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Throughout German-occupied Europe, the Germans arrested those who resisted their domination and those they judged to be racially inferior or politically unacceptable. People arrested for resisting German rule were mostly sent to forced-labor or concentration camps. The Germans deported Jews from all over occupied Europe to extermination camps in Poland, where they were systematically killed, and also to concentration camps, where they were used for forced labor. Transit camps such as Westerbork, Gurs, Mechelen, and Drancy in western Europe and concentration camps like Bolzano and Fossoli di Carpi in Italy were used as collection centers for Jews, who were then deported by rail to the extermination camps. According to SS reports, there were more than 700,000 prisoners registered in the concentration camps in January 1945.
At the Wannsee Conference in Berlin in January 1942, the SS (the elite guard of the Nazi state) and representatives of German government ministries estimated that the "Final Solution," the Nazi plan to kill the Jews of Europe, would involve 11 million European Jews, including those from non-occupied countries such as Ireland, Sweden, Turkey, and Great Britain. Jews from Germany and German-occupied Europe were deported by rail to the killing centers in occupied Poland, where they were killed. The Germans attempted to disguise their intentions, referring to deportations as "resettlement to the east." The victims were told they were to be taken to labor camps, but in reality, from 1942 onward, deportation for most Jews meant transit to killing centers and then death.
Auschwitz was the largest camp established by the Germans. It was a complex of camps, including a concentration, extermination, and forced-labor camp. It was located at the town of Oswiecim near the prewar German-Polish border in Eastern Upper Silesia, an area annexed to Germany in 1939. Auschwitz I was the main camp and the first camp established at Oswiecim. Auschwitz II (Birkenau) was the killing center at Auschwitz. Trains arrived at Auschwitz-Birkenau almost daily with transports of Jews from virtually every German-occupied country of Europe. Auschwitz III, also called Buna or Monowitz, was established in Monowice to provide forced laborers for nearby factories, including the I.G. Farben works. At least 1.1 million Jews were killed in Auschwitz. Other victims included between 70,000 and 75,000 Poles, 21,000 Roma, and about 15,000 Soviet prisoners of war.
1. Camp Commandant's House
2. Main Guard House
3. Camp Administrative Office
5. Reception Building/Prisoner Registration
7. Gas Chamber and Crematorium
8. Storage Buildings and Workshops
9. Storage of Confiscated Belongings
10. Gravel Pit: Execution Site
11. Camp Orchestra Site
12. "Black Wall" Execution Site
13. Block 11: Punishment Bunker
14. Block 10: Medical Experiments
16. Block Commander's Barracks
17. SS Hospital
Auschwitz played a central role in the "Final Solution," the Nazi plan to murder the Jews of Europe. The Nazis deported Jews from nearly every European country to the Auschwitz II (Birkenau) killing center in occupied Poland. In all, at least 1.1 million Jews and tens of thousands of other people perished in Auschwitz.
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