2012 marks the seventieth anniversary of the beginning of the extermination of Jews at Auschwitz. After Zyklon-B gas was tested there in the summer and fall of 1941, this largest of the concentration camps already in existence went on to become at the same time a center for extermination on a mass scale.
The Germans adapted two village farmhouses for this purpose at first, before going on to build four large gas chamber-crematorium complexes and place them in operation. By the time Red Army soldiers liberated the camp on January 27, 1945, the Nazi Germans had murdered about 1,100,000 people in Auschwitz, mostly Jews but also including Poles, Roma, Soviet prisoners of war, and people of other ethnic backgrounds and nationalities.
For the world today, Auschwitz is the symbol of the Holocaust and the barbarism of World War II. In 2005, the United Nations proclaimed January 27 an International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust.