Liberation of Auschwitz
“They expected the worst, not the unthinkable”
The prisoners left behind in the camp hoped to regain their freedom. Everyday they prayed and waited for help. This help came to Auschwitz on January 27, 1945 when Red Army soldiers entered Oświęcim. Read this article to know more about the last day of terror and the first day of freedom for the Auschwitz prisoners.
Liberation of concentration camps
As soldiers of the 60th Army of the First Ukrainian Front advanced across Europe at the end of the Second World War, they came across concentration camps. The first liberated camp was Majdanek near Lublin. As the Soviet Army advanced from the east, the Nazis transported prisoners deep into Germany. Some prisoners were taken there by train, but most were force-marched hundreds of miles. Tens of thousands of people died from cold, hunger or were shot, because they could not keep up.
In contrast to other Nazi labor camps, the Nazi authorities managed to evacuate about 100 000 prisoners and put them to work as slave labors for the benefit of the German war economy. Most of those people were Poles, Russians and Czechs. The prisoners left in the camp hoped to regain their freedom. The Nazi blew up Crematoria II and III, then Crematorium V and ‘Kanada II’ – the complex of warehouse barracks containing property plundered from the victims of extermination.
Then was January 27. Over 200 Soviet soldiers died in combat while liberating the Main Camp, Birkenau, Monowitz and city of Oświęcim. When the Red Army arrived at the camp, they found only a few thousand prisoners remaining. On January 27 1945 year soldiers of the Allies opened the gates of Auschwitz Concentration Camp and liberated around 7 000 prisoners, most of them were ill and dying. It was the liberation of Auschwitz – the largest extermination and concentration camp, to which over a million people had been deported from all over Europe. For the weakened, emaciated prisoners who had survived Auschwitz, the Red Army soldiers were the first friendly faces, they had seen for years. Prisoners in relatively good physical condition left camp, but for most of them need medical assistance. Soviet army medics gave them the first organized help. Two Soviet field hospitals soon arrived and began caring for the ex-prisoners. Some of the liberated camp survivors were so disease-ridden and weakened by lack of food and water, that they died after liberation. Many of polish volunteers also arrived to help – most of them from Polish Red Cross (PRC). The majority of the liberated children prisoners going to charitable institutions or children’s homes. Only a few were reunited with their parents. The worst was situation of Jews- many of them did not have homes, families or communities to go back to. The most children, who were Jewish, spent many years in children’s homes or children’s villages in Poland, Israel or in other countries. By the end of war around two million Jews had survived in the Soviet Union. Hundreds of them survived the camps.
Chronicle of the Liberation of the Camp
Chronicle of the Liberation of the Camp is a Soviet military documentary movie about tragic sight of the liberated camp. This film is still shown to visitors to the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in Oświęcim. The movie shows Soviet soldiers discovered the corpses of about 600 prisoners who had been shot by the withdrawing SS, seven tons of women’s hair, human teeth and tens of thousands of children’s outfits.
Auschwitz_birkenau was the first camp liberated, but not the only one. Another liberated camps were” Buchenwald, Dachau and Mauthausen – liberated by the Americans in April, Bergen-Belsen liberated by the British, Ravensbruck and Theresienstadt liberated by the Soviets.
Not all the concentration camps lived to see this moment. Camps such as Treblinka, Sobibór or Bełżec were destroyed by the Nazis in 1943 and their prisoners never felt freedom again.
The life after liberation
The discovery of camps impacted massively on western public opinion. All of the world suddenly started to talk about this dramatic discovery. The enormous level of Nazis cruelty has began a symbol of World War II. But what happened with the prisoners? They had mixed reactions to freedom. Some of them felt guilty for surviving when many of their relatives died. Other ones moved to Canada or United States and started a brand new life. Many of them tried to fight with the ghosts of past. They became writers or activists. Going back to life wasn’t so easy after those years of suffering and pain. The nightmare of concentration camps, which ex-prisoners had in their mind, stay for whole life. But the most important thing is that they received new hope and new chance to live.
International Holocaust Remembrance Day
On 1 november 2005 the United Nations General Assembly designate 27 January as the International Holocaust Remembrance Day or International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust. Since 2001 the United Kingdom celebrated Holocaust Memorial Day. But it’s all the same. Every year the world would mark and remember the Holocaust and its victims and focus on trying to ensure mankind doesn’t repeat the horrific mistakes. January 27 is the day the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland was liberated by the Soviets, nearly eight months before the war officially ended.
Nowadays it’s very important to remember events of the 20th centaury, recognising that such things could happen again, anywhere and at any time. We have to have ensure that our society is vigilant in opposing racism, anti-semitism or any other forms of bigotry. Remembering the Holocaust is very important in process of eliminating prejudice and discrimination. 27 January is not only day of liberation of Auschwitz, but also day of the victory of freedom, human help and humanity.