The tour around Auschwitz II-Birkenau includes the railway ramp, along with an original German railway wagon placed on a section of track. It is several hundred metres long, and surrounded on both sides by the tracks of a railway siding. This was the place, where selection of the deportees was carried out. The Nazis chose who was fit for work and who would die immediately.
The railway wagon symbolises the tragedy of those who were admitted to Birkenau, as well as the large numbers of people who died during the transports themselves, which would sometimes last many days. There are inscriptions on two small boards commemorating the Hungarian victims.
In line with the assumptions of the Final Solution to the Jewish Question laid down during the Wannsee Conference in January 1942, the railways were the main means by which prisoners of many different nationalities and ethnicities, including Jews, Hungarians and Roma, would be transported to the Auschwitz camp. These trains would only stop alongside specially built platforms, known as ramps
The first ramp, located near the Auschwitz I camp, was the place where the transports stopped throughout the whole time that the main camp was in operation. A second ramp, part of the freight station, was built in 1942. A rail spur led from there to a third ramp, located in the grounds of the Auschwitz II-Birkenau camp, which was completed just before May 1944, when the mass transports of Hungarian Jews started.
The ramp in Auschwitz II is located in the central part of the camp. At the beginning of 1944, a railway line led there from the east, running through the gate in the building where the sightseeing route begins today. From the west, the ramp adjoined crematoria II and III (where a monument now stands between them).
In the period from May to October 1944, this was the place where the ‘selections’ took place. In just two months (May-June 1944), 430,000 Jews from Hungary were deported to the camp, while in the autumn of the same year 67,000 Jews arrived from the ghetto in Łódź. During the Warsaw
Uprising, transports containing residents of the capital also arrived in Birkenau. The ramp in Birkenau, just like the other two ramps, was where the prisoners were loaded onto trains and transported to other Auschwitz sub-camps or concentration camps around the whole of Europe.
When you visit the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum, pause here for a moment of reflection.
Państwowe Muzeum Auschwitz-Birkenau
ul. Więźniów Oświęcimia 20
33 844 8000