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Death Camps In Europe

Death Camps in Europe. Maps and information about the holocast camps.


Death camp has come to be synonymous with the Holocaust. There were many death camps in Europe. Perhaps the most infamous, is Auschwitz located in Oswiecim, Poland. Here is a link to a map of its location in Poland. Oswiecim, Poland

For a map to the death camps in Europe, look at this link. Death Camp Map

Death Camp Auschwitz

Perhaps one of the most well known death camps is Auschwitz. Auschwitz was the largest camp established by the Germans. A complex of camps, Auschwitz included a concentration, extermination, and forced-labor camp. It was located 37 miles west of Krakow (Cracow), near the prewar German-Polish border in Eastern Upper Silesia, an area annexed to Germany in 1939. Three large camps established near the Polish town of Oswiecim constituted the Auschwitz camp complex: Auschwitz I, Auschwitz II (Birkenau), and Auschwitz III (Monowitz).

Auschwitz I, the main camp, was the first camp established near Oswiecim. Construction began in May 1940 in a suburb of Oswiecim, in an artillery barracks formerly used by the Polish army. The SS continuously expanded the physical contours of the camp with forced labor. The first prisoners were German criminal prisoners deported from the Sachsenhausen concentration camp in Germany and Polish political prisoners from Tarnow.

Although Auschwitz I was primarily a concentration camp, serving a penal function, it also had a gas chamber and crematorium. An improvised gas chamber was located in the basement of the prison, Block 11, and a larger, more permanent gas chamber was later constructed in the crematorium.

SS physicians carried out medical experiments in the hospital, Barrack (Block) 10. They conducted pseudoscientific research on infants, twins, and dwarfs, and performed forced sterilizations, castrations, and hypothermia experiments on adults.

Construction of Auschwitz II, or Auschwitz-Birkenau, began in the vicinity of Brzezinka in October 1941. Of the three camps established near Oswiecim, the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp had the largest total prisoner population. It was divided into nine sections separated by electrified barbed-wire fences and, like Auschwitz I, was patrolled by SS guards and some dog handlers. The camp included sections for women, men, Roma (Gypsies), and families deported from the Theresienstadt ghetto.

Auschwitz-Birkenau played a central role in the German plan to exterminate the Jews of Europe. In September 1941, in Auschwitz I, the SS first tested Zyklon B gas as an instrument of mass murder. The "success" of these experiments led to the adoption of Zyklon B for all the gas chambers in Auschwitz. At first, the SS gassed prisoners at two farmhouses that were converted into gas chambers. Provisional gas chamber I went into operation in January 1942 and was later dismantled. Provisional gas chamber II operated from June 1942 through the fall of 1944. The SS judged these facilities to be inadequate for the scale of gassing they planned at Auschwitz-Birkenau. Four large crematorium buildings were constructed between March and June 1943. Each had three components: a disrobing area, a large gas chamber, and crematorium ovens. The SS continued gassing operations at Auschwitz-Birkenau until November 1944.


A survivor's comments about Auschwitz

"The most important place in Poland that everybody should see at least once is Auschwitz, the world's largest cemetery. It is not only a segment of Polish history, but of history in general, an important fragment of the history of humankind. For me personally, it is an unusually important stage of my life. The war was on and I was 17. I was arrested, tortured, and sent to a camp - it was Auschwitz.

The experience of being at Auschwitz weighs heavily on one's whole life. You acquire a distance from certain things, you think not only about life but about death as well, about eternity and universal issues. There is no way of cutting off the past and forgetting." - Jozef Szajan - Outstanding stage designer, artist and theater director and Auschwitz camp survivor.

Information about Auschwitz tours is in the Tour Guide.

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