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Auschwitz-Birkenau

Ash fields in Babice

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Monowitz sub-camp

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Bahnhof West Auschwitz Freight Station

Tannenwald IG Farben Werk Kamp 5

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Judenrampe

From February 1942 until May 1944, the transports to Auschwitz arrived at the so-called 'Judenrampe', a civilian line platform in-between Auschwitz I and Auschwitz-Birkenau, known as Bahnhof West. A wooden ramp was built for passengers to leave the freight trains and leave their belongings on. Early selections took place on the ramp. Around 750,000 people arrived at Auschwitz on the transports at a time when an estimated 75% of those selected were sent to immediate death in the gas chambers. The wooden Judenrampe was quite large in size, possibly around 500 meters. According to eye witness testimony, particularly of former Auschwitz prisoner Rudolf Vrba, a Slovakian Jew who was one of the first to arrive at Auschwitz and later escaped, Vrba confirmed that the platform was always very brightly lit with concrete lampposts towering the area.

Hans Citroen with Michael Challoner at the site of the original Judenrampe in 2013
Hans Citroen with Michael
Challoner at the site of the
original Judenrampe in 2013
Photo by Michael Challoner ©

The rail line that enters Auschwitz-Birkenau and stops at the gates of Krematorium II and III was only completed in the spring of 1944 and began functioning on 29th April 1944 in preparation for the intense daily Hungarian transports. Around 440,000 Jews were eventually deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau with many being selected for death in the gas chambers. This new platform for the arrivals into Auschwitz-Birkenau became known as the Alte Judenrampe.


Read testimony of Dominik Stach about Judenrampe.


Hans Citroen, who has written the most complete research to date on the current state of the former Judenrampe location, theorised on its use during the war and the role it played when the Alte Judenrampe was opened. Hans suggested to the Auschwitz Study Group in 2013 that it was possible for a period of a few weeks that both Judenrampe's were working and unloading prisoners consecutively. The Bahnhof West rail line was a busy junction carrying soldiers, goods, stolen property, prisoners to other camps and handling the incoming transports, up to 3 per day during the Hungarian transports so it may have even been a necessary logistical decision. The incoming transports were low priority trains all over the network, from their start off point until they reached Auschwitz. This is why in some cases it took several days for trains to finally arrive.

In a testimony given by Rudolf Vrba, he stated that in around mid 1943, the wooden platform had started to fall apart and a concrete platform was built to replace it. However, this date was challenged by Ute Wrocklage in an essay she wrote in 1944. According to Wrocklage, the date of the concrete platform could have been built and finally used by May 18th 1944.

In 2005, the French Government financed a memorial to be erected on the site of the original Judenrampe. 2 box cars were placed on new rail track with a memorial board offering a brief history to visitors of the sites importance. However, the site of the Judenrampe was much further to the east. The site of the Judenrampe memorial was actually waste ground during the Nazi occupation as can be seen from aerial photos from 1944. The concrete platform that replaced the original wooden version now appears to be buried under rubble at the original location. In 2013, Hans Citroen, who wrote the book 'Auschwitz-Oświęcim' with his wife Barbara Starzyńska, met with the Auschwitz Study Group in 2013 to explore the issue further.

Information on the Judenrampes history is sparse and only one blurred photograph taken further to the east exists of the area during the war. In addition, the Judenrampe has never been included within the Museum boundaries and lies outside the area of the so called 'buffer zone' established by UNESCO.

Map showing the location of the Judenrampe
Map showing the location of the original Judenrampe,
not the memorial site
Map designed by Michael Challoner ©
         
A view of the original Judenrampe
A view of the original Judenrampe. It is possible the concrete platform
is hidden underneath the rubble
Photo by Michael Challoner ©

Sources

Information about sources we used while researching the industrial zones of Auschwitz you can find here.

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