"The space of experience: Auschwitz-Birkenau, sector B III, female prisoners, May-October, 1944"
Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Romana Gloria Falcón Vega (El Colegio de México)
For historiographers, national-socialist camps have provided a never-ending source of research problems. The complex universe of the -lager the Auschwitz cluster – referring to the headquarters camp Auschwitz, Birkenau complementary camp and Monowitz external camp – has been one of the main sites of investigation. Auschwitz-Birkenau has been the center of attention for many researchers interested in the national socialism, the Second World War and the Holocaust.
Auschwitz-Birkenau camp had three sectors, named B I, B II and B III. The historic knowledge about sectors II and I is diverse and plentiful; Auschwitz-Birkenau sector III has scarcely been studied. The current bibliography concerning Auschwitz-Birkenau tells in an anecdote of the daily talk of the prisoners in that camp and headquarters Auschwitz, that the section III was named Mexiko [Mexico]. This anecdote comes from the book Der Auschwitz-Prozeß: Eine Dokumentation; written by Hermann Langbein [1912-1995]. In the glossary of this book Langbein briefly wrote that the thousands of captive women in section III had only blankets to cover their bodies and the look of those clothes was the reason to call the sector that name. In other words, the crowd of women wrapped in those hanging layers brought a colorful picture that was reminiscent of Mexico. At the end of Second World War a number of survivors – such as Hermann Langbein –worked hard to depict their experience as prisoners and started to work on the explanation of oral, written and graphic signs which were created in Auschwitz or in Auschwitz-Birkenau. In the memories of these survivors with different nationalities, Mexiko comes up continuously.
The name Mexiko is one theme that will be explored. This part of the project is composed of two problems: Did Mexiko appeared for the reasons stated by witness-historians such as Herman Langbein? Was Mexiko fixed in the speech and understanding of the inmates at the Auschwitz headquarters and the complementary camp Auschwitz-Birkenau? The hypothesis is that Mexiko was an oral sign created and utilized by some Auschwitz and Auschwitz-Birkenau inmates to describe the singularity and distinctiveness of the factual conditions in which female prisoners in sector III lived.