My 1998 photo of a reconstructed standing cell at the Auscwitz main camp
The reconstructed door, which is shown in the photo above, opens into Cell #2; there is another cell to the right of the door, which you can see in the photo.
Each Stehzelle (standing cell) was used for third degree punishment, which consisted of 3 days in a dark cell without room to lie down or sit. The standing cells were about the size of a phone booth and had no windows.
To the left in the picture above, you can see the edge of the door into Cell #1 on the left, which gives you an idea of how small these cells were. Imagine the problem of removing 15 dead bodies from one of these cells!
In fact, how did Gisela manage to get 15 people at one time into one of these cells? Could it be that the RECONSTRUCTED cells, which I photographed in 1998, are a bit smaller than the original cells?
After Arthur Liebehenschel replaced Rudolf Hoess as the camp commandant at Auschwitz on December 1, 1943, he ordered the standing cells to be torn down. The standing cells have been only partially reconstructed, just as the gas chamber in the main Auschwitz camp was only partially reconstructed.
The following quote is from a news article that you can read in full here:
At Auschwitz she [Gisela S.] was a harsh disciplinarian who beat prisoners and who was often in charge of the standing cells – small, dark rooms where up to 15 people at a time were crammed in for minor rule infractions. It was not uncommon to leave people in these rooms for days on end, causing the death of some or all of those confined.
It was judged that she was mentally incompetent to face justice.
My 1998 photograph above shows the reconstructed entrance to one of the 4 standing cells (Stehzellen) in prison cell #22 in the basement of Block 11 in the main Auschwitz camp. These 4 cells were 31.5 inches square; there was no light coming in at all, and no heating or cooling system.
Prisoners had to crawl into the cell through a tiny door, as shown in the photo above. Metal bars at the entrance allowed guards to open the door and look inside the cell. There was no room to lie down or sit down in the cell; prisoners had to stand up. The floors of these cells were covered with excrement left by the occupants.
Prisoners who were being punished were put into these cells at night, and in the morning taken out to perform a full 10-hour day of work. This punishment was usually given to prisoners who had tried to sabotage the work done in the factories at Auschwitz III (Monowitz).
My 1998 photo of a standing cell with the wall cut away so visitors can see inside
An airhole on the outside of Block 11 let in air for the prisoners
The photograph above shows a window with bars on it, on the outside wall of Block 11, and just below the window, there is a small black metal box which looks something like a mail box.
There were tiny holes punched into the top of this box to let a little bit of air into the 4 standing cells which were behind this wall in the basement. During the winter when snow covered these holes, the prisoners suffocated. Old pictures taken when the camp was in operation show that there were several of these boxes, but there is only one there now.
A description of the standing cells in Block 11 can be found in the book entitled “Das Bunkerbuch des Blocks 11, im Nazi-Konzentrationslager Auschwitz,” written by Franciszek Brol, Gerard Wloch, and Jan Pilecki, Hefte von Auschwitz [prisoners from Auschwitz], which was published in 1959.
On page 120 of this book is a “Plan of the Bunker of Block 11 redrawn after the original plan No. 1152 of March 16, 1942.” On this plan, the four Stehzellen in Cell 22 are marked out and numbered 1-4.
My photo of the prison cell at Dachau which was allegedly made into standing cells
In 1944, a harsh punishment was allegedly devised for prisoners at Dachau when 3 of the regular cells were divided into standing cells. A poster in my photograph above illustrates how this was accomplished.
The walls of the standing cells were made out of wood and each standing cell was 2 ft. 6 inches square. Prisoners who had been condemned to this punishment were put into a standing cell for 72 hours at a time with no light or air.
Bishop Johannes Neuhäusler, who was a “special prisoner” in the bunker, wrote that “the prisoner was compelled to stand for three days and three nights and was given only bread and water; every fourth day he came into a normal cell, ate prisoner’s fare and was allowed to sleep for one night on a plank bed. Then three days’ standing began again. Such were the abominations which the prisoners had to bear from the sadistic Nazis.”
According to information given in the bunker exhibit, the wooden walls of the standing cells were removed by the American Army in 1945 after Dachau was liberated.
Strangely, the same thing happened at Auschwitz when the Soviet liberators of the camp tore down the standing cells.
It is too bad that 90-year-old Gisela S. will not be wheeled into a German courtroom on a stretcher for a trial, so that the prosecution could prove the existence of the standing cells.
My photo of a one-person prison cell at Natzweiler camp
My photo above shows a punishment cell at the Natzweiler-Struthof camp in Alsace. This cell was big enough for a prisoner to sit in, but not big enough for a prisoner to stand up nor to lie down. Prisoners who broke the rules in the Natzweiler camp were put into these cells for three days with nothing but bread and water. After the Natzweiler camp was closed, some of the political prisoners were brought to Dachau, including the British SOE agent Albert Guerisse, who became the leader of the prisoners group known as the International Committee of Dachau.