On January 27th, 1945, the former Nazi death camp, Auschwitz, located in southern Poland, was liberated by the Soviet army. Approximately 1.1 million people perished at the concentration and labor camps within the complex from 1940 to 1945 – the vast majority of them were Jews.
Most of the prisoners held there – men, women and children – were killed in a number of gas chambers. Many also died from heinous medical experiments, starvation, cold, illness, hanging, shooting squads, and forced labor.
More than 300 Auschwitz survivors, as well as heads of state and wartime Allies’ representatives, gathered at the site today to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of one of the worst atrocities in human history.
It is probably the last major anniversary event survivors will be able to attend in their hundreds.
After liberation piles of human bones were found in several parts of the death camp. (Source: Yad Vashem The Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority.)
Survivors and others attending the commemoration will lay a wreath, attend religious services and light candles at the memorial in the former death camp of Birkenau.
The general term for the network of Nazi concentration and labor camps is Auschwitz-Birkenau. Together, the complex was the biggest of all Nazi death camps across Europe and could hold at least 150,000 inmates at any given time.
The world must know what happened
Renee Salt, an 85-year old Londoner – a survivor – has travelled to be at today’s commemoration. She told the BBC she first went back to visit the camp ten years ago and “buried the ghosts.” She plans to keep coming as often as she can “I’ll do it for as long as I can. Why? There are still a lot of Holocaust-deniers the world over and if we don’t speak out, the world won’t know what happened.”
Shalom Life quoted Steven Spielberg, who said at a special reception held at the Holiday Inn by the World Jewish Congress and the USC Shoah Foundation yesterday in Kraków, Poland:
“Their testimonies give each survivor everlasting life and give all of us everlasting value. We need to be preserving places like Auschwitz so people can see for themselves how evil ideologies can become tangible acts of murder.”
“My hope for tomorrow’s commemoration is that the survivors will feel confident that we are renewing their call to remember. We will make sure the lessons of the past remain with us in the present so that we can now and forever find humanitarian ways to fight the inhumanity.”
Video – 70th Anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz
On this day the whole world will be listening to the voices of Auschwitz. On this day we will meet at the authentic site of the former camp as the sign of our remembrance. (Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum)