Mr. Marshall; Period 2
Term 4 Social Studies Writing Benchmark
Auschwitz Concentration Camp
AuschwitzBirkenau is the general term for the network of Nazi concentration and labor camps, established near the Polish city of Oswiecim. Together this complex was the largest of all the Nazi death camps across Europe and could hold upwards of 150,000 inmates at any given time. The majority of prisoners held at Auschwitz were killed in the various gas chambers though many died from starvation, forced labor, disease, shooting squads, and heinous medical experiments. In April 1940, Rudolph Höss, who become the first commander of Auschwitz, identified the town of Oswiecim in Poland as a possible site for a concentration camp. When the plans for the camp were approved, the Nazi's changed the name of the area to Auschwitz. On
April 27th, 1940, Heinrich Himmler ordered construction of the camp. In May 1940, Poles were removed from the area of the barracks. Quite quickly, the camp developed a reputation for torture and mass shootings.
The location of the camp, practically in the center of Germanoccupied Europe was the main thinking behind the Nazi plan to enlarge Auschwitz and begin deporting people here from all over Europe. At this time only the main camp, later known as Auschwitz I, had been established. Himmler ordered the construction of a second camp for 100,000 inmates, roughly two miles from the main camp. This second camp, now known as Birkenau or Auschwitz II, was initially intended to be filled with captured Russian POWs who would provide the slave labor to
build the SS "Utopia" in Upper Silesia. The greater part of the apparatus of mass extermination was eventually built in the Birkenau camp and the majority of the victims were murdered here.
The Germans isolated all the camps and subcamps from the outside world and surrounded them with barbed wire fencing.
The main camp population grew from 18,000 in December 1942 to more than 30,000 in
March 1943. In March 1942, a women's camp was established at Auschwitz with 6,000 inmates and in August it was moved to Birkenau.