Auschwitz was the largest and deadliest of six dedicated extermination camps where hundreds of thousands of people were tortured and murdered during World War II and the Holocaust under the orders of Nazi dictator, Adolf Hitler.
As one of the greatest tragedies of the modern age, the Holocaust has inspired countless films and books. These works have helped audience members and readers grapple with what happened to individuals during this period. The scale of the these horrors, however, can be difficult to grasp. Below are some of the devastating facts and figures associated with the Auschwitz death camp, which operated in German-occupied Poland from 1940 until its liberation on January 27, 1945.
How many were sent to Auschwitz: 1.3 million
The Holocaust Memorial Museum estimates that 1.3 million people were sent to the death camp in occupied Poland. Of this total, nearly 1.1 million were Jews, 960,000 of which died in the camp. The other approximately 200,000 people were predominantly made up of non-Jewish Poles, the mentally challenged, Roma people, homosexuals and Soviet prisoners of war.
How many were killed at Auschwitz: 1.1 million
A total 1.1 million prisoners, or about 85 percent of people sent to Auschwitz, were murdered in the camp.
How many were liberated in 1945: 7,000
Among the 7,000 people liberated at the closure of the camps, most were very ill, or close to death. Weeks earlier, with Soviet forces approaching the camp system, nearly 60,000 prisoners had been evacuated and forced to march west toward Wodzislaw, away from the complex on what are today known as the death marches. More than 15,000 people died on these marches, often succumbing to exposure, starvation, or cold weather. Those who could not keep up were shot by SS guards.
Years of operation: 5
The first of the three camps opened in 1940. All of them were eventually shut down in 1945, after the camps were liberated by the Soviet army.
Acres taken up by the camps: 500
Much of the site of the death camp was cleared by forced labor. Today, 155 buildings and 300 ruins remain on the site.
Hungarians sent to Auschwitz: 426,000
More prisoners came from Hungary than any other country, with people from Poland (300,000) and France (69,000) making up the next largest national groups.
Children sent to Auschwitz: 232,000
Pairs of shoes left behind by victims: 110,000
A giant pile of shoes left behind by the camp's victims are preserved by the Auschwitz-Birkenau foundation, whose inventory also comprises 3,800 suitcases; more than 88 pounds of eyeglasses; 379 striped uniforms; 246 prayer shawls, and more than 12,000 pots and pans brought to the camp by victims who believed they would eventually be resettled.
Prisoners who attempted to escape: 928
Among the number of prisoners who attempted to escape, 196 were successful and lived to see the end of the war. Many of them were helped by local Polish civilians, who hated the SS and the camp. In July 1940, in a letter to the SS commander and local Wrocław police, the Auschwitz commander observed that the local population was “ready to do anything against the hated camp SS garrison. Every prisoner who manages to escape can count on all possible help as soon as he reaches the first Polish homestead.”
Prisoners held in each barrack: 1,200
The two-story barracks were originally designed to hold 700 prisoners.
Number of staff: 8,400
Over its five-year tenure, some 8,400 worked at the camp, including 200 female guards. According to the limited available information, many were Catholic or Lutheran. Of 1,209 Auschwitz SS men, 70 percent had only an elementary education, while 5.5 percent had education beyond secondary school.
Number of staff eventually charged of crimes: 673
While some of the 673 charged of crimes were sentenced to death or spent years in prison, many were acquitted of their crimes. Other former SS workers known to have worked in the camps were called by the court as witnesses but did not face trial, themselves.
Watch the HISTORY special, Auschwitz Untold, online or in the HISTORY App now.
Listen to HISTORY This Week Podcast: Episode 4: January 27, 1945 Surviving Auschwitz