The Architecture of Crime. The "Central Camp Sauna" in Auschwitz II-Birkenau. Collective bathhouses were a characteristic feature of the Nazi camps. Some bathhouses contained equipment designed for the mass disinfection of clothing and for the extermination of insects in clothing. Such facilities were also built in the Auschwitz concentration camp (Auschwitz I-Main Camp, Auschwitz II-Birkenau), and in the sub-camps. The largest bathhouse in Birkenau was called the "New Sauna" or "Central Sauna", situated in the sector BIIg ("Kanada II"), near Gas Chambers and Crematoria IV and V.
Costruction of the Central Sauna lasted from the beginning of March until December 1943. On the basis of its external and internal appearance and the extant construction documentation, it would be easy to come to the erroneous conclusion about the function of the Central Sauna. It might even be possible to suppose that the erection and operation of the Sauna reflected concern on the part of the SS about the hygiene of the prisoners. Its true function is indicated by its location and by the realities of Auschwitz. The primary role of the Sauna had nothing to do with the hygiene of the prisoners whom the SS treated as slave laborers and who, for the most part, were only being kept alive on a temporary basis. Rather, the Sauna functioned as an auxiliary instrument in the mass destruction of the Jews and the plundering of their property at Auschwitz.
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