A LIVING HELL

AUSCHWITZ

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Auschwitz-Birkenau

Auschwitz, also known as Auschwitz-Birkenau, opened in 1940 and was the largest of the Nazi concentration and death camps. Located in southern Poland, Auschwitz initially served as a detention center for political prisoners. However, it evolved into a network of camps where Jewish people and other perceived enemies of the Nazi state were exterminated, often in gas chambers, or used as slave labor. Some prisoners were also subjected to barbaric medical experiments led by Josef Mengele (1911-79). During World War II (1939-45), more than 1 million people, by some accounts, lost their lives at Auschwitz. In January 1945, with the Soviet army approaching, Nazi officials ordered the camp abandoned and sent an estimated 60,000 prisoners on a forced march to other locations. When the Soviets entered Auschwitz, they found thousands of emaciated detainees and piles of corpses left behind.

ARTICLE FROM USHMM

The Auschwitz concentration camp complex was the largest of its kind established by the Nazi regime. It included three main camps. All three camps used prisoners for forced labor. One of them also functioned for an extended period as a killing center. The camps were located approximately 37 miles west of Krakow. They were near the prewar German-Polish border in Upper Silesia, an area that Nazi Germany annexed in 1939 after invading and conquering Poland.

The SS authorities established three main camps near the Polish city of Oswiecim: Auschwitz I in April 1940; Auschwitz II (also called Auschwitz-Birkenau) in October 1941; and Auschwitz III (also called Auschwitz-Monowitz) in October 1942.

The best estimates of the number of victims at the Auschwitz concentration camp complex, including the killing center at Auschwitz-Birkenau, between 1940 and 1945 are: Jews (1,095,000 deported to Auschwitz, of whom 960,000 died); Poles (147,000 deported, of whom 74,000 died); Roma (23,000 deported, of whom 21,000 died); Soviet prisoners of war (15,000 deported and died); and other nationalities (25,000 deported, of whom 12,000 died).

It is estimated that the SS and police deported at least 1.3 million people to the Auschwitz complex between 1940 and 1945. Of these, the camp authorities murdered approximately 1.1 million.

facts about auschwitz

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