Unlike the earlier concentration camps, the specialized death camps originated directly in the authority that Himmler gave Reinhard Heydrich in July 1941: to eliminate the so-called Jewish problem with a sweeping "Final Solution". This authority had been made public to the major civilian ministries at the Wannsee Conference in January 1942.

Although SS General Oswald Pohl, head of the Central Economic Office (WVHA), had wanted to continue to exploit the Jews as a general slave labor force, the Nazi ideology of racial purity took precedence over the urgent needs of the war effort. Six death camps were built—using concentration camp labor, including Jews.

All the death camps were located in Poland. Their names were Chelmno, Belzec, Treblinka, Sobibor, Auschwitz, and Majdanek. With the establishment of these six death camps, the Nazis now possessed a bureaucratic machine capable of carrying out the businesslike assembly-line, mass murder of millions of Jewish men, women, and children.

Auschwitz and Majdanek were under the administration of the Central Economic Office (WVHA). The other four death camps were under the administration of the Reich Security Main Office (RSHA), run by Reinhard Heydrich.

The largest death camp, Auschwitz, consisted of several smaller satellite camps and three main sub-camps, including Monovitz (an industrial center) and Birkenau (the major place of execution).


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Camps (Listed by Name)


I Saw My Father Drowning (Poem by David Vogel, 1891-1944)

Never Shall I Forget (Poem by Elie Wiesel)

Forced March (Poem)