Auschwitz concentration camp (Konzentrationslager Auschwitz) was a network of concentration and extermination camps built and operated by the Third Reich in Polish areas annexed by Nazi Germany during World War II. It was the largest of the German concentration camps, consisting of Auschwitz I (the Stammlager or base camp); Auschwitz II–Birkenau (the Vernichtungslager or extermination camp ); Auschwitz III–Monowitz, also known as Buna–Monowitz (a labor camp); and 45 satellite camps. Auschwitz had for a long time been a German name for Oświęcim, the town by and around which the camps were located; the name "Auschwitz" was made the official name again by the Germans after they invaded Poland in September 1939. Birkenau, the German translation of Brzezinka (= "birch tree"), referred originally to a small Polish village that was destroyed by the Germans to make way for the camp.
Auschwitz II–Birkenau was designated by the Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler, Germany's Minister of the Interior, as the place of the " final solution of the Jewish question in Europe ". From early 1942 until late 1944, transport trains delivered Jews to the camp's gas chambers from all over Nazi-occupied Europe. The camp's first commandant, Rudolf Höss, testified after the war at the Nuremberg Trials that up to three million people had died there (2.5 million gassed, and 500,000 from disease and starvation), a figure since revised to 1.3 million, around 90 percent of them Jews. Others deported to Auschwitz included 150,000 Poles, 23,000 Roma and Sinti, 15,000 Soviet prisoners of war, some 400 Jehovah's Witnesses and tens of thousands of people of diverse nationalities.
Those not killed in the gas chambers died of starvation, forced labor, infectious disease, individual executions, and medical experiments. On January 27, 1945, Auschwitz was liberated by Soviet troops, a day commemorated around the world as International Holocaust Remembrance Day. In 1947, Poland founded a museum on the site of Auschwitz I and II, which by 2010 had seen 29 million visitors—1,300,000 annually—pass through the iron gates crowned with the infamous motto, Arbeit macht frei ("work makes free").
During war was located in Germany, Provinz Oberschlesien, Regierungsbezirk Kattowitz, Landkreis Bielitz, approximately 30 km south of Katowice and 50 km west of Kraków, the Auschwitz complex of camps encompassed a large industrial area rich in natural resources. There were 48 camps in all. The three main camps were Auschwitz I, Auschwitz II-Birkenau, and a work camp called Auschwitz III-Monowitz, or the Buna. Auschwitz I served as the administrative center, and was the site of the deaths of roughly 70,000 people, mostly ethnic Poles and Soviet prisoners of war. Auschwitz II was an extermination camp or Vernichtungslager, the site of the deaths of at least 960,000 Jews, 75,000 Poles, and some 19,000 Roma.
Auschwitz III-Monowitz served as a labor camp for the Buna-Werke factory of the IG Farben concern. The SS-Totenkopfverbände (SS-TV) was the SS organization responsible for administering the Nazi concentration camps for the Third Reich. The SS-TV was an independent unit within the SS with its own ranks and command structure.