- (Polish, Oswiecim)The largest of the death camps, located in Upper Silesia. Auschwitz consisted of three camps: Auschwitz I, the main Auschwitz camp; Auschwitz II, Birkenau, the extermination camp; and Auschwitz III, Buna works, the forced labor camp where I. G. Farben produced synthetic rubber for the German war effort. The ideology that made Auschwitz-Birkenau synonymous with the gassing of between 1.1 and 1.5 million Jews was at cross-purposes with the requirements of forced labor that prevailed at the Buna-Monowitz camp. Heinrich Himmler came to terms with the contradiction of utilizing Jews as forced labor and, at the same time, implementing the Final Solution.Himmler adopted a strategy of working to death those Jews who were fit for labor and immediately gassing the others. The decision to use slave labor at the Buna camp was made reluctantly, but he viewed this as a temporary situation that was to be aborted at the first opportunity. The strategy, therefore, was to murder all the Jews arriving in Auschwitz in the long run, regardless of their value to German industry, but in the short run, to encourage them to work as a means of survival. This illusion was cynically reinforced in the sign that stood above the gate that “greeted” the newly arrived victims: Arbeit Macht Frei (Work liberates). Because of the large number of Jews and others who were exterminated at Auschwitz, the death camp has become synonymous with the Holocaust and has come to symbolize the genocidal policies of Nazi Germany.
Historical dictionary of the Holocaust. Jack R. Fischel. 2014.