Francis will be the third Pope to visit Auschwitz, preceded by Pope Benedict XVI, a German, in 2006, and Pope John Paul II, a Pole, in 1979.
Located in the town of Oswiecim, around 70 km from Krakow, Auschwitz-Birkenau was one of the so-called death camps built by Nazi Germany specifically to exterminate people. Some 1.4 million, 1.1 million of them Jews, were killed at Auschwitz between 1941-1945, by the Nazis. Other victims included non-Jewish Poles, gypsies and Soviet prisoners.
Initially built to imprison unwanted members of society, the site developed into a vast complex of barracks, workshops, gas chambers and crematoria, becoming a dark icon of genocide and Nazi atrocity.
The camp was liberated by Soviet Red Army on January 27, 1945. Since 2005, January 27 has been designated by the United Nations General Assembly as International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
During Pope Benedict XVI's 2006 visit, the pontiff famously bowed to pray for the victims, as 'a son of the German people.' As a youngster, Benedict XVI was obliged to serve in Hitlerjugend, a Nazi youth organization. During his 1979 visit, Pope John Paul II called the camp a "Golgotha of the modern world."