Auschwitz and Birkenau

Between 1940 and 1945 more than 1.5 million people—90% of them Jews from Poland and throughout Europe—died here in the Nazis' largest death-camp complex. The camp in the small town of O?wi?cim (better known by its German name, Auschwitz; as these lands of occupied Poland were forcibly incorporated into the Third Reich at the time) has come to be seen as the epicenter of the moral collapse of the West, proof of the human capacity for tremendous evil. The gas chambers at nearby Brzezinka (Birkenau) could exterminate thousands in a single day. The first inmates were Polish political prisoners, and the first gas victims were Russian POWs; the dead eventually included Poles, Jews, Romanies (Gypsies), homosexuals, Jehovah's Witnesses, and so-called criminals.

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