|Zyklon B gas canisters|
The complex consisted of three main camps:
- Auschwitz I, the administrative center;
- Auschwitz II (Birkenau), an extermination camp or Vernichtungslager; and
- Auschwitz III (Monowitz), a work camp. The first two of them have been on the World Heritage List since 1979. There were also around 40 satellite camps, some of them tens of kilometers from the main camps, with prisoner populations ranging from several dozen to several thousand.
The three main camps were:
1. Auschwitz I, the original concentration camp which served as the administrative center for the whole complex, and was the site of the deaths of roughly 70,000 people, mostly Poles and Soviet prisoners of war.
2. Auschwitz II (Birkenau), an extermination camp, where at least 1.1 million Jews, 75,000 Poles, and some 19,000 Roma (Gypsies) were killed.
3. Auschwitz III (Monowitz), which served as a labor camp for the Buna-Werke factory of the I.G. Farben concern.
Like all German concentration camps, the Auschwitz camps were operated by Heinrich Himmler's SS. The commandants of the camp were the SS-Obersturmbannführers Rudolf Höß (often written "Hoess") until the summer of 1943, and later Arthur Liebehenschel and Richard Baer. Höß provided a detailed description of the camp's workings during his interrogations after the war and also in his autobiography. He was hanged in 1947 in front of the entrance to the crematorium of Auschwitz I. Command of the women's camp, which was separated from the men's area by the incoming railway line was held in turn by Johanna Langefeld, Maria Mandel, and Elisabeth Volkenrath.