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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.
In 1942, Germany dominated most of Europe. Greater Germany had been enlarged at the expense of its neighbors. Austria and Luxembourg were completely incorporated. Territories from Czechoslovakia, Poland, France, Belgium, and the Baltic states were seized by Greater Germany. German military forces occupied Norway, Denmark, Belgium, northern France, Serbia, parts of northern Greece, and vast tracts of territory in eastern Europe. Italy, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Finland, Croatia, and Vichy France were all either allied to Germany or subject to heavy German influence. Between 1942 and 1944, German military forces extended the area under their occupation to southern France, central and northern Italy, Slovakia, and Hungary.
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.
Killing centers (also referred to as "extermination camps" or "death camps") were designed to carry out genocide. Between 1941 and 1945, the Nazis established six killing centers in former Polish territory—Chelmno, Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka, Auschwitz-Birkenau (part of the Auschwitz complex), and Majdanek. Chelmno and Auschwitz were established in areas annexed to Germany in 1939. The other camps (Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka, and Majdanek) were established in the Generalgouvernement (General Government) of Poland. Both Auschwitz and Majdanek functioned as concentration and forced-labor camps as well as killing centers. The overwhelming majority of the victims of the killing centers were Jews. An estimated 3.5 million Jews were killed in these six killing centers as part of the Final Solution. Other victims included Roma (Gypsies) and Soviet prisoners of war.