Overview

The concentration camp complex of Auschwitz-Birkenau was the largest killing center in Nazi-occupied Europe. Located in Southern Poland, on the outskirts of the town of Oswiecim, it consisted of the original camp, Auschwitz I, and the much larger second camp of Birkenau (Brzezinka), 2 miles away, plus over 40 sub-camps [link], the largest of which was Buna (Monovitz) [link].


This aerial photograph taken by the CIA in June 1944 shows the two camps.
(The color overlay added by us.)

The camp was established in 1940, less than a year after Germany occupied Poland in WWII, and grew over the next few years into an entire complex providing slave labor for the German industrial facilities in the area. In 1942, it became the largest death camp, carrying out Hitler's "final solution" - the plan to systematically kill all Jews in Europe.

It is estimated that between 1.1 and 1.5 million people died here. At its peak, Auschwitz I held as many as 20,000 prisoners at a time, Birkenau 90,000 and Buna 10,000. Historians estimate that among the people sent to Auschwitz there were at least 1,100,000 Jews from all the countries of occupied Europe, over 140,000 Poles (mostly political prisoners), approximately 20,000 Gypsies from several European countries, over 10,000 Soviet prisoners of war, and over ten thousand prisoners of other nationalities. The majority of the Jewish deportees died in the gas chambers immediately after arrival. Of the estimated 400,000 people who were placed in the main concentration camp or one of the sub-camps, less than half survived.

The camp continued operation till its liberation by the Soviet Army in January 1945.

For more information about the history of Auschwitz, visit this [link] on the Auschwitz Museum website.

These stairs in Auschwitz I show the wear of some 25 million visitors.

 

Today, the site is managed by the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in Poland which, in addition to maintaining the camps and providing visitor support, is also a very large research and publications center. Over 25 million people have visited the Auschwitz Museum since its establishment in 1947.


This virtual tour of both camps tries to give viewers a first-hand experience of visiting the actual sites. The photographs were taken in 2003 and 2004, by Alan Jacobs.


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