Why was Auschwitz not destroyed by the Nazis to hide evidence, but camps like Treblinka and Westerbork were?


Why was Auschwitz not destroyed by the Nazis to hide evidence, but camps like Treblinka and Westerbork were?

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It was, to an extent. The Nazis demolished the gas chambers and crematoria, as well as putting all prisoners on a forced march to camps further from the front.

In some cases, Allied forces were approaching so fast that camp guards were unable to destroy all the evidence. Or any of the evidence. Instead, some of the Nazis simply locked the gates and fled.

They knew what would happen to them if they were caught there.

A lot of it was. The gas chambers at Auschwitz, for example, are postwar reconstructions, not the original. The Nazis demolished most of the Auschwitz complex, and destroyed all the records they could.

Auschwitz was a work camp. Treblinka was an extermination camp, designed solely to kill large numbers of people efficiently. After some uprisings at extermination camps in 1943, they decided to shut them down and tried to hide all evidence they existed. Auschwitz was still operational at the end of the war, so they had no time to fully cover it up.

Who knows. Why did the Nazi’s make human soap out of the victims?

Auschwitz was not destroyed because the destruction of the all the camps as well as the operation and or continuation of the camps during a world war was not as controlled and planned out with extreme precision as you’d like to think it was. Each camp was its own beast with its own individuals running it, leaving the possibilities for anything to happen . As much as some would like an explanation for why Auschwitz was not destroyed so it can fit nicely in your mind to make you comfortable the truth is, War happened. Bombings of main supply routes. Mass starvation. Chaos ensued. Sometimes there isn’t a rhyme or reason for things. This is the case here.


Because Auschwitz was not a death camp in the sense of Treblinka and the like.

There were Concentration Camps and Death camps and they were NOT the same! (In most cases they were build on the same site, tho)

Many people get confused about this because it is not well taught.

The first Concentration Camps were opened in 1933 for political opponents. This quickly expanded into a major industrial operation, with prisoners being put to work in the camps, or leased to companies nearby. Soon there were Concentration Camps in every bigger German City. They were still filled with political opponents, dissidents, “normal” criminals and other undesirables. The conditions were harsh, people died, but those Camps were NOT death camps. You could even be released after you had served your time.

After about 1935 more and more Jews (simply for being Jewish) were moved into Ghettos or directly into Concentration Camps were they had to work.

The camp network began to form an almost orderly grid over the map of Germany with larger central camps and smaller sub-camps. Literally HUNDREDS of Camps.

Still no Gas Chambers around.

That changed with the Wannsee Conference in January 1942. Now the Nazi Leadership had lot’s of land in the East and even more undesired Jews and Slavs they had to “process”.

That was the moment the first time “real” death camps were though off. After some trial and error someone came up with the Gas Chambers.

**At a few select sites** and attached to existing Concentration Camps the death camps were build.

Jews and slavic prisoners of war were transported by train into those Death Camps. But the camps had to be run by someone! For this the inmates of the attached Concentration Camps were used.

When you read about survivors they almost exclusively were put into Concentration Camps, not the Death Camps. From Train Station to Gas Chambers it was mere hours.


So why were most death camps demolished but not Auschwitz?

Because they were so effective.

Even before the Soviets began to steam roll the Eastern front the “work” at the Gas Chambers slowed down. Why? Because there were less and less people around the Nazi Leadership wanted gone. You can see this if you look up the daily kill numbers. It almost forms a bell curve.

The Death Camps had done their job and at least 2 of the big 5 were long dismantled before the Soviets reached them.

Auschwitz was an outliner among the Death Camps, because it actually was one of the biggest Concentration Camps. Its inmates worked in the giant factories and chemical plants next to it.

The later established death camp complex was only a very small part and it was also used to kill those too weak to work anymore, so it didn’t ran out of work and was used almost until the end. The Gas Chambers were demolished, tho, before the Camps was liberated.

Note 1: the conditions in the Concentration Camps varied widely between camps and over time. An inmates too weak to work might have been send to a gas chamber nearby, or clubbed to death with a rifle butt, or simply let to die in the snow.

Note 2: crematoria were not exclusively build in conjunction with gas chambers. They were build in every bigger camp were dead inmates couldn’t be burned in open pits anymore because there were too many bodies.

Towards the end ofthe war, the nazis were more and more in a hurry, weak and disorganized. Auschmitz was taken during a rapid advance of the Red Army. All the guards who could flee did it, instead of destroying the camp infrastructures.

Not everything was destroyed in Treblinka either, and witnesses were found, as written in Vassily Grossmann notes (look for the book “a writer ar war” from Anthony Beevor)

The living conditions were awful with lice etc. In early May 45, 400 prisoners a day were dying of typhus in Dachau. They were burnt down to try and limit the spread of disease. Many prisoners were dusted with DDT to kill the lice, which we would view with horror today, but at the time it probably saved thousands of lives. Least we forget.

Some places were destroyed to hide the evidence when it was apparent to the Germans the war was lost. However things were moving fast in the final days of the war and they didn’t have time to destroy everything before they were overtaken by the U.S. or Soviet military.


It was the Russians who were heading towards Auschwitz and the Nazis were really scared of them so a lot of them took off before they’d destroyed a lot of evidence. Belsen was burned as a hygiene measure as well as because of the general awfulness of the place. Auschwitz was a death factory and most died in the gas chambers within hours of arrival. Belsen was supposed to be a work camp and more and more people were sent there and left as things become more chaotic. It was a British occupation force decision to burn it as cholera and other diseases were rife. It was the decision of the Soviet occupation force to keep Auschwitz standing

The extermination camps built latterly like Treblinka and Sobibor were smaller by a huge degree and some of the final destruction was carried out by the Soviets.

History is written by the victor, and monuments are the same way. Who rebuilt and still maintains Auschwitz? Why? Who is providing tours? For what purpose? In this case, questions are far more illuminating than a simple answer.

Basically, time. There wasn’t enough time to destroy everything because it was massive. I have visited and it was a very somber day. In a way, I thank Gad it wasn’t destroyed. We need that physical reminder that this really happened. I still feel a deep and thorough sense of sadness and loss when I think about the magnitude of how many souls were lost. Everyone who can should visit.