Block 11 at Auschwitz I

Block 11 with bars on windows and upper windows bricked up

Pictured above is the prison building in Auschwitz I, known as Block 11, located inside a walled courtyard. It was here that prisoners from Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II (Birkenau) were brought for punishment for what the Nazis considered serious offenses, such as sabotage in the Auschwitz factories or attempting to escape. It was also where political prisoners from outside the camp were housed while they awaited trial in the courtroom of the Gestapo Summary Court which was also in this building.

The photograph above was taken in 1998, from inside the courtyard between Block 11 and Block 10. It shows one side of the prison building at Auschwitz I, known as Block 11. On the left is the black wall where prisoners were executed after being convicted in the courtroom that was located in Block 11.

In the photo above, one can see the concrete wells placed around the basement windows so the prisoners in the cells below could not see out, but some light could enter through the open top of the well. Note that some of the cells have no well around the window. One of these cells is the one where Father Maximilian Kolbe, a Polish priest, was left to die of starvation, after he volunteered to take the place of a condemned Polish political prisoner.

The windows on the ground floor have bars on them; there were dormitories with three-tiered bunk beds in these rooms where prisoners lived while awaiting trial. The upper floor window openings have been closed up with bricks with only a small window left at the top.

On the other side of Block 11 is the gravel pit which was used as an execution site for Polish Catholic political prisoners. The gravel pit is where, in 1988, Carmelite nuns placed the 26-foot souvenir cross from the Mass said by the Pope at Auschwitz II in 1979. The photograph below, taken in October 2005, shows the former gravel pit, now covered with grass, with the Block 11 building in the background. Note the window openings which have been bricked up.

Block 11 as seen from outside the camp

The large cross, shown in the photo above, was used by Pope John Paul II when he said Mass for 500,000 people at the Birkenau camp in 1979. The grass in the foreground covers the former gravel pit where 152 Polish political prisoners were executed by the Nazis.

Front entrance to Block 11, the prison block

When I visited Block 11 in October 2005, there was a souvenir stand in the wooden building shown in the photo below. This building was the "New Laundry," according to the camp guidebook. It is across the street from the entrance to Block 11. Behind the laundry is the former theater building, which was used for storage of the property taken from the prisoners when they arrived.

1998 photo of building which now has a souvenir stand

The sign with the skull and crossbones, shown below, has been photographed many times; it is almost as famous as the Arbeit Macht Frei gate at Auschwitz I. It stands in front of the fence at the end of the street where Block 11 is located, and is just to the right of the Block 11 building, shown in the photo above. As you can readily see, this sign, which was put up almost 60 years ago, had faded considerably by 1998. When I visited again in 2005, the sign looked as if it had been repainted.

Warning sign in front of electrified fence near Block 11

Prison Cells Inside Block 11

Standing Cells in Block 11

The Black Wall

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

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