Auschwitz-Birkenau, is the most infamous of the Nazi death camps. It was a massive concentration, forced labour and extermination camp at the centre of a network of more than 40 satellite camps.
The first Auschwitz camp (Auschwitz I) was established by the Germans in 1940, in the suburbs of the town of Oswiecim (pronounced Osvienchim) less than 40 miles south of Krakow in the south of Poland. It was initially a camp to house political prisoners.
As part of the Final Solution the Nazis began building Auschwitz-Birkenau in the Autumn of 1941 on the site of the village of Brzezinka, less than two miles from Auschwitz I. The local population were evicted and their homes demolished and used for building materials.
Auschwitz-Birkenau began operating as a death camp between March 1942 and January 1945.
Upwards of 80 per cent of those Jews transported to Auschwitz-Birkenau were selected for immediate death. The remainder was selected for work. The majority of those selected for work died within a few weeks or months of their arrival at the camp as a result of overwork, ill treatment, disease or lack of food.
In this section of The Holocaust Explained you will be able to read, see and hear about the lives of those who lived in the camp.
As you learn about Auschwitz-Birkenau, reflect on the following.
What lessons can we learn about man’s inhumanity to man?
What can we learn about the human spirit; man’s ability to cope with the most inhumane conditions and not give in to the perpetrator?