Construction of the Auschwitz concentration camp began in the spring of 1940 near the Polish town of Oswiecim; from autumn 1941 onwards the second part of the camp, Auschwitz II/Auschwitz-Birkenau was built in the area of the neigh-bouring village Brzezinka, and in addition Monowitz camp (Auschwitz III) and further 45 subsidiary camps were set up. The first and last commander of the camp was Rudolf Hoess.
The first time hydrocyanic acid was used to kill human beings was in autumn 1941 in Block 11, Auschwitz I. By the beginning of 1942 a large number of Soviet prisoners of war had been murdered in the morgue of Crematorium I in the central camp which in January 1942 had been specially adapted for this purpose.
The first Jewish »Sammeltransport« organized by the Reichssicherheitshauptamt (RSHA) as part of the »Final solution of the Jewish question« reached Auschwitz on 26 March 1942. From summer 1942 onwards men capable of work were chosen for work by SS doctors in the so-called »selections,« and all others, especially old people and children, were taken immediately to the gas chambers.
In spring and summer 1942 the murders took place in two former farmhouses called Bunker 1 and Bunker 2 in Birkenau camp. In the course of 1943 four new crematoria with gas chambers attached to them were erected in Birkenau, where according to figures calculated by the SS themselves 4756 corpses could be burnt daily. As the front line edged closer, Himmler tried to cover up the traces of the murders. After crematorium IV had been blown up during a prisoners' rebellion on 7 October 1944 the remaining crematoria were demolished from November 1944 onwards. The majority of the prisoners who were still alive were then marched out of the camp towards the west. At the liberation on 27 January 1945 the Red Army still found 7500 prisoners in the camp. Research in recent years arrives at a minimum figure for the victims of Auschwitz of 1,1 million: 1 million Jews, 21,000 Roma and Sinti, 15,000 Soviet prisoners of war, and more than 80,000 others deported for political and other reasons.
Jews from Austria were also among the victims. The 32nd transport from Vienna with 1000 people on board travelled directly to Auschwitz on 17 July 1942. More than 4100 Austrians were transferred to Auschwitz from Terezín/Theresienstadt, about 500 people came by individual transports. Around 3700 Jews were brought to Auschwitz from France, 350 from Italy and around 260 from the Netherlands. It cannot be established accurately how many Austrians were deported there from other countries, so that no total figure for the Austrian victims of Auschwitz can be given.