Scrapbookpages Blog

March 16, 2015

Toilets at Auchwitz-Birkenau were “holes in rock”

This morning, I read a news account of a student trip to Auschwitz-Birkenau, which included this statement:

“[the students] continued round the [Auschitz-Birkenau] camp, witnessing more horrifying scenes, even the primitive toilets of holes in rock, still retained the stench as though they’d just been used yesterday. To be assigned the cleaning duty of these was considered to be one of the best jobs to be given in the camp.”

I searched and searched to find a photo of these toilets, but found nothing until I searched my own website and found the photos, shown below, which I took in 2005.

The latrine in the quarantine barracks at Auschwitz-Berkinau

Latrine in the quarantine barracks at Auschwitz

Bunk beds in the quarantine barracks which are shown to tourists at Auschwitz-Birkenau

Bunk beds in the quarantine barracks which are shown to tourists at Auschwitz-Birkenau

The quarantine barracks at Auschwitz-Birkenau are the only barracks that are shown to tourists today. The other wooden barracks have been mostly torn down.

Barracks in the quarantine camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau

My photo of the barracks in the quarantine camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau

This quote is from the news article:

TO stand inside wooden barracks designed for 52 horses, but used to house over 400 female prisoners, is to be overwhelmed by the horror of Auschwitz.

The quote above refers to the quarantine barracks that are just inside the Auschwitz-Birkeanu camp; these barracks are located to the right of the gate tower, as you enter the camp. These barracks were NOT used for “400 female prisoners.” The women’s camp is shown in my photo below.

Women's camp at Auschwitz Birkenau

Women’s camp at Auschwitz Birkenau

Apparently, these students were not told that the quarantine barracks were set up to house newly arriving prisoners until it could be determined whether they had any diseases that could spread throughout the camp. The purpose of these barracks was to save lives.

The holes in the quarantine barracks were like the holes in an outhouse.  Remember that this was back in the 1940ies when many homes, even in America, did not have indoor plumbing.

Not all of the Jews who were sent to Auschwitz were rich. Some of them lived in primitive houses with no indoor plumbing, as shown on this blog post:

Typically, an outhouse was not cleaned in the old days; instead the outhouse was just moved to a new spot when it was full.  The Germans were just trying to be efficient by cleaning the huge outhouse in the quarantine camp.

Today’s British students are affronted by the horror of an outhouse at Birkenau, instead of flush toilets. But do the Nazis ever get credit for trying to save lives by having quarantine barracks? No, of course not.

But I am getting ahead of myself:  The news article starts out with this quote:

On February 25 Alice Windsor of the lower sixth and I joined a group of more than 200 [British] students and teachers from schools and colleges across the West Midlands [in the UK] to visit the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp with the Holocaust Educational Trust (HET). This was set up over 10 years ago on the premise that ‘hearing is not like seeing’ and that to grasp the scale of the Holocaust it is necessary to visit one of the Nazi [concentration] camps.

From there, the story is all down hill, as the students are told more and more lies and half-truths:

We saw the infamous “Block 11” which was the prisoner barracks where innocent people believed to have been plotting to escape were taken. If it is possible to imagine even worse conditions this was it! For example imagine a hatch the size of an oven door on the floor. Prisoners were made to crawl through and stand in a space no larger than a chimney, for up to 20 days in the pitch black with no food or water.

You can read about Block 11 on this page of my website:

Block 11 at the Auschwitz main camp

Block 11 at the Auschwitz main camp was the prison block

Reconstructed standing cell in Block 11 in the  Auschwitz 1 camp

Reconstructed standing cell in the basement of Block 11 in the Auschwitz 1 main camp

I took the photo above when I visited the Auschwitz 1 camp in 1998, accompanied by a private tour guide.  We were the only people in the Block 11 building that day.

The second time that I visited the Auschwitz 1 camp in 2005, there were so many tourists that we were not allowed to see the RECONSTRUCTED standing cells up close, nor to take photos.

You can read about the reconstructed standing cells on my website at

I also wrote about the standing cells at Auschwitz on these blog posts:

It appears that the standing cell story has gotten worse over time. Now tourists are told that prisoners had to stand in these cells for 20 days.  How were the dead bodies removed after the prisoners died in these cells?

The news article continues with this quote:

One of the worst experiences for [one of the students] personally was visiting a gas chamber; here over 2,000 men, women and children were slaughtered daily. Alice and I were both distressed to see a child’s bare footprint embedded in the cement. As you enter this haunting room which smelt of death you could see nail scratch marks on the walls where people tried to literally dig themselves out. You almost hear their silent screams.

Fingernail scratches on wall of gas chamber

Fingernail scratches on the wall of the gas chamber in main Auschwitz camp where Jews literally tried to dig themselves out of the gas chamber Photo credit: Simon Robertson

I have searched and searched my photos of the gas chamber in the main Auschwitz camp, trying to find a “child’s footprint in the concrete.”

I don’t understand this.  There was a child walking around in wet concrete in the gas chamber in the main camp?  Yet somehow, the child made only one footprint?

The gas chamber in the main Auschwitz camp

The gas chamber in the main Auschwitz camp shows no footprint of a child

The photo above shows a floor mark where a wall was added to the gas chamber in the main Auschwitz camp, when it was converted into a bomb shelter for German soldiers. Do you see a child’s footprint anywhere?

My 2005 photo of the gas chamber in the main Auschwitz camp

My 2005 photo of the gas chamber in the main Auschwitz camp shows no footprint

Toilet drains in the Auschwitz gas chamber

Toilet drains in the washroom next to the Auschwitz gas chamber

The photo above, which shows two toilet drains, in a room adjoining the Auschwitz gas chamber, might have a baby’s footprint in the concrete floor, but I didn’t see it.