May 1940

May 1940  -  Auschwitz Opens

The SS established the Auschwitz concentration camp complex in May, 1940, just outside the city of Oswiecim in southern Poland. In early 1942, Auschwitz-Birkenau (Auschwitz II), a death camp, opened.  Auschwitz III (Auschwitz-Monowitz) opened in October 1942.  Auschwitz I, II and III were located within a few miles of one another.  In all, the Auschwitz  complex consisted of 39 sub-camps. 

Historians estimate that approximately 1.3 million people were deported to the Auschwitz complex between 1940 and 1945; 1.1 million of these people were murdered.

Photo: courtesy of the Photo Archives at US Holocaust Memorial Museum 
The sign in the picture reads:  Work Makes You Free

Individuals who passed through these gates were exposed to 
brutal conditions, torture, beatings and forced labor.  Most prisoners were either worked to death or murdered in the gas chambers by the poisonous gas, Zyklon B.