AUSCHWITZ-BIRKENAU

Auschwitz and Shoah

Auschwitz (1940-1945), one of four Nazi concentration camps founded in occupied territory that was part of the prewar Polish state (the other three were at Majdanek, Warsaw, and Płaszów), was the largest Nazi concentration camp—a place for the gradual annihilation of prisoners—and, at the same time, the largest center for the immediate, direct extermination of Jews.

Although the camp was founded for Poles and had a Polish majority among its prisoners for the first two years it was in operation, there were also Jews among the deportees to Auschwitz from the very start. The relatively small numbers of Jews transported there in 1940-1941 were placed in the camp like other prisoners, that is, on an individual basis, usually for violating German law or the police and administrative regulations.