above it a sign, brightly illuminated (its memory still strikes me in my dreams): Arbeit Macht Frei, work gives freedom.

We climb down, they make us enter an enormous empty room that is poorly heated.

So the sign was on a DOOR, not a gate.  It was the door to an enormous empty ROOM, not the door into a camp.  Note that he not only saw the sign on the door, he also saw it in his dreams.

Denis Avey also mentioned an Arbeit Macht Frei sign at Monowitz in his book The Man Who Broke into Auschwitz. On page 140, Avey describes the scene when he entered the Monowitz prison camp:

It was still light when we passed through the gate and I saw the sign bearing the cruel promise ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’ — work sets you free.

I didn’t know that the irony of those words would scream across the decades. This was Auschwitz III–Monowitz.

Note that the sign that Denis Avey saw was on a GATE, not a door.

Rob Broomby co-wrote Denis Avey’s book.  On page 235, we learn that Rob questioned whether this sign was actually on the Monowitz gate.

This quote, written by Denis Avey, is from page 235 of the American edition of his book:

As Rob’s research continued it threw up some interesting questions about the nature of memory. He kept asking me if I was certain I had seen that Arbeit Macht Frei sign at the gates to Auschwitz III–Monowitz.  I was, but he said some experts had questioned it and nothing survives at the site today to testify one way or the other. The sign everyone knows these days is at the gates of the main camp, Auschwitz I. After more than sixty years it is that one which is emblazoned on the collective memory although many camps had them. Rob said the most influential account of life in the camp — that of survivor and writer Primo Levi — mentioned the sign at Auschwitz III more than once but the head of Research at Auschwitz wasn’t convinced.

So was there an Arbeit macht Frei sign at Monowitz or not?  I would say NOT.  Primo Levi saw the sign in his dreams, and Denis Avey read about it in Primo Levi’s book.  The Arbeit Macht Frei sign was used on the gates of the Nazi camps that were classified as Class I camps. Auschwitz I was a Class I camp and it had the sign.  Monowitz was a labor camp which probably did not have the sign.  I explained all this on a previous post which you can read here.


  1. Primo Levi wrote

    “It is natural and obvious that the most substantial material for the reconstruction of truth about the camps is the memories of the survivors. Beyond the pity and indignation these recollections provoke, they should also be read with a critical eye.”

    “Almost four million other innocents were swallowed up by the extermination plants erected by the Nazis at Birkenau, two kilometres from Auschwitz.”

    Comment by Black Rabbit — January 24, 2012 @ 4:45 pm

    • EXACTLY! The human brain and memory recollections are relative to one’s perspective and governed by subjective experience, just as it is to hatred, prejudice and jealousy. Does not discount what happened or dilute it. Your argument is invalid.

      Comment by Alan — January 24, 2012 @ 10:56 pm

      • Alan will you please stop interfering with your non sense in this thread. We like to read real arguments and not the ‘skyrocket engineering germans just push 3 in a muffle when designed for 1’ to lie your way out or BS like ‘have no idea, is irrelevant, your argument is invalid’.
        told you FG as soon as there is a topic that is not 100% backed up like that one of Elie Wiesel, the rats smell an opening and hop on board.

        Comment by wolf — January 25, 2012 @ 4:41 am

        • no I wont stop, never, and besides, this is fun. Are you saying I’m not welcome here to defend the truth? Sounds familiar…but wait, if you can argue my points, maybe I can learn something, but you keep referring to such obvious lies and pseudo-science and I will keep informing your clearly intelligent audience that your producing inaccurate editorials…

          nothing you’ve (or your minions) have written makes sense except from the point of view of a deranged, hateful, ignorant, racist old angry man…you can’t even answer my points above. YOU’RE AN AMATEUR CLUTCHING AT STRAWS. Asking me to stop proves you’re so weak and uninformed…next…

          Comment by Alan — January 25, 2012 @ 1:16 pm

          • Good on you Alan. Even though it’s sad to read their comments – like, how come people capable of being this offensive ever learned to read and write? – and even though it’s tempting to ignore it on account of not wanting to muck up your day with a reminder that the same thing that caused the worst horror in human history is still alive and breathing somewhere in a slum near you – you faced it and bothered to reply to these slugs. Well done! I congratulate you on having great patience. As for them – get a life!

            Comment by Juliet Rachel Dresser — January 26, 2012 @ 1:48 pm

            • Good on you, Juliet Rachel, for coming to the defense of Alan. At your suggestion, I have decided to “get a life,” so I am banning you from my blog. You “mucked up” my day. So this “slug” is banning you for life.

              Comment by furtherglory — January 26, 2012 @ 2:19 pm

  2. your kidding right? Because one person describes a door vs a gate, then they both lied or imagined it? that’s not logical?? The Arbeit Macht Frei slogan was used at MANY different camps/prisons and facilities across all of Europe. it was painted on walls, put onto signs and made into iron gates… how do you know what was around at the time…temporary or not. If Denis is fabricating his account, which I fully doubt, then why does that discount Primo’s account… come on? seriously!

    also, your statement; “God forbid that the Jews should have to walk to the gas chambers.”… betrays your true motives in this blog. They didn’t extend the tracks all the way into to Birkanau make it more comfortable for the condemned prisoners, but logistically easier for the process to run faster and smoother with less security in more concentrated manner… your mixing your emotions with facts.

    Lame. You have do better than this… next…

    Comment by Alan — January 24, 2012 @ 2:07 pm

    • “next…”

      Here’s one for you Alan.

      A museum sign in front of Birkenau’s Compound B2C reads:

      Compound BIIc (Bauabschnitt BIIc)
      This compound of the camp operated as a transit camp (Durchgangslager) from May to November 1944, mainly for Jewish women deported from Hungary and selected by the SS at the arrival ramp as strong and healthy enough to work. These women were not entered in the camp’s registers, and they were later sent to concentration camps in the interior of Germany. In October 1944, Jewish women were transferred here when the BIll sector of Birkenau was closed down.
      1-32 – Prisoners’ barracks
      A – Kitchen
      C – Latrines and washrooms
      D – SS guardroom (Blockfuehrerstube)

      1. How does that fit into your “What labour was done at Birkenau? It was a death camp,” thesis?

      2. Where were these women sent? Not to “death camps” as there were none of those in Germany?

      3. How many Hungarian Jewish women were entered into B2C (32 barracks, each holding several hundred people), not registered at Birkenau, and then sent to Germany?

      Comment by Black Rabbit — January 24, 2012 @ 4:29 pm

      • Black Rabbit’s Auschwitz pictures, with his trademark sharp eye, are an absolute must-see.

        The “people on their way to the gas chamber” photo is quite scary, though.

        Comment by Eager for Answers — January 24, 2012 @ 5:07 pm

        • They’re great photos. This is really great, the thing I really like about the revisionists and nutters on this site, is that in your obsessive attempts to forensically dissect the information of the Shoah, in what appears to be a vague attempt to discredit “all” testimonies and interpretations or portrayals, you actually provide well catalogued information, often carelessly plagiarized or with sweeping miscontextual statements, which often end up contradicting your own stance. For someone with a scientific background, this is hilarious! 🙂

          Comment by Alan — January 24, 2012 @ 11:16 pm

        • The photo of “people on their way to the gas chamber” is priceless. This is a prize-winning picture. So is the photo at the very top of the page. Black Rabbit should make a calendar with a selection of his Auschwitz photos.

          Comment by furtherglory — January 25, 2012 @ 7:18 am

          • Thanks Eager and furtherglory.

            I know of a website which allows you to make your own calendars. I should be able to get one together for Yom Kippur (Jewish New Year)!

            Comment by Black Rabbit — January 25, 2012 @ 4:44 pm

      • 1. It was a massive Durchgangslager, a sorting camp as well as a Vernichtungslager. Other than for penal labour or slaves for destruction of Brzezinka, I don’t know what major labour was done at Birkanau. Many were marched off to subcamps daily!

        2. Possibly sent to camps where most of them were Vernichtung durch Arbeit.

        3. Have no idea it’s irrelevant to the broad scheme of events.

        next…gee I’m not impressed and I’m an amateur. try a bit harder

        Comment by Alan — January 24, 2012 @ 11:06 pm

    • If we believe Holocaustian explanations, logistics hardly entered the picture of the Final Solution by those stupid Germans.

      Comment by Eager for Answers — January 24, 2012 @ 4:51 pm

      • this is crap, 3 bodies would fit in each “muffle”, so the maths is completely wrong….but the guuuyyysss voooiiicccee iissss doooopppeeeeey…. omg, pls do better than this or I’ll get bored soon… next…

        Comment by Alan — January 25, 2012 @ 2:45 am

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