Auschwitz concentration camp

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Auschwitz concentration camp (Poland)
Auschwitz I-III concentration camp
Auschwitz I-III concentration camp
Location of the former German camp complex (Auschwitz I-III concentration camp) in Poland
Animation of the construction of the Auschwitz concentration camp

The Auschwitz concentration camp , also known for short as Auschwitz , Auschwitz or , at the present time, KL Auschwitz , was a German camp complex made up of three successively expanded concentration camps at the time of National Socialism . This camp complex had a double function as a concentration and extermination camp . It consisted of the Auschwitz I concentration camp (main camp) , the Birkenau extermination camp - Auschwitz II concentration camp , the Monowitz concentration camp and about 50 other satellite camps . The camp complex was located in the part of Poland annexed by the German Reich . The SS operated the camp complex from 1940 to 1945 on the western edge of the Polish city of Oświęcim (German: Auschwitz).

The people captured across Europe were transported by train to Auschwitz. About 90% were Jews. The countries of origin were Belgium, Germany, France, Greece, Italy, Yugoslavia, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Austria, Poland, Romania, the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia and Hungary. The death toll ranges from 1.1 to 1.5 million .

On January 27, 1945 , the Red Army liberated the camp complex. In the post-war period, the name “Auschwitz” became a symbol of the Holocaust . The anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz concentration camp has been the day of remembrance of the victims of National Socialism in Germany since 1996 and internationally since 2005 .

Stock items

Auschwitz I (main camp)

Entrance gate of Auschwitz I concentration camp (main camp) with the inscription " Arbeit macht frei " (2007)

On February 1, 1940, Reichsführer SS Heinrich Himmler instructed Richard Glücks, the inspector of the concentration camps, to examine suitable building complexes, prisons and camps in the Old Reich and in the occupied eastern territories for their possible uses as concentration camps. Auschwitz was also mentioned by name in Himmler's instructions. Two investigations by Glücks and the later camp commandant Rudolf Höß came to the conclusion that Auschwitz might be an option for setting up such a camp. Thereupon, on April 27, 1940, Himmler ordered the construction of a concentration camp in Auschwitz.

The location had been chosen to be favorable in terms of traffic. Auschwitz belonged to Austria-Hungary in the 19th century and was connected to the Vienna - Krakow railway line during this time. This rail connection simplified the rapid deportation of Jews from many areas of Europe to Auschwitz. The sparsely populated area, with its rivers as natural obstacles to approach and escape, sealed off the facility so that public insights were made difficult.

The later very large Auschwitz camp complex started with the construction of the main camp , mostly KL Auschwitz I called. The SS set up the main camp in the buildings of a former Polish barracks. It was relatively new and well preserved. The first concentration camp prisoners arrived in the camp on May 20, 1940 . The main camp later became the administrative center. In March 1941, Himmler ordered an expansion of the camp in a nearby village. The block 11 was a stock internal prison with Stehbunker . Thousands of his prisoners were selected and shot on the black wall . After trying to escape, the SS sent other inmates to the bunker as a deterrent and sentenced them to starvation.

Auschwitz II (Birkenau extermination camp)

Aerial view of the RAF of Birkenau , ascending smoke from the burning pits (August 1944)

On March 1, 1941, on the occasion of a tour of the main camp, Rudolf Höß received the order from Himmler to build an additional labor camp for initially 100,000 prisoners. Its capacity was later to be increased to 200,000. In October 1941, construction of the huge second camp began. The village of Brzezinka (Eng. Birkenau) was completely demolished after the population had been resettled and replaced by barracks . Administratively it was subordinate to the main camp. The SS had the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp area built as an extermination camp with the aim of industrialized extermination of people. Over a million people were murdered here, mostly Jews, Sinti and Roma from all over Europe. (Note: the SS also carried out industrialized extermination outside the concentration camp system, see overview of the Nazi regime's extermination camps ).

The somewhat isolated "Red House" was first used for gassings on March 20, 1942. The converted “White House” was used as a gas chamber from mid-1942. From the first half of 1943, the four newly built crematoria went into operation, which contained the large gas chambers of the camp in the basement .

The individual areas of the 1.7 square kilometer extermination camp were called camp blocks (A, B, C etc.); they were successively detention sites for different groups of victims. On the right side (seen from the entrance) there were wooden barracks for the women and children under 14 years of age. These included the “ Theresienstadt family camp ” and the women's camp (Block BI). On the left there were brick barracks for the men. From the summer of 1944, Hungarian National Socialists had taken power in Budapest, which Eichmann used to intensify the deportation of Hungarian Jews (see “ Hungary Action ”). In addition to Jews, the so-called " Gypsies " also suffered particular persecution . The SS set up a special block for “Gypsies” in the concentration camp and named it “ Auschwitz Gypsy Camp ”. Here also was Josef Mengele with experiments worked on humans.

Auschwitz III (Monowitz labor camp)

IG Farben: Monowitz , 1941

In the Auschwitz – Monowitz concentration camp , which was not until Auschwitz III, later called the Monowitz concentration camp, concentration camp prisoners had to do forced labor . A special feature of concentration camps, the camp was built on the initiative and expense of IG Farben AG together with manufacturing facilities from 1941 in the village of Monowice, which also had a rail connection, and was put into operation on October 28, 1942. From November 1943 it was also the main camp with a commander responsible for other sub-camps.

Further satellite camps and external commands

Jawischowitz , one of the 50
or so satellite camps of Auschwitz, remains of a barrack (2006)

The Auschwitz concentration camp had around 50 subcamps . Many prisoners died there due to the working and living conditions (→ extermination through work ).

The subcamps were administratively subordinate to the main camp Auschwitz I until the reorganization of the camp complex in November 1943 . The SS described them inconsistently, e.g. B. as a labor camp, satellite camp, field command, concentration camp, SS labor camp or branch camp.

Some of these satellite camps were located in the wider area, also outside the district, in the 40 square kilometer "KL Auschwitz Area of ​​Interest", which can be demarcated by the Sola and Vistula rivers . Among them were u. a. the outer bearing Althammer , the outer bearing plate hammer , the outer bearing Eintrachthütte , the outer bearing Fürstengrube , the outer bearings in Hindenburg , the outer bearing of the Janinagrube , the SS-working stock New Badger and the work stock Krakow Plaszow . In some satellite camps, inmates had to work in mines. Sub-camps were also affiliated with the agricultural operations of Auschwitz .

Geographical location

Map of the Auschwitz camp complex with the railroad connections
During the " Hungary Action " in 1944, the capacity of the crematoria in Auschwitz was overloaded and additional cremation pits were built. Photo secretly taken by Alberto Errera (Sonderkommando).

The SS had the main camp (Auschwitz I) built in a former Polish barracks west of the city of Oświęcim. The region belonged to the border area between the German Reich , which was enlarged by annexation in 1939, and the Generalgouvernement .

The Birkenau extermination camp (Auschwitz II) was rebuilt in autumn 1941, three kilometers northwest of the main camp Auschwitz I. The entire area covered an area of ​​around 40 km² and included an area in the shape of a triangle.

The Monowitz camp area (Auschwitz III) was set up by IG Farben AG at the end of October 1942 . It was six km east of the main camp, on the premises of the Buna works of IG Farben AG.

The connection to the rail traffic was made to the north in the directions Warsaw and Breslau (further to Berlin ). To the south the rail network ran in the directions of Prague , Budapest , Vienna and Bratislava . Two routes led east to Krakow and further into the Ukrainian SSR .

Public administration structure

The district of Oświęcim (Auschwitz) , established after the First World War , was dissolved in the course of a community reform in 1932 and assigned to the districts of Wadowice and Bielsko-Biała . Just three days after the beginning of the Second World War , on September 4, 1939, the city of Auschwitz was captured by German Wehrmacht troops and one month later incorporated into the German Reich. The subsequent legitimation by the German occupying power took place on December 21, 1939 through the so-called "Ordinance on the introduction of the German municipal code in the incorporated eastern areas". On November 30, 1940, the city, which was now called Auschwitz, became the administrative center of a new administrative district . This consisted of the city of Auschwitz and the surrounding communities Babitz, Birkenau , Broschkowitz, Dwory, Klutschnikowitz, Monowitz, Poremba-Wielka, Stara-Stawy, Wlocienitz and Zaborz-Ost. The area around Auschwitz now formed part of the new administrative district of Katowice in the western section of the new district of Bielitz .

Almost at the same time as Himmler's decision to build the camp, the "Zentralbodenamt", an office of Himmler in his function as Reich Commissioner for the Consolidation of German Volkstum , began to prepare the expropriations and expulsion of the residents living in the area in April 1940. The various parcels of land in the affected area selected as a concentration camp were partly in private as well as formerly state (ie Polish), municipal or church property.

At the time of the decision to expand the camp in March 1941, the camp itself and its immediate surroundings were declared by the SS as “KL Auschwitz Area of ​​Interest”. The entire area was declared a restricted area and, with effect from May 31, it was separated from the local administrative and community structure. The declaration of the area of ​​interest and restricted area was only the first step. In the long term, the entire area was to be converted into an "estate district of the Waffen-SS" and thus become the property of the SS.

The negotiations between the SS and the civil authorities about the complete conversion into an estate district were to last until mid-1943. At this point in time, the entire camp area consisted administratively of the aforementioned manor district, which included the Birkenau extermination camp , the actual main camp and the Monowitz labor camp located outside the area of ​​interest. On May 31, 1943, however, the President of the Province of Upper Silesia, Fritz Bracht, ordered the formation of an independent “Auschwitz District” for the entire camp complex with effect from June 1, 1943. The camp commandant should henceforth also have the function of an “official commissioner” with all the powers of civil administration. The administrative structure of the administrative district was to be maintained until the end of the camp and the liberation by Soviet troops.

Gas chambers and crematoria

The industrialized mass murder took place in different buildings. The main task of the SS was to pour Zyklon B into the gas chambers. In order to protect the psyche of SS men, a work detachment was forced by prisoners. B. to manage the removal of the corpses from the gas chambers and their subsequent cremation in the ovens and cremation pits (→ prisoner special command of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp ).

Death marches and liberation of the camp

Between January 17 and January 23, 1945 about 60,000 prisoners were "evacuated" from the area by the SS. H. partly shot and mostly driven west on death marches . On January 27, 1945, the remaining prisoners were liberated by Soviet troops from the 322nd Infantry Division of the 1st Ukrainian Front . Of the approximately 7,000 surviving prisoners who were still found, many died in the following days - despite medical help. The information ranges z. B. in the Monowitz camp from 600 to 850 people.

Casualty numbers

Between 1940 and January 1945, just over 400,000 prisoners in the three concentration camps Auschwitz and its satellite camps registered . About two thirds of the registered prisoners were men and one third women.

Due to the large number of unregistered victims, the total number was much higher, because most of the deportees were sent straight from the ramp into the gas without registration. In the first decades after the end of the war , parts of the prisoner records were lost, so in many cases only estimates could be published. The number of those murdered is accordingly between 1.1 and 1.5 million .

The SS had the valuables of the murdered collected in several depots in the concentration camp ; the looted gold was then sent to Berlin.

A few prisoners managed to escape at an early stage, so that they were able to forward reports on the conditions in the camp to the Allied governments. (→ Vrba- Wetzler report, Pilecki report ). These reports were used by Allies in post-war trials (→ Auschwitz Protocols ).

Security and warehouse personnel

The majority of the more than 8,000 people deployed by the SS to run the camp consisted mainly of the guards of the SS death's head associations and their leadership. The central SS inspection of the concentration camps (IKL) determined the personnel structures and personnel decisions in the three concentration camps and their subsidiary camps.

Time after the liberation

Relief actions for liberated prisoners

Immediately after the liberation of the camp complex, aid measures were initiated by Soviet and Polish medical personnel and Polish citizens for the prisoners who remained there. Auschwitz survivors were also involved, including doctors Berthold Epstein and Otto Wolken . Survivors who were still physically able to do so were able to leave the camp and return home. More than 4,500 liberated prisoners from more than 20 countries were cared for and medically treated in the former concentration camp in hospitals. Most of the sick suffered from starvation diarrhea. Many of the sick prisoners died despite intensive medical efforts, also because there were initially insufficient medical personnel available. Shortly after the liberation, a Red Cross nurse was responsible for 200 sick people, but the situation improved steadily. Finally, specialist departments were set up in the hospitals, including tuberculosis wards and departments for internal medicine and mental illnesses. The patients had to be carefully accustomed to eating again. Because of their camp experience, many of the Auschwitz survivors who were being cared for were traumatized. For example, some of them resisted the injection of medication because of their experiences in the camp with lethal phenol syringes with which SS members had murdered prisoners. The majority of the liberated prisoners were able to leave the hospitals in April and May 1945.

Temporary use as an internment camp

In April 1945 at the latest, the Soviet military administration (SMAD) set up several transit camps on the site of the former main camp and in the former Birkenau camp area. Reich German prisoners of war and civilians, especially from Upper Silesia , were imprisoned and deported to the Soviet Union until autumn 1945 (main camp) and spring 1946 (Birkenau). Their total number was around 12,000. Between April 1945 and May 1946 around 150 of these internees died.

Partial demolition of the camp

Ruins of the concentration camp barracks at Auschwitz-Birkenau, photo from 2002 from the museum grounds

After the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp, movable objects, including machines from the factory halls, were brought to the Soviet Union by the Soviet military administration . When entire storage magazines were relocated, documents, including 46 death books, ended up in the Soviet Union and were only returned to the State Museum in Poland in 1992. Probably from the beginning of 1946, the Polish authorities also removed movable goods from the former concentration camp. In 1946 alone, around 200 wooden barracks in Birkenau were demolished. Residents from the area also procured building materials and other movable goods there.


After the end of the war, the violent crimes in the Auschwitz concentration camp complex were dealt with in various Nazi trials .

Memorials, memorials

Aerial view of today's memorial (former main camp )
Memorial flowers on the train tracks of the unloading ramp in Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, March 2007

In addition to various memorials, there is now a Polish memorial site on the site of the main camps Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II: the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, which is also used for historical research. Since June 27, 2007, the museum grounds as bears World Heritage Site , the name Auschwitz-Birkenau - German Nazi concentration and extermination camps . The march of the living also takes place on the former camp site. The International Auschwitz Committee is an association of former prisoners. The greater part of the exhibitions is in the area of ​​the former main camp Auschwitz I, not in the former main camp II, which was then also known as Auschwitz-Birkenau.

The Oświęcim / Auschwitz Jewish Center is located in the city of Oświęcim as a memorial and museum of the former Jewish culture in the region.


  • Auschwitz - The Project (France, 2017, 57 min, director E. Weiss, German and French versions) - an overview of the spatial expansion of the Auschwitz concentration camp buildings from 1940 to 1945 (model town and the network of concentration camps and forced labor Sites in industry and agriculture) in the occupied region west of Krakow by means of aerial photographs in the present.
  • Shoah (France, 1985, directed by C. Lanzmann , several hours, mainly interviews, German and French versions)
  • Auschwitz. The perpetrators, the victims, the background (original title: Auschwitz: The Nazis and the 'Final Solution' ; Great Britain, 2005, 285 min., Book: Laurence Rees ) - 6-part documentation, interviews with inmates (including Eva Mozes Kor , Helena Citrónová and Kazimierz Smoleń ) and guards (including Oskar Gröning ) and reenactment of important events
  • The Auschwitz Dialogues (Poland / Germany, 2007)
  • 1944: bombs on Auschwitz? (Germany, 2017, director: Mark Hayhurst, first broadcast on January 21, 2020 on Arte) - Documentary with scenes from the game based on historical quotations and interviews with contemporary witnesses


  • Danuta Czech : Calendar of events in the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp 1939–1945 Rowohlt, Reinbek near Hamburg, 1989. ISBN 3-498-00884-6 .
  • Documentation and Cultural Center of German Sinti and Roma : “The National Socialist Genocide of the Sinti and Roma” . Catalog for the permanent exhibition in Block 13. Heidelberg, 2001, ISBN 3-929446-01-4 .
  • Pierre Dietz: Letters from the deportation, French resistance and the way to Auschwitz . Edition AV, Lich, Hessen 2010, ISBN 978-3-86841-042-6 .
  • Pierre Dietz: Lettres d'un ouvrier déporté. De Maromme à Auschwitz, les deux résistances de William Letourneur . Edition Charles Corlet, Condé-sur-Noireau 2015, ISBN 978-2-84706-585-5 (French).
  • Paul Le Goupil: Resistance and Death March (original title: Un Normand dans… , translated and edited by Pierre Dietz). Edition AV, Lich, Hessen 2015, ISBN 978-3-86841-137-9 .
  • Gideon Greif , Peter Siebers: Auschwitz death factory. Topography and everyday life in a concentration and extermination camp . Published by the NS Documentation Center of the City of Cologne in cooperation with the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum. Emons, Cologne 2016, ISBN 978-3-95451-475-5 .
  • Sybille Steinbacher : “Model City” Auschwitz. Germanization Policy and the Murder of Jews in Eastern Upper Silesia . Saur, Munich 2000, ISBN 3-598-24031-7 .
  • Susanne Willems: Auschwitz: the history of the extermination camp with photos by Frank and Fritz Schumann, Edition Ost, Berlin, 2015, ISBN 978-3-360-01866-3 .
  • Susanne Beyer, Martin Doerry (ed.): “Auschwitz never left me”. Concentration camp survivors report , Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, Munich, 2015, ISBN 978-3-421-04714-4 .
  • Ulrich Schneider : Auschwitz, Basic Knowledge Politics / History / Economy , With a foreword by Henri Goldberg , President of the Auschwitz Foundation, PapyRossa Verlag Cologne 2020, ISBN 978-3-89438-725-9 .
  • Sybille Steinbacher : “Model City” Auschwitz. Germanization Policy and the Murder of Jews in Eastern Upper Silesia . Saur, Munich 2000, ISBN 3-598-24031-7 .
  • Andrzej Strzelecki: Final phase of KL Auschwitz - evacuation, liquidation and liberation of the camp , State Museum Auschwitz-Birkenau 1995, ISBN 83-85047-48-4 .
  • Franciszek Piper : The number of victims of Auschwitz. Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum 1993, ISBN 83-85047-17-4 .

Web links

Commons : Auschwitz concentration camp  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Martin Broszat (Ed.): Kommandant in Auschwitz , Munich 1963, p. 90 / Footnote entry: International Military Court , XXXVI, NO-034 / Testimony of the Polish examining magistrate Jan Sehn / Testimony of Rudolf Höß.
  2. Wanda Michalak (ed.): Auschwitz - fascist extermination camp , Warsaw 1981, p. 15.
  3. Martin Broszat: Anatomy of the SS State. National Socialist Concentration Camps 1933 - 1945. Munich 1967, p. 99.
  4. Martin Broszat (Ed.): Commandant in Auschwitz , Munich 1963, p. 95.
  5. ^ Jan Sehn: Oświęcim-Brzezinka concentration camp , Warsaw 1957, p. 15.
  6. ^ Sybille Steinbacher: Auschwitz. History and post-history. 2nd edition, Beck, Munich 2007.
  7. ^ Raul Hilberg : The Destruction of the European Jews, Volume 2 , Frankfurt am Main 1990, p. 944 f.
  8. Jochen August : History and Topography of Auschwitz-Birkenau , p. 2, article from the Hamburg Institute for Social Research (ed.): Die Auschwitz-Hefte Volume 1 & 2 , Weinheim / Basel 2007.
  9. ^ Raul Hilberg: The Destruction of European Jews, Volume 2 , Frankfurt am Main 1990, p. 944.
  10. Thomas Grotum: The digital archive: construction and evaluation of a database on the history of the Auschwitz concentration camp , Frankfurt / New York 2004, p. 223 f.
  11. Ernst Piper: January 27, 1945: The Red Army liberates Auschwitz ( Memento of the original from February 2, 2017 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  12. Nikolai Politanov: We couldn't believe our eyes . In: one day , January 27, 2008.
  13. Directory of the concentration camps and their external commandos in accordance with Section 42 (2) BEG No. 130, Birkenau = Brzezinka (Auschwitz II), November 26, 1941 to January 27, 1945.
  14. ^ Andrzej Strzelecki: Final phase of KL Auschwitz - evacuation, liquidation and liberation of the camp , State Museum Auschwitz-Birkenau 1995, p. 256.
  15. ^ A b Andrzej Strzelecki: Final phase of KL Auschwitz - evacuation, liquidation and liberation of the camp , State Museum Auschwitz-Birkenau 1995, p. 256 f.
  16. ^ A b Andrzej Strzelecki: Final phase of KL Auschwitz - evacuation, liquidation and liberation of the camp , State Museum Auschwitz-Birkenau 1995, p. 260 f.
  17. ^ Andrzej Strzelecki: Final phase of KL Auschwitz - evacuation, liquidation and liberation of the camp , State Museum Auschwitz-Birkenau 1995, p. 258 f.
  18. Ewelina Miłota, The Secret of Auschwitz. Transit camp for Germans after 1945, in: Grenzerfahrungen. Young people research German-Polish history . Edited by A. Wancerz-Gluza. Preface by Władysław Bartoszewski and Richard von Weizsäcker. Hamburg: Körber Foundation 2003, p. 278.
  19. ^ Andrzej Strzelecki: Final phase of KL Auschwitz - evacuation, liquidation and liberation of the camp , State Museum Auschwitz-Birkenau 1995, p. 273 f.
  20. ^ Andrzej Strzelecki: Final phase of KL Auschwitz - evacuation, liquidation and liberation of the camp , State Museum Auschwitz-Birkenau 1995, p. 271 f.
  21. Information from the broadcaster , January 2020.

Coordinates: 50 ° 1 ′ 35 ″  N , 19 ° 12 ′ 14 ″  E