While there is no question that all of the tales of atrocity and horror from concentration camps are hard to hear and horrifying in many ways, it is the fate of the children sent to camps that truly stand out as terrifying. Those children sent to Auschwitz faced horrible odds, and in most cases their lives were sure to end quickly.
As children arrived at Auschwitz they were generally sent to the gas chambers immediately, particularly if they were too small to be of any use in the labor portion of the camp. Those that were deemed able to work were sent to labor camps. Of these, boys were usually the main survivors of the selection process and generally assigned to work in various areas of the camp. Often, they were responsible for actually building the very crematories that would later burn their bodies.
Children were frequently killed by disease. The water inside the camp was highly contaminated, and the children were often dehydrated and incredibly thirsty. Drinking the water could introduce countless diseases to the children, which in turn ravaged their small bodies. In other instances, German Kapos sexually abused young boys on a regular basis.
There was another fate that awaited many of the Auschwitz children. Dr. Josef Mengele, the "Angel of Death" carried out countless human experiments behind the walls of Auschwitz, and his experiments were frequently focused on children. From sewing together twins in an effort to make conjoined twins to injecting a child's eyes with various chemicals in an effort to change their color, Mengele's macabre experiments placed hundreds of children in agony, eventually leading to their death. Mengele frequently executed children on the spot and then dissected their corpses. He also practiced vivisection, ignoring the use of anesthetic during the process.
For many of the Auschwitz children, death was a release – an escape from the tortures they had to endure. For others, it came so quickly that they never had to experience the terror of the camp. No matter when it came or how, it was a terrible crime and horrible atrocity that should never have occurred at all. Adults suffered greatly as well, but the pain of the children and their fates are among the most haunting, terrifying aspects of the Holocaust. It's estimated that 1.5 million children were killed in camps during the Holocaust, and a huge majority of them met their end within Auschwitz.
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