Auschwitz (Konzentrationslager Auschwitz) was the largest of the German Nazi concentration and extermination camps. Located in southern Poland, it took its name from the nearby town of O?więcim (Auschwitz in German), situated about 50 kilometers west of Kraków and 286 kilometers from Warsaw. Following the German occupation of Poland in September 1939, O?więcim was incorporated into Germany and renamed Auschwitz. The complex consisted of three main camps: Auschwitz I, the administrative center; Auschwitz II (Birkenau), an extermination camp or Vernichtungslager; and Auschwitz III (Monowitz), a work camp. The first two of them have been on the World Heritage List since 1979. There were also around 40 satellite camps, some of them tens of kilometers from the main camps, with prisoner populations ranging from several dozen to several thousand.
The camp commandant, Rudolf Höss, testifed at the Nuremberg Trials that 3 million people had died at Auschwitz during his stay as a commandant. Later he decreased his estimate to about 1.1 million. The death toll given by the Soviets and accepted by many was 4,000,000 people. This number was written on the plaques in the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum. The Museum revised this figure in 1990, and new calculations by Dr.
Franciszek Piper now place the figure at 1.1 million about 90 percent of them Jews from almost every country in Europe. Most of the dead were killed in gas chambers using Zyklon B; other deaths were caused by systematic starvation, forced labor, lack of disease control, individual executions, and so-called medical experiments. Auschwitz I served as the administrative center for the whole complex. It was founded on May 20, 1940, on the basis of an old Polish brick army barracks (originally built by the Austro-Hungarian Empire).
A group of 728 Polish political prisoners from Tarnów became the first residents of Auschwitz on June 14 that year. The camp was initially used for interning Polish intellectuals and resistance movement members, then also for Soviet Prisoners of War. Common German criminals, "anti-social elements" and 48 German homosexuals were also imprisoned there.
Jews were sent to the camp as well, beginning with the very first shipment (from Tarnów). At any time, the camp held between 13,000 and 16,000 inmates; in 1942 the number reached 20,000. The entrance to Auschwitz I was?and still is?marked with the ironic sign "Arbeit Macht Frei", or "work makes (one) free." The camp's prisoners who left the camp during the day for construction or farm labor were made to march through the gate to the sounds of an orchestra. Contrary to what is depicted in several films, the majority of the Jews were imprisoned in the Auschwitz II camp, and did not pass under this sign. The SS selected some prisoners, often German criminals, as specially privileged supervisors of the other inmates (so-called: kapo).
The various classes of prisoners were distinguishable by special marks on their clothes; Jews were generally treated the worst. All inmates had to work in the associated arms factories; except Sundays, which were reserved for cleaning and showering and there were no work assignments. Maybe it is time for you to go for an Auschwitz tour and think of about it. You can stay in one of Polisch hotels and catch on cheap Poland flight.