More so than any other extermination or concentration camp is Auschwitz associated with the mass extermination of Jews. However it did not start of that way.
At the beginning Auschwitz was a relatively ‘small’ camp and the first prisoners were Polish political prisoners, most of them were Catholic and only 20 or so were Jews.
On the 14th of June 1940 during . A transport train left from the southern Polish city of Tarnów, to Auschwitz and consisted of 728 Poles and about 20 Polish Jews They were considered ‘political prisoners’ and members of the Polish resistance. Basically anyone could have been considered a ‘political’ prisoner most of them were lawyers, teachers or priests.
Only 728 arrived in Auschwitz it is unclear what happened to the rest, it is thought that one of the prisoners was released at the rail platform and others may have been returned to Tarnów.
When they arrived they were ‘greeted’ by Hauptsturmführer Karl Fritzsch, with the following words.
“This is Auschwitz Concentration Camp….Any resistance or disobedience will be ruthlessly punished. Anyone disobeying superiors, or trying to escape, will be sentenced to death. Young and healthy people don’t live longer than three months here. Priests one month, Jews two weeks. There is only one way out — through the crematorium chimneys”
Although the crematorium did not begin operation until the 15th of August 1940.
Despite this, it is believed about 200 of the first prisoners survived the camp.
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