Auschwitz (Concentration camp)
Town near Kraków in Poland; the site of the notorious Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp used by the Nazis in World War II to exterminate Jews and other political and social minorities, as part of the ‘final solution’; population (2002) 41,400. The camp's four gas chambers, disguised as bathhouses and with crematoria attached, had a combined capacity to kill over 12,000 people a day.
The Auschwitz-Birkenau complex was made up of three sites: Auschwitz I, a concentration and labour camp; Auschwitz II, the extermination camp at Birkenau, 3 km/2 mi away; and Auschwitz III, site of the IG Farben chemical factory and other companies that used Auschwitz inmates as a slave labour workforce.
Auschwitz was originally established as a transit camp but from June 1941 was expanded to a capacity of 130,000 to provide slave labour for IG Farben, which had been set up nearby. In September 1941, mass executions began in the gas chambers built at Birkenau using Zyklon-B gas. In January 1942 Auschwitz II was constructed close by to hold 40,000 people, although numbers sometimes reached over 120,000. Total numbers who died at Auschwitz are usually cited as between 1 million and 2.5 million, but some estimates reach 4 million.
Although the majority were murdered in the gas chambers, an estimated 25,000 of the 40,000 slave labourers at Auschwitz III died under the harsh working and living conditions, and large numbers were also killed at Auschwitz I.
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