Auschwitz concentration camp

Nazi concentration and extermination camp (1940–1945)
Auschwitz I (22 May 2010).jpg
Birkenau múzeum - panoramio (cropped).jpg
Top: Gate to Auschwitz I, the main camp, with its Arbeit macht frei ("work sets you free") sign
Above: Train track, in operation May–October 1944, leading to the gas chambers at Auschwitz II-Birkenau[1]
VideoDrone footage, 2015
ImagesGoogle Earth
Coordinates50°02′09″N 19°10′42″E / 50°02′09″N 19°10′42″E / 50.03583; 19.17833); also KZ Auschwitz or KL Auschwitz
Known forThe Holocaust
LocationOświęcim (German: Auschwitz), German-occupied Poland
Operated byNazi Germany and the Schutzstaffel
Founding commandantRudolf Höss
Original useArmy barracks
OperationalMay 1940 – January 1945
InmatesMainly Jews, Poles, Romani, Soviet prisoners of war
Number of inmatesAt least 1.3 million
KilledAt least 1.1 million
Liberated bySoviet Union, 27 January 1945
Notable inmatesAdolf Burger, Anne Frank, Otto Frank, Viktor Frankl, Imre Kertész, Maximilian Kolbe, Primo Levi, Irène Némirovsky, Witold Pilecki, Edith Stein, Simone Veil, Rudolf Vrba, Alfréd Wetzler, Elie Wiesel, Fritz Löhner-Beda, Else Ury
Notable books
Official nameAuschwitz Birkenau, German Nazi Concentration and Extermination Camp (1940–1945)
Designated1979 (3rd 31
RegionEurope and North America

The Auschwitz concentration camp (Konzentrationslager Auschwitz) was a complex of over 40 concentration and extermination camps built and operated by Nazi Germany in occupied Poland during World War II and the Holocaust. It consisted of Auschwitz I, the main camp (Stammlager) in Oświęcim; Auschwitz II–Birkenau, a concentration and extermination camp three kilometers away in Brzezinka; Auschwitz III–Monowitz, a labor camp in Monowice created to staff an IG Farben synthetic-rubber factory; and dozens of other subcamps.[2]

After Germany invaded Poland in September 1939, sparking World War II, the Germans converted Auschwitz I, a former army barracks, to hold Polish political prisoners.[3] The first prisoners, German criminals brought to the camp as functionaries, arrived in May 1940,[4] and the first gassing of prisoners took place in block 11 of Auschwitz I in September 1941. Auschwitz II–Birkenau went on to become a major site of the Nazis' Final Solution to the Jewish Question. From early 1942 until late 1944, transport trains delivered Jews from all over German-occupied Europe to the camp's gas chambers. Of the estimated 1.3 million people sent to Auschwitz, at least 1.1 million died,[5] around 90 percent of them Jews.[6] Approximately one in six Jews killed in the Holocaust died at the camp.[7] Others deported to Auschwitz included 150,000 non-Jewish Poles, 23,000 Roma, 15,000 Soviet prisoners of war, 400 Jehovah's Witnesses, tens of thousands of others of diverse nationalities, and an unknown number of gay men. Many of those not killed in the gas chambers died because of starvation, forced labor, infectious diseases, individual executions, and medical experiments.

In the course of the war, the camp was staffed by 7,000 members of the German Schutzstaffel (SS), approximately 12 percent of whom were later convicted of war crimes; several, including camp commandant Rudolf Höss, were executed. The Allies did not act on early reports of atrocities at the camp, and their failure to bomb the camp or its railways remains controversial. At least 802 prisoners tried to escape from Auschwitz, 144 successfully, and on 7 October 1944 two Sonderkommando units, consisting of prisoners assigned to staff the gas chambers, launched a brief, unsuccessful uprising.

As Soviet troops approached Auschwitz in January 1945, most of its population was sent west on a death march. The remaining prisoners were liberated on 27 January 1945, a day commemorated as International Holocaust Remembrance Day. In the following decades, survivors such as Primo Levi, Viktor Frankl, and Elie Wiesel wrote memoirs of their experiences in Auschwitz, and the camp became a dominant symbol of the Holocaust. In 1947 Poland founded the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum on the site of Auschwitz I and II, and in 1979 it was named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.


Concentration camps and ghettos in occupied Europe (2007 borders); same map showing WWII borders
Auschwitz I, II, and III

The ideology of Nazism brought together elements of antisemitism, racial hygiene and eugenics, and combined them with pan-Germanism and territorial expansionism with the goal of obtaining more Lebensraum (living space) for the Germanic people.[8] Immediately after the Nazi seizure of power in Germany, boycotts of German Jews and acts of violence against them became ubiquitous,[9] and legislation was passed excluding them from the civil service and certain professions, including the law.[10][a] Harassment and economic pressure were used to encourage them to leave Germany; their businesses were denied access to markets, forbidden to advertise in newspapers, and deprived of government contracts.[11]

On 15 September 1935, the Reichstag passed the Nuremberg Laws, prohibiting marriages between Jews and people of Germanic extraction, extramarital relations between Jews and Germans, and the employment of German women under the age of 45 as domestic servants in Jewish households.[12] The Reich Citizenship Law defined as citizens those of "German or kindred blood". Thus Jews and other minorities were stripped of their citizenship.[13] By the start of World War II in 1939, around 250,000 of Germany's 437,000 Jews had emigrated to the United States, Palestine, the United Kingdom, and other countries.[14][15]

When Germany invaded Poland in September 1939, triggering World War II, Adolf Hitler ordered that the Polish leadership and intelligentsia be destroyed.[16] Approximately 65,000 civilians, viewed as inferior to the Aryan master race, had been killed by the end of 1939. In addition to leaders of Polish society, the Nazis killed Jews, prostitutes, the Roma, and the mentally ill.[17][18] SS-Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich, then head of the Gestapo, ordered on 21 September 1939 that Polish Jews be rounded up and concentrated into cities with good rail links. Initially the intention was to deport them to points further east, or possibly to Madagascar.[19] Two years later, in June 1941, in an attempt to obtain new territory, Hitler invaded the Soviet Union.[8]

Other Languages
asturianu: Auschwitz
беларуская: Асвенцім
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Асьвенцім
català: Auschwitz
čeština: Auschwitz
Cymraeg: Auschwitz
Deutsch: KZ Auschwitz
español: Auschwitz
euskara: Auschwitz
føroyskt: Auschwitz
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Frysk: Auschwitz
furlan: Auschwitz
հայերեն: Օսվենցիմ
Bahasa Indonesia: Kamp konsentrasi Auschwitz
íslenska: Auschwitz
עברית: אושוויץ
Ladino: Auschwitz
lumbaart: Auschwitz (KZ)
македонски: Аушвиц
Bahasa Melayu: Kem tahanan Auschwitz
монгол: Аушвиц
norsk: Auschwitz
norsk nynorsk: Auschwitz
português: Auschwitz
русский: Освенцим
српски / srpski: Логор Аушвиц
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Auschwitz (koncentracioni logor)
suomi: Auschwitz
svenska: Auschwitz
татарча/tatarça: Osventsim
українська: Аушвіц
ייִדיש: אוישוויץ