German railroad officials used both freight and passenger cars for the deportation of prisoners to concentration camps. Packed in sealed wagons and suffering from overcrowding, those transported endured intense heat during the summer and freezing temperatures during the winter. Aside from a bucket, there were no sanitary facilities. The stench of urine and excrement added to the humiliation and suffering of the deportees. Lacking food and water, many of them died before the trains reached their destinations. Armed police guards accompanied the transports and had orders to shoot anyone who tried to escape.
From 1942 to the end of summer 1944, trains arrived at Auschwitz-Birkenau daily, with transports containing thousands of Jews from every country in Europe occupied by, or allied to, Germany. In total, approximately 1.1 million Jews were deported to Auschwitz. The majority of those never entered the camp, but only crossed it on the way to the gas chambers.