Die Endlösung). Heinrich Himmler, as Reichsführer of the Schutzstaffel (SS), was the chief architect of the plan, and his SS units were responsible for overseeing the activities of each of the camps.
Nazi racial policies, stigmatising racially "inferior", non-Aryan groups, dated back to the earliest days of the party; Hitler discusses them in Mein Kampf, his memoir written while he was jailed for his part in the failed Munich putsch of 1923 . These policies found physical form in events such as 1938's Kristallnacht, when Jewish businesses in Germany and Austria were destroyed by civilian agitators and SA (Sturmabteilung) stormtroopers. Around the time of the German declaration of war on the United States in December 1941, Hitler finally resolved that the Jews of Europe were to be "exterminated", and a meeting, held on 20 January 1942 at Wannsee, a suburb of Berlin, was used to outline plans for the "final solution to the Jewish question". Reinhard Heydrich, a high-ranking Nazi official, detailed how those Jews able to work would be worked to death; those unable to work would be killed outright. Heydrich calculated the number of Jews to be killed at 11 million. Hitler placed Himmler in charge of the plan.
Auschwitz, with its gates emblazoned with the motto Arbeit Macht Frei ("Work Makes You Free"), was one such camp where these exterminations took place. 1.3 million people perished at Auschwitz, 90% of them Jewish. The site was made up of three separate sections: Auschwitz I (the Stammlager or base camp); Auschwitz II–Birkenau (the Vernichtungslager or extermination camp); and Auschwitz III–Monowitz, also known as Buna–Monowitz (a labour camp). There were also 45 satellite camps. As well as being the site where many were exterminated, Auschwitz was also where many cruel medical experiments took place on prisoners, under the direction of Dr. Josef Mengele. After the camp was liberated in 1945, the site was preserved and is now a museum, where visitors can see the gas chambers where prisoners were exterminated, as well as wooden barracks where prisoners were detained, and various artefacts from Auschwitz, all serving to remind the world of the horrors perpetrated within its walls." />