In April 1940, Rudolph HÃ¶ss, who become the first commandant of Auschwitz, identified the Silesian town of Oswiecim in Poland as a possible site for a concentration camp. The function of the camp initially was planned as an intimidation to Poles to prevent resistance their to German rule and serve as a prison for those who did resist. It was also perceived as a cornerstone of the policy to re-colonize Upper Silesia, which had once been a German region, with "pure Aryans." When the plans for the camp were approved, the Nazi's changed the name of the area to Auschwitz.
On April 27th, 1940, Heinrich Himmler ordered construction of the camp.
In May 1940, Poles were evicted from the vicinity of the barracks (most of them were executed), and a work crew comprising concentration camp prisoners was sent from Sachsenhausen. 300 Jews from the large Jewish community of Oswiecim were also pressed into service.
The first transport of prisoners, almost all Polish civilians, arrived in June 1940 and the SS administration and staff was established. On March 1th, 1941, the camp population was 10,900. Quite quickly, the camp developed a reputation for torture and mass shootings