Auschwitz liberation – International Holocaust Remembrance Day

Auschwitz – Bikenau, Oswiecim, Poland
German Nazi concentration and extermination camp (1940–1945)

Operated by
The Nazi Schutzstaffel (SS), the Soviet NKVD (after World War II)
Operational May 1940 – January 1945
Inmates mainly Jews, Poles, Romani, Soviet soldiers
Liberated by Soviet Union, January 27, 1945
UNESCO World Heritage Site
In September 1935 the Nuremberg Laws were enacted. The Reich Citizenship Law stated that only those of Germanic or related blood were defined as citizens. Thus Jews and other minority groups were stripped of their German citizenship. By the start of World War II in 1939, around 250,000 of Germany’s 437,000 Jews emigrated to the United States, Palestine, Great Britain, and other countries.[1] [2]

Nazism brought together elements of antisemitism, racial hygiene, and eugenics, together with territorial expansionism with the goal of obtaining more Lebensraum (living space) for the Germanic people.

After the invasion of Poland in September 1939, Germany ordered the Polish leadership and intelligentsia should be destroyed. Approximately 65,000 civilians were killed by the end of 1939. In addition to leaders of Polish society, the Nazis killed Jews, prostitutes, Romani, and the mentally ill.

Auschwitz concentration camp (German: Konzentrationslager Auschwitz) was not one but a network of camps built and operated by the Third Reich in the Auschwitz area by Nazi Germany during World War II. It consisted of Auschwitz I (the original camp), Auschwitz II–Birkenau (a combination concentration/extermination camp), Auschwitz III–Monowitz (a labour camp to staff an IG Farben factory), and 45 satellite camps.

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Auschwitz

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Auschwitz : 50.027028, 19.203372

Auschwitz I was first constructed to hold Polish political prisoners, who began to arrive in May 1940.

Auschwitz Bikenau concentration extermination camp Oswiecim Poland

Auschwitz I

 

Auschwitz Bikenau concentration extermination camp Oswiecim Poland

Warning High Voltage

During the construction, Local residents were evicted, including 1,200 people who lived around the barracks. From 1940 to 1941, 17,000 Polish and Jewish residents of the western districts of Oświęcim were expelled from places adjacent to the camp. The villages of Broszkowice, Babice, Brzezinka, Rajsko, Pławy, Harmęże, Bór, and Budy were also cleared.

The first prisoners (30 German criminal prisoners from the Sachsenhausen camp – located outside a Berlin) arrived in May 1940. The first transport of 728 Polish prisoners, which included 20 Jews, arrived on June 14, 1940, from the prison in Tarnów, Poland. By March 1941, 10,900 were imprisoned there, most of them Poles.

Auschwitz II-Birkenau

Auschwitz Bikenau concentration extermination camp Oswiecim Poland

A familiar image of Auschwitz

Construction began in October 1941 to ease congestion at the main camp. An initial contingent of 10,000 Soviet prisoners of war arrived at Auschwitz I in October 1941, but by March 1942 only 945 were still alive, and these were transferred to Birkenau, where most of them died from disease or starvation by May.

Auschwitz Bikenau concentration extermination camp Oswiecim Poland

Inside barracks

Himmler issued an order to send all Sinti and Roma (Gypsies) to concentration camps, including Auschwitz. A separate camp for Roma was set up at Auschwitz II-Birkenau known as the Zigeunerfamilienlager (Gypsy Family Camp). Approximately 23,000 Gypsies had been brought to Auschwitz by 1944, 20,000 of whom died there. One transport of 1,700 Polish Sinti and Roma was killed upon arrival, as they were suspected to be ill with spotted fever.

Auschwitz Bikenau concentration extermination camp Oswiecim Poland

Barracks

August 1944, the SS cleared the Gypsy camp. The population of 2,897 was then killed in the gas chambers. The murder of the Romani people in Romani language as the Porajmos (devouring)

Auschwitz Bikenau concentration extermination camp Oswiecim Poland

Inside barracks

Auschwitz Bikenau concentration extermination camp Oswiecim Poland

Map of Auschwitz-Birkenau

Auschwitz Bikenau concentration extermination camp Oswiecim Poland

Prisoner numbers?

Auschwitz III

IG Farben chose a site at Auschwitz to enable the making of Buna, a synthetic rubber.

A mini camp was built to house the workers for the plant, however due to shortages in raw materials the plant only opened in 1945. Shortly before it’s discovery by Soviet troops.

As well as IG Farben, companies such Krupp and Siemens-Schuckert, built factories with their own subcamps.[3]

After the war, the site became a Soviet NKVD camp and then became a museum in 1947.

In memory of everyone affected by World War Two.

(1) Longerich 2010, p. 127. Longerich, Peter (2010). Holocaust: The Nazi Persecution and Murder of the Jews. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-280436-5.
(2) Evans 2005, p. 555. Evans, Richard J. (2005). The Third Reich in Power. New York: Penguin. ISBN 978-0-14-303790-3
(3) Steinbacher 2005, p. 57. Steinbacher, Sybille (2005) [2004]. Auschwitz: A History. Munich: Verlag C. H. Beck. ISBN 0-06-082581-2.

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