The camp located in the southwest of Poland is then almost empty.
In the summer of 1940, the Nazis set up a concentration camp on the outskirts of the Polish town of Oświęcim to imprison Polish opponents of the Nazi regime. The camp is called Auschwitz because it was Oświęcim ‘s old German name.
During the Second World War, more than one and a half million people, mostly Jews, were deported to Auschwitz. About 1.1 million of them are gassed or shot immediately upon arrival. Also, more than 200,000 people die of disease or hunger.
In late 1944, as the Red Army advances and approaches Auschwitz, the Nazis begin to destroy evidence. The records are destroyed, and in October, the gas chambers are decommissioned by order of Heinrich Himmler, the architect of the Holocaust. Then the systematic closure of the camp begins.
When it is clear that the Russians are nearby, the Nazis force some 60,000 remaining prisoners to walk to Germany. During these so-called death marches, thousands of more inmates are killed. Anyone who does not have the strength to walk or try to flee will be shot on the spot.
The camp is liberated on 27 January 1945. The Russians find about 8,000 prisoners in Auschwitz. Most of them are critically ill. The few remaining guards are killed by the Russians that same day.
It is sometimes thought that Auschwitz was one camp. In reality, it was a camp complex consisting of three main camps — Auschwitz I, Auschwitz-Birkenau (also called Auschwitz II), and Auschwitz-Monowitz (Auschwitz III). Also, there were thirty-nine satellite work camps.
The name Auschwitz has become symbolic of the Nazi extermination and concentration camps.
The Dutch Jews in Auschwitz
During the Second World War, a total of six million European Jews were murdered by the Nazis. Of the approximately 140,000 Jews living in the Netherlands, at least 102,000 are murdered. The highest percentage in Western Europe.
In the Netherlands, 75 percent of the Jews do not survive the war. Much more than in France, where 25 percent of the 320,000 Jews do not survive the Second World War. Belgium also has a lower victim persistence. There, 40 percent of the 66,000 Jews do not survive the war.
Why so many more Jews were deported and killed from the Netherlands in percentage terms is still under discussion.
Because the Germans took a more violent position in Belgium, Jews there would have fled illegality much faster. In the Netherlands, the occupier was more lenient so that Jews would have tended for a long time to make use of legal, apparent ways of escape that the occupier seemed to offer. Also, possibilities for hiding and escaping in Belgium arose earlier than in the Netherlands due to a faster rise of the organized resistance.
Holocaust Memorial Day
Kofi Annan, then Secretary-General of the United Nations, proclaimed ‘January 27’ in 2005 as an international day of remembrance: Holocaust Memorial Day. On this day, the Holocaust and the liberation of Auschwitz are commemorated worldwide.