How Many People Died in Auschwitz?

January 13, 2024

In just over four-and-a-half years of operation, Nazi Germany murdered at least 1.1 million people in the Auschwitz complex of camps. Nearly all were Jews. But the victims of the camp system were not only gassed to death or starved to death; they were also subjected to a wide range of horrific medical experiments, including castration and sterilisation, as well as pseudo-scientific tests on twins.

A new study, using railway transportation records, has now calculated the number of prisoners who died at Auschwitz. Researchers from Tel Aviv University and Australia’s RMIT have studied the timetables of trains that arrived at the concentration camp, bringing prisoners in from 393 Polish towns. Then they looked at the number of bodies that were transported on each train, then at their final destination, where most would die from exhaustion, starvation and the harsh conditions. The research shows that, on average, a person was killed in Auschwitz every six hours.

When the Soviet troops entered the camp on 27 January 1945, they were greeted by a landscape of death and destruction. Primo Levi, who wrote one of the earliest accounts of the Holocaust, remembers how the liberators cast “strangely embarrassed glances at the sprawling piles of bodies, at the battered huts and at us few still alive.”

The Soviets immediately began to rescue children and babies, and to clear away the vast swathes of corpses and human waste. They had to be kept from the grave robbers, who were looking for coins, notes, jewellery and other valuables that were buried in the ground. Survivors hastened to search for their families and friends. Thousands of telegrams, postcards and letters were sent out.


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