Holocaust Remembrance Day: Mapping Auschwitz
Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day. The United Nations designated January 27 as the day of this annual commemoration to mark the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau on January 27, 1945.
The Ball State University Libraries’ GIS Research and Map Collection (GRMC) has a large collection of World War II-era maps and atlases that depict events and places related to the Holocaust. Historical Atlas of the Holocaust was published by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and includes maps and statistics related to the camps in Germany and Eastern Europe.
On Auschwitz: Auschwitz was the largest camp established by the Germans. It was a complex of camps, including a concentration, extermination, and forced-labor camp. It was located 37 miles west of Krakow, near the prewar German-Polish border in Eastern Upper Silesia, an area annexed to Germany in 1939. Three large camps established near the Polish town of Oswiecim constituted the Auschwitz camp complex: Auschwitz I, Auschwitz II (Birkenau), and Auschwitz III (Monowitz).
The top map above (click to enlarge) shows the location of Auschwitz in Europe with the borders of 1939 shown. The second map is a diagram of the main camp in 1944. According to the atlas, the camp was continuously expanded by forced labor.
The third map shows the routes of death marches and evacuations implemented by the SS in mid-January 1945 to move the prisoners to other camps in Germany. According to the atlas, nearly 60,000 prisoners were forced on death marches from the Auschwitz camp system. Thousands had been killed in the camps in the days before the death march….More than 15,000 died during the death marches from Auschwitz…. On January 27, 1945, the Soviet army entered Auschwitz and liberated over 7,000 remaining prisoners, who were mostly ill and dying.
The fourth map shows the locations and dates of the liberation other camps throughout Europe. British and Canadian troops liberated the camps in northern Europe in the spring of 1945. American troops liberated camps along the Western Front beginning in April of 1945. Soviet troops began liberating camps in the Eastern Front in July 1944.
The final map is a map published by the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) in April of 1944. The map shows the vast network of highways and railroads used by the Germans for moving prisoners and troops throughout Europe.
The OSS was an intelligence agency created during World War II to coordinate the movement of U.S. troops and other plans across Europe. A predecessor to today’s Central Intelligence Agency, the GRMC includes a large collection of maps of Europe and other regions of the world published during the War by the OSS.
For more information about using maps and atlases for historical research and learning, please contact the GRMC Monday through Friday at 765-285-1097.