Auschwitz was the largest of Nazi Germany’s concentration camps. Its remains are located in Poland approximately 50 kilometers west of Kraków and 286 kilometers south from Warsaw. The camp took its name from the nearby town of Oswiecim (Auschwitz in German). Birkenau, the German translation of Brzezinka, refers to the many birch trees surrounding the complex.

The camp commandant, Rudolf Höss, testified at the Nuremberg Trials that up to 3 million people had died at Auschwitz. (He was hanged in 1947 in front of the entrance to the crematorium of Auschwitz)

.The Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum has revised the death figure to 1.1 million, about 90 percent of whom were Jews from almost every country in Europe. Most victims were killed in Auschwitz II’s gas chambers using Zyklon B; other deaths were caused by systematic starvation, forced labor, lack of disease control, individual executions, and purported “medical experiments”.

The camp was founded on May 20, 1940 at an old Polish brick army barracks. A group of 728 Polish political prisoners from Tarnów became the first residents of Auschwitz on June 14 of that year.

A visit to this death camp is haunting and depressing. There is nothing happy here, nor should there be.