Judenrampe & Bahnhof West

The unloading ramp or Neue Rampe at Auschwitz II-Birkenau, which only opened in May 1944, is well known. The previous arrival point, however, was the Judenrampe located between Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II-Birkenau. It was here that some 800,000 people arrived and underwent selection: fit for work or straight to the gas chamber. All the same, the platform was not given museum status. After 1945 it was put into operation as a freight station.

History books frequently describe the Judenrampe incorrectly as a siding in open countryside. It was in fact the 500-metre-long loading and unloading ramp of the Bahnhof West. The construction of this station with its 15 tracks commenced at the end of 1941. Rail convoys usually arrived there unannounced: bombing raids sometimes occurred en route and priority was given to the transportation of goods and troops. The railway cars were held at the shunting yard at Bahnhof West until the unloading ramp was free. Long lines of freight trains packed with human beings, with no sanitary facilities, food or drink, were left to stand in the heat or cold. People wept, screamed and cried out for water. Babies, invalids and old people died of exhaustion. Bahnhof West was hell.

Bahnhof West, a freight station

In 1941 the chemical group IG Farben decided to construct an immense factory complex near the town of Auschwitz, beyond the range of British bombers. To facilitate the delivery of construction materials, a freight station (Bahnhof West) was constructed with a 500-metre-long platform (the Judenrampe). Next to Bahnhof West warehouses were built for goods. The so-called Kartoffelbaracken. In the area the SS organized bio-industry. The cultivated potatoes were stored in these barracks for transport.

Judenrampe & Kartoffelbaracken today