Auschwitz was one of Germany’s largest death camps where thousands of Jews were exterminated. It is situated in southern Poland, which at the time had been annexed by Germany. It is located close to Oświęcim, an industrial town, but the cities Krakow (70km) and Katowice (40km) are better known today.
One of the reasons why Auschwitz had become such a central camp in what the Nazis called the “Final Solution” is its location. Situated close to a railway junction that had 44 parallel tracks, it was easy to transport Jews in trains from all over Europe to Auschwitz. Before construction started, there were already sixteen existing dilapidated buildings that used to be army barracks, saving a lot of costs and effort. Many locals living in the surrounding area were evacuated, freeing up even more space.
Three Camps in One
Auschwitz was actually not a single camp, but three camps: Auschwitz I was used for political prisoners and Auschwitz II was the main extermination complex and concentration camp close to the village of Brzezinka. Auschwitz III, situated close to the village of Dwory, was the slave-labour camp where the young and able were forced to work in the nearby synthetic-rubber factory. There were also 45 other small satellite camps situated in the area where slave labourers resided.