Write a 4–5 page paper that assesses the living conditions of inhabitants of Auschwitz. You may want to consider the following questions while crafting your response: How does Borowski’s experience in Auschwitz I (the political prisoner camp) differ from that of the Jewish prisoners he encounters in Birkenau, particularly at the FKL? What sorts of “tricks” did prisoners learn, or what sorts of behaviors did they engage in to survive? What are the strengths and drawbacks of Borowski’s focus on everyday life?

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Living conditions in Auschwitz were, unsurprisingly, tragic. Remember, concentration camps were not designed for human comfort, or even survival. Rather, they were death camps.

People slept in two types of buildings. Some were in old brick army barracks and others in wooden stalls. Bunks were installed so that the prisoners could be packed into the tight space, with several hundred people in each barrack. Beds were made of straw. Sick prisoners fouled them, and there were no sanitary facilities in the barracks. Therefore, illness was easily transferred between people. The rooms were dark, damp, and cold.

Prisoners were fed three times a day; however, the nutrition provided by these meals was completely insufficient, resulting in weaker bodies and more susceptible immune systems. In an entire day, a prisoner at Auschwitz might only eat a cup of (fake) coffee or tea, perhaps a liter of vegetable soup, and a 300-gram (or so) slice of black bread with some kind of spread—whether a tablespoon of margarine, a bit of sausage, or cheese. These are considered starvation rations, the bare minimum for survival.

Meanwhile, prisoners were forced to work about eleven hours a day. In the early days, many were put to work building and maintaining the concentration camp. Later, some prisoners were sent out to work in mills, mines, or factories in the surrounding area. Work began early, at 4:30 or 5:30 in the morning, and continued until just before nightfall, with a short break for lunch in the middle. The night silence began at 9 pm, when people were supposed to sleep. Prisoners were given Sundays off to take care of their personal needs, such as cleaning their barracks.

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