Little Bits of History


Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 14, 2014


June 14, 1940: The first transport of 728 Polish prisoners arrive at Auschwitz. The camp first opened with 30 German criminal prisoners arriving in May. These men were intended to act as functionaries within the prison system. On this day, 728 Polish political prisoners from the city of Tarnow arrived. They had been involved with the resistance movement and most of them were Catholics, although there were 20 Jews included. They were sent by the German Security Police or Sicherheitspolizei. The people had been held previously at Sachsenhausen and were ordered to take a shower and disinfect themselves the previous day. From there they were marched to a train station escorted by the SS and pushed into waiting rail cars.

Original records show that 753 people were on a transport list. The twenty-five person discrepancy is a mystery. There was one person who was released at the train station, according to witnesses. The people arriving at Auschwitz were numbered 31 through 758, since the original German prisoners took the first numbers. There is a notation in the records at Auschwitz for June 15 which reads, “Transport Stalowa Wola, 24 persons” and so it thought that perhaps the 24 missing people were from Stalowa Wola and returned on the next day.

Number 31 was given to Stanislaw Ryniak, the first Pole at Auschwitz who was 24 years old at the time of his entry into the camp. He had been arrested in May and accused of being a member of the resistance. He survived the war and became an architect afterward. He lived to be 88 and died in 2004. The last of the numbers for this group was assigned to Ignacy Plachta who had been captured while trying to escape to Hungary. Also in this group of prisoners, number 349, was the Polish Olympic skier Bronislaw Czech. He was not as lucky as Ryniak and died on June 4, 1944 at Auschwitz at the age of 35.

The camp eventually became synonymous with the killing of Jews by the Third Reich. The first extermination of prisoners took place in September 1941 and the camp went on to become a major site of the Nazi Final Solution to the Jewish Question. Between 1942 and 1944, transport trains delivered Jews to the camp’s gas chambers and at least 1.1 million prisoners died there. About 90% of those killed were Jewish or about 1 out of 6 Jews who were killed, were killed here. Also deported to Auschwitz were 150,000 Poles, 23,000 Romani and Sinti, 15,000 Soviet POWs, and tens of thousands more. The gas chamber was the great killing machine, but many more died of starvation, forced labor, disease, individual execution, and medical experiments.

 Someday I will understand Auschwitz. This was a brave statement but innocently absurd. No one will ever understand Auschwitz. – William Styron

Christmas and Easter can be subjects for poetry, but Good Friday, like Auschwitz, cannot. The reality is so horrible it is not surprising that people should have found it a stumbling block to faith. – WH Auden

This is the concentration camp and crematorium at Auschwitz. This is where people were turned into numbers. – Jacob Bronowski

No matter what I accomplish, it doesn’t seem like much compared to surviving Auschwitz. – Art Spiegelman

Also on this day: Which is Witch – In 1648, the first “witch” is hanged in Salem.
Early Computing – In 1822, Charles Babbage presented a paper on computing.
Maize – In 1789, Bourbon was first produced.
First Non-Stop Transatlantic Flight – In 1919, Alcock and Brown made it to Europe.

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One Response

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  1. Dani said, on July 1, 2014 at 12:55 pm

    Thank you for sharing this.


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