Monday marks the 81st anniversary of the first deportation of Poles to the German Auschwitz concentration camp. On June 14, 1940, the Germans transferred 728 men from the prison in Tarnów, southern Poland. Poles were the first prisoners of Auschwitz, as the camp was originally established for them.
On June 14, the National Day of Remembrance for the Victims of the German Nazi Concentration Camps is observed in Poland.
The establishment of a concentration camp on the outskirts of Oświęcim, southern Poland, was the German response to a growing resistance movement which they wanted to crush with mass arrests.
The order to establish the camp was issued by the head of the SS, Heinrich Himmler, in the first days of April 1940.
The date of the camp's opening was June 14, 1940. On that day, the first transport of 728 Polish political prisoners arrived at KL Auschwitz from the prison in Tarnów, southern Poland. Among the deported were soldiers from the September campaign, members of underground independence organisations, students, workers and intellectuals, as well as several Polish Jews.
Bogumił Antoniewicz, one of the prisoners deported on June 14, recalled after the war that the majority of them were young people. The oldest were about 50 years of age.
After arriving in Auschwitz, the prisoners were given numbers and placed in the buildings of the former Polish Tobacco Monopoly, near the area of today's Auschwitz Museum.
Of the 728 prisoners deported on June 14, 325 survived the war, 292 died. The fate of 111 people is unknown. None of them lived to see the 81th anniversary. The last survivor, Kazimierz Albin, died in 2019.
By exterminating Poles at the Auschwitz concentration camp, the Germans had two goals: short-term - terrorising the population, and long-term - gradually reducing the Polish population in areas recognised as "German living space" that were to be Germanised.
In the first period, Poles dominated the number of prisoners. Beginning in mid-1942, their number was equal to that of Jews. As a result of the growing number of transports from occupied Europe, the number of Jews grew steadily. From 1943, they constituted the majority of prisoners.
In total 1.3 mln people have been sent to Auschwitz by Germans, of which 1.1 have lost their lives.