Auschwitz I, Auschwitz II-Birkenau, Auschwitz III-Monowitz

Konzentrationslager (KL) Auschwitz or the Auschwitz concentration camp was established by German Nazis on the outskirts of the town of Oświęcim, renamed Auschwitz after its incorporation into the Third Reich, and providing the name for the camp.

  • Initially there was one camp, Auschwitz, established in June 1940;
  • In March 1942 a subsidiary of the Auschwitz camp was established – Birkenau (from the German name of the village of Brzezinka where it was located);
  • In October 1942  Monowitz, an Auschwitz sub-camp was established (named after the German name of the village of Monowice where it was located). In total almost 50 sub-camps of Auschwitz were established between 1942-1945.

  The first administrative division of Auschwitz, 1943-1944

In November 1943, due to growing difficulties in managing the growing complex and more and the increasingly distinct functions of each part of it, the Auschwitz camps were divided into:

  • KL Auschwitz I (Stammlager, German for the main camp),
  • KL Auschwitz II-Birkenau (included all camps, the so-called building sections in Birkenau as well as sub-camps at agricultural and livestock farms),
  • KL Auschwitz III (Aussenlager, German for a sub-camp or external camp. It included Monowitz as well as sub-camps that did not fall under the Birkenau camp, mainly those located near the industrial centers).

The Auschwitz I camp housed mainly the central employment office, the political department or the camp Gestapo, the garrison administration, central supply warehouses, workshops and SS enterprises – most of the camp prisoners were employed there. 

The Auschwitz II camp combined two functions:

  • center of the direct extermination of the Jews. The largest mass murder installations in occupied Europe – in the form of gas chambers – were created in Birkenau, where the Nazis murdered most of the Jewish deportees. The sick prisoners selected for death from the entire camp complex were also gathered and regularly murdered there;
  • concentration complex, consisting of camps of various nature and destination (e.g. the so-called Gypsy Camp, the so-called family camp for Jews from the Theresienstadt ghetto and warehouses for plundered goods). In the last period of operation it also became a concentration site and labor distribution point for the German industry in the depths of the Third Reich. 

The tasks of the Auschwitz III camp mainly consisted of renting the slave labor of prisoners to German companies, therefore it included sub-camps established at the nearby industrial enterprises.

  The second administrative division of Auschwitz, 1944-1945

In November 1944, two months before the liberation, another administrative division was carried out, and this division of the camps lasted until the liberation of Auschwitz in January 1945:

  • KL Auschwitz I and KL Auschwitz II were combined into one complex and their former name, KL Auschwitz, was reinstated;
  • KL Auschwitz III was renamed KL Monowitz and included all the subcamps.

  Reporting line

Irrespective of the administrative divisions, commanders of all Auschwitz camps and sub-camps always reported to the main camp commander in Auschwitz I being, at the same time, the garrison commander and having the right to solve any disputes with respect to the remaining commanders.