The biggest and most notorious complex of Nazi concentration and extermination camps were located about 40 miles west of Krakow. Auschwitz 1 was the base camp, Auschwitz 2 – Birkenau, the extermination camp and Auschwitz 3-Monowitz, a labor camp. There were also 45 satellite camps.
Auschwitz-Birkenau was designated by Himmler as the locus of the ‘ final solution ‘. From spring 1942 until the fall of 1944 trains delivered Jews daily to be exterminated. Auschwitz has become synonymous with the Holocaust, and the notorious ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’ slogan over the main gate is possibly the most well known image from the Shoah.
Up to 1.5 million people were murdered in Auschwitz-Birkenau, approximately 90% Jews. There were also many other nationalities deported there, Poles, Gypsies and Soviet prisoners of war. Those not killed in the gas chambers died of starvation, disease or medical experiments.
Auschwitz was liberated on January 27th 1945 by the Soviet army.