Auschwitz concentration camp was a network of German Nazi concentration camps and extermination camps built and operated by the Third Reich in Polish areas annexed by Nazi Germany during World War II. It consisted of Auschwitz I, Auschwitz II–Birkenau, Auschwitz III–Monowitz, and 45 satellite camps.
The German extermination camps or death camps were designed and built by Nazi Germany during World War II to systematically kill millions of Jews, Slavs and others whom the Nazis considered "Untermenschen", primarily by gassing, but also in mass executions and through extreme work under starvation conditions.
Following the Invasion of Poland at the beginning of World War II, nearly a quarter of the entire territory of the Second Polish Republic was annexed by Nazi Germany and placed directly under the German civil administration.
Nazi Germany is the common English name for the period in German history from 1933 to 1945, when Germany was governed by a dictatorship under the control of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party.
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Auschwitz I was first constructed to hold Polish political prisoners, who began to arrive in May 1940.
A political prisoner is someone imprisoned because they have opposed or criticized the government responsible for their imprisonment.
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The first extermination of prisoners took place in September 1941, and Auschwitz II–Birkenau went on to become a major site of the Nazi Final Solution to the Jewish Question.
From early 1942 until late 1944, transport trains delivered Jews to the camp's gas chambers from all over German-occupied Europe, where they were killed en masse with the pesticide Zyklon B. An estimated 1.3 million people were sent to the camp, of whom at least 1.1 million died.
The Jews, also known as the Jewish people, are an ethnoreligious group originating from the Israelites, or Hebrews, of the Ancient Near East.
Around 90 percent of those killed were Jewish; approximately 1 in 6 Jews killed in the Holocaust died at the camp.
The Holocaust, also known as the Shoah, was a genocide in which Adolf Hitler's Nazi Germany and its collaborators killed about six million Jews.
Others deported to Auschwitz included 150,000 Poles, 23,000 Romani and Sinti, 15,000 Soviet prisoners of war, 400 Jehovah's Witnesses, and tens of thousands of others of diverse nationalities, including an unknown number of homosexuals.
A prisoner of war is a person, whether combatant or non-combatant, who is held in custody by a belligerent power during or immediately after an armed conflict.
Jehovah's Witnesses is a millenarian restorationist Christian denomination with nontrinitarian beliefs distinct from mainstream Christianity.
The Poles are a nation and West Slavic ethnic group native to Poland.
Many of those not killed in the gas chambers died of starvation, forced labor, infectious diseases, individual executions, and medical experiments.
Infection is the invasion of an organism's body tissues by disease-causing agents, their multiplication, and the reaction of host tissues to these organisms and the toxins they produce.
Starvation is a severe deficiency in caloric energy intake needed to maintain an organism's life.
In the course of the war, the camp was staffed by 7,000 members of the German Schutzstaffel, approximately 12 percent of whom were later convicted of war crimes.
The Schutzstaffel was a major paramilitary organization under Adolf Hitler and the National Socialist German Workers' Party in Nazi Germany.
A war crime is an act that constitutes a serious violation of the law of war that gives rise to individual criminal responsibility.
The Allied Powers refused to believe early reports of the atrocities at the camp, and their failure to bomb the camp or its railways remains controversial.
One hundred forty-four prisoners are known to have escaped from Auschwitz successfully, and on 7 October 1944, two Sonderkommando units—prisoners assigned to staff the gas chambers—launched a brief, unsuccessful uprising.
Sonderkommandos were work units made up of German Nazi death camp prisoners.
As Soviet troops approached Auschwitz in January 1945, most of its population was sent west on a death march.
The prisoners remaining at the camp were liberated on 27 January 1945, a day now commemorated as International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
International Holocaust Remembrance Day, is an international memorial day on 27 January commemorating the tragedy of the Holocaust that occurred during the Second World War.
In the following decades, survivors, such as Primo Levi, Viktor Frankl, and Elie Wiesel, wrote memoirs of their experiences in Auschwitz, and the camp became a dominant symbol of the Holocaust.
Eliezer "Elie" Wiesel KBE was a Romanian-born American Jewish writer, professor, political activist, Nobel Laureate and Holocaust survivor.
Viktor Emil Frankl was an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist as well as a Holocaust survivor.
Primo Michele Levi was an Italian Jewish chemist, writer, and Holocaust survivor.
In 1947, Poland founded the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum on the site of Auschwitz I and II, and in 1979, it was named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
A World Heritage Site is a landmark which has been officially recognized by the United Nations, specifically by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
The Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum is a memorial and museum in Oświęcim, Poland, which includes the German concentration camps Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II-Birkenau.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations based in Paris.