largest Nazi concentration camp and death camp, Auschwitz-Birkenau
was set up in April 1940, in Galicia, west of Krakow and south
of Sosnowiec and Katowice in Silesia. The first camp held Polish
political prisoners; the second camp was Birkenau, named after
the nearby Polish village. The commander of the camp, Rudolph
Hoess, was assigned the main role in implementing the Final Solution,
that is, the physical annihilation of the Jewish people. In September
1941, the first experiments with the gas Zyklon B were carried
out. The first victims were Soviet prisoners of war.
January 1943, the gas chambers, disguised as showers, and four
ovens (the crematorium) for incinerating the bodies (instead of
burying them) were built. Already in March 1942, the Nazis had
begun the mass destruction of Jews at Auschwitz-Birkenau. Trains
arrived from all parts of Europe, loaded with consignments of
Jews for slaughter: from Poland, Slovakia, France, Italy, Holland,
Belgium, Yugoslavia, Norway, Germany, Latvia, Austria, Greece,
and North Africa. An underground sabotage movement was formed
in the camp. With the retreat of the German army, Himmler gave
orders for the gas installations to be dismantled and all traces
of the slaughter to be erased (November 1944).
than a million Jews, Gypsies, and members of other nations met
their deaths in Auschwitz. On January 27, 1945, the Red Army liberated
the camp and the 6,750 Jews and others who were left there.