Birkenau

7

27 January, 1945 | The liberation of Auschwitz

Never shall I forget that smoke. … Never shall I forget those flames that consumed my faith forever. Never shall I forget the nocturnal silence that deprived me for all eternity of the desire to live. Never shall I forget those moments that murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to ashes. Never shall I forget these things, even if I were condemned to live as long as God himself.

Never.

Elie Wiesel, Night

All the Dachaus must remain standing. The Dachaus, the Belsens, the Buchenwalds, the Auschwitzes—all of them.  They must remain standing because they are a monument to a moment in time when some men decided to turn the earth into a graveyard. Into it they shoveled all of their reason, their logic, their knowledge, but worst of all, their conscience, and the moment we forget this, the moment we cease to be haunted by its remembrance, then we become the gravediggers. Something to dwell on and remember…

Rod Serling, The Twilight Zone, “Deaths-Head Revisited”

When Soviet troops arrived at the Auschwitz concentration camp on the 27th of January, 1945, they found roughly 7,500 living prisoners–most of whom were weak, ill, and starving–and hundreds of corpses. Though the camp remained largely in tact, the retreating S.S. had demolished several buildings, including the gas chambers, in an attempt to hide their crimes. Overall, an estimated 1.1 million people were murdered in Auschwitz between 1940 and 1945, making it the most deadly of all the Nazi concentration and extermination camps. The majority of the victims were Jews.

Auschwitz-Birkenau became a museum in 1947, and the UN appointed January 27th as International Holocaust Remembrance Day.  Seventy years after its liberation, Auschwitz remains the dominant symbol of the Holocaust

3

January 17th 1945: Evacuation of Auschwitz

On this day in 1945, the evacuation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp began in Poland. The Soviet army were fast approaching, and the Nazi officials at Auschwitz had already begun the process of dismantling gas chambers and destroying documents in an attempt to hide the war crimes and crimes against humanity that had been committed there in the mass extermination of innocent civilians. The leader of the SS, Heinrich Himmler, ordered the evacuation of the remaining prisoners at the camp as the Red Army closed in on the area. Nearly 60,000 prisoners from Auschwitz were forced on a march toward Wodzisław Śląski (Loslau) where they would be sent to other camps; some 20,000 ended up in the Bergen-Belsen camp in Germany. However, thousands died during the evacuation on the grueling marches, leading to them being called ‘death marches’. 7,500 weak and sick prisoners remained in Auschwitz, and they were liberated by the 322nd Rifle Division of the Soviet Red Army on January 27th 1945. Auschwitz remains one of the most powerful symbols of the Holocaust and the horrific crimes committed by the Nazi regime against Jews and numerous other groups.

A young, handicapped, Hungarian Jewish man from Subcarpathia (now, largely in Ukraine) born with dwarfism, sits in a wicker chair at Auschwitz-Birkenau during selections, in which camp officials would decide which arrivals would be gassed and which would be kept alive for slave labor. Although most arrivals with disabilities were immediately selected for the gas chamber, some were spared immediate death for grisly experiments performed at the camp by SS-Hauptsturmführer and camp physician Dr. Josef Mengele. The fate of this young man is unknown. Because he was photographed by camp personnel, it is likely that he was singled out for Mengele’s experiments. Mengele used Auschwitz as an opportunity to continue his anthropological studies and research on heredity, using inmates for human experimentation. The experiments had no regard for the health or safety of the victims and most died or were killed. He was particularly interested in twins, people with heterochromia iridium (eyes of two different colors), individuals with forms of dwarfism, and people with unique physical abnormalities. Auschwitz-Birkenau, Auschwitz, Province of Silesia, Germany (now and prior to the German occupation of Poland: Oświęcim, Lesser Poland, Poland). May 1944. Image taken by either SS-Hauptscharführer Bernhardt Walter or his assistant, SS-Unterscharführer Ernst Hofmann.

«Puoi chiedergli che tipo di campo è? Perché sono qui?»
«Dice che si tratta di un campo di lavoro per… Indesiderati, sgraditi penso…»
«Criminali?»
«No… Dottori, musicisti, impiegati, contadini, scrittori, sarti ed intellettuali. Gente normale.
Ebrei.
Polacchi e zingari.»


“Grido di disperazione ed ammonimento all’umanità sia per sempre questo luogo dove i nazisti uccisero circa un milione e mezzo di uomini, donne e bambini, principalmente ebrei, da vari paesi d’Europa.”
Auschwitz - Birkenau
1940-1945

(Foto mia)

Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial & Museum, Oswiecim, Poland, June 19, 2016

(Because we all want ice cream, hot dogs and pizza after seeing how the Nazis and their collaborators industrialized mass murder, resulting in the genocide of some 6 million Jews and millions of Roma, Jehovah Witnesses, gay men, the disabled, political prisoners, prisoners of war and other opponents.)