'Nearly everyone was exterminated,' Joseph Zalman Kleinman told of conditions in Auschwitz, where he was taken at the age of 14
Auschwitz, the location of the network of concentration and extermination camps established by Nazi Germany near a provincial town in Polish Galicia, was the site of the largest mass murder in recorded history.
Between 1942 and 1945, well over a million Jews, Gypsies, and Soviet POWs were murdered in the complex founded on the orders of SS Reichsfhurer Heinrich Himmler in 1940. Those who weren't annihilated with Zyklon-B in the Nazi's gas chambers died of starvation and disease.
Initially a small concentration camp where prisoners were subjected to inhumane conditions, Auschwitz gradually grew into a trinity of three central camps and 45 satellite camps.
Upon arrival at Auschwitz, the prisoners were subjected to a cruel selection process at the hands of the camp doctors. Those who did not pass the selection – mostly babies, children, and the elderly – were almost immediately murdered; those who made the cut were condemned to a life of slave labor under horrific conditions which almost always ended in a grim death.
Auschwitz is also notoriously known for the medical experiments carried out on inmates, particularly twins, by Dr. Joseph Mengel, AKA 'the Angel of Death.' Few survived the operations and dissections which were carried out without anesthesia.
Auschwitz II-Birkenau, the largest and most complex of the three central camps, was designated for the systematic annihilation of Jews. Ninety percent of the prisoners at Auschwitz were killed in the gas chambers of Birkenau; 90% of those killed were Jews.
By mid-summer 1944, as the Red Army closed in on Germany, the Nazi leadership began to evacuate and liquidate the Auschwitz camps. The mass extermination of Jews was stopped yet most of the few who survived were led on death marches to other camps or industrial centers for work. In January 1945, Auschwitz was liberated by the Red Army, and the remaining 7,000 prisoners were released from the camp.
Today Auschwitz is synonymous with the Holocaust of Europe’s Jews and is a reminder of humanity’s most vile act. Despite the Nazis efforts, there are an abundance of testimonies and evidence pointing to the atrocities that the Germans perpetrated, and the former death camp complex serves as a museum which both commemorates the victims and serves as a site from which the future generations can learn about the atrocities that man kind is capable of.
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