The Black Wall at Auschwitz I

The Black Wall at Auschwitz I, used for executions

The picture above shows some artwork done by a survivor of the Auschwitz camp, after he was liberated. He has depicted an execution scene at The Black Wall with a uniformed SS man shooting three prisoners while other SS officers look on. Two camp inmates carry the bodies from the wall and add them to the pile in the foreground; it was the Jews who were assigned to do this work. To the left in the picture is an object made out of logs which was not at the wall when I was there. This is the portable gallows which was used to hang political prisoners who had been convicted in the Gestapo court in Block 10.

At the far end of a long, narrow courtyard between Block 10 and Block 11 at the Auschwitz I camp is a brick wall which connects the two buildings. In front of this brick wall, the Nazis placed another removable wall, constructed out of logs and covered with cork painted black; the ends of the wall were angled slightly toward the center. The purpose of the black wall was to protect the beautiful brick wall behind it from bullet holes.

The photo below shows what the brick wall looked like when the camp was liberated by the Soviet Union in January 1945. The Nazis had removed the portable wall that had protected the bricks.

The Black Wall at Auschwitz is a reconstruction

Detail of Black Wall

Shown in the two photographs above is the Black Wall with dozens of bouquets of flowers and candles left by visitors. The photo directly above shows a close-up of the end of the wall. Notice the small rocks left by visitors.

Many people have noticed that there are no bullet holes in the wall. That's because this is not the original black wall; according to my guide, this is a reconstruction which looks like the original. The original wall was removed after Arthur Liebehenschel replaced Rudolf Hoess as the camp commander in November, 1943, and ordered the executions at the wall to stop.

If you want to walk where millions of people have trod, including the famous and the infamous, this is the place. Into this courtyard have walked most of the world leaders of the Twentieth Century, carrying a wreath of flowers to place in front of the black wall where the enemies of the ruthless Nazis were shot over half a century ago.

Vice-President Dick Cheney enters courtyard between Blocks 10 and 11

Photo Credit: White House photo by David Bohrer

In the photo above Liz Cheney, on the far left, carries flowers to place at the Black Wall. In the center of the photo is Deborah Lipstadt, standing next to Dick Cheney on her left. This photo was taken on January 28, 2005 on the occasion of a visit to Auschwitz by a U.S. delegation for the ceremonies in honor of the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz on January 27th, 1945.

It was in front of this black wall that political prisoners, mostly Polish resistance fighters, who had been convicted by the Gestapo Summary Court, were executed. These prisoners were brought to the Auschwitz I camp, but were not registered as inmates; they were housed in dormitory rooms on the first and second floors of Block 11 while they awaited trial in a courtroom set up in the building. After they were convicted, the prisoners were taken to a small washroom in the building where they were ordered to strip naked, after which they were marched to the wall in groups of three and executed with one shot to the neck at close range. Some of the prisoners, who were sent here, were Czech resistance fighters from the Gestapo prison at the Small Fortress in Theresienstadt.

The black wall with Block 11 on the right, Block 10 on the left

The view of the courtyard in the photo above was taken through the open wooden gate at the entrance; it shows a tour group standing in front of the black wall at the end. Over the top of the wall, you can see a banner or flag flying. This flag is made out of blue and white striped cotton material similar to the cloth of the uniforms that the regular camp prisoners wore, and has a red triangle on it, the badge of the political prisoners. Camp inmates were also executed at this wall for resistance activity inside the camp.

To the right in the photo above is Block 11; notice that it has a basement with windows down in concrete wells. To the left is Block 10 where medical experiments were done on sterilization of Jewish women, according to the tour guide. The windows of Block 10 were covered with black-painted wooden boards so that no one could see what was going on inside, and the women could not see the activity at the wall. The boards are angled out a few inches to let in a little light through the crack at the top.

The photograph below shows the view from the wall, looking toward the entrance into the courtyard. Block 11 is now on the left and Block 10 is on the right. There is a wooden gate across the entrance which is open in this picture.

View from the wall, looking toward entrance to the courtyard

Windows in Block 10 were boarded up

On my trip to Auschwitz in 2005, a tour guide told a group of visitors that the two poles in front of the windows of Block 10 were used for the hanging punishment in which prisoners were hung by their arms tied behind their back. This punishment was originated by SS man Martin Sommer at the Buchenwald camp. It was discontinued in all the camps by Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler in 1942.

Front entrance to Block 10, the medical building

The complete records, compiled by the office of Richard Glücks for all the Nazi concentration camps in the years 1935 to 1944, are now stored on microfilm and kept in the Russian Central Archives in the Central State Archives No. 187603 on Rolls 281 through 286. Richard Glücks was the head of Amt D: Konzentrationslagerwesen of the WVHA; he was the highest-ranking "Inspector of Concentration Camps" in Nazi Germany.

The total number of people executed at Auschwitz-Birkenau, according to the Nazi records, was 1,646 including 117 Jews, 1,485 Poles, 19 Russians, 5 Czechs and 20 Gypsies, but according to the Auschwitz Museum, there were 20,000 people murdered at the Black Wall in the Auschwitz I camp.

Kitchen & other buildings in Auschwitz I

Barracks Buildings in Auschwitz 1

Old Sentry Box and camp kitchen

Commandant's house & old theater

Gas Chamber

Introduction to Auschwitz I

Entrance to Auschwitz I

Inside the Visitor's Center

Exit from the Visitor's Center

Entrance through "Arbeit Macht Frei" Gate

Auschwitz Museum Exhibits

Swimming Pool

Block 11 - the camp prison

Prison Cells Inside Block 11

Standing Cells in Block 11

The Black Wall


This page was last updated on March 6, 2008