"So I was hiding out in the heap of dead bodies because in the last week when the crematoria didn’t function at all, the bodies were just building up higher and higher. So there I was at nighttime, in the daytime I was roaming around in the camp, and this is where I actually survived, January 27, I was one of the very first, Birkenau was one of the very first camps being liberated. This was my, my survival chance." - Bart Stern, Auschwitz survivor.
The Auschwitz Camp Complex
By the middle of January in 1945, Soviet Army forces began approaching the complex of camps called "Auschwitz". This was a network of concentration and extermination camps which had been constructed and maintained by the savage government of Adolf Hitler's Third Reich in Nazi-occupied South Central Poland. This complex was made up of Auschwitz I (the base camp); Auschwitz II–Birkenau (the extermination camp, pictured above); Auschwitz III–Monowitz (a labor camp to staff an IG Farben factory), and 45 satellite camps. It was set up some 37 miles west of Krakow, near the prewar German-Polish border.
The Approach of the Soviet Army
The S.S., or "Schutzstaffel" which translated to "Protection Squadron" was the military arm of Hitler' government which was in charge of such activities. And as they were in charge of these maniacal death camps they were worried as the Soviet armies got closer. They were worried about the Jews that might survive might testify against them for war crimes. So to forestall this, they began to evacuate the Auschwitz Camp system further to the west wherein the Germans still held enough territory to put them into other camps where they might yet be exterminated. But they began to force them march to these locations by foot in the harsh winter conditions in hopes that many of them would die during the evacuation. And they began to accelerate their extermination at the Auschwitz camps themselves. On today's date, January 27 in 1945, the Soviet armies at last entered the Auschwitz camp, liberating the seven thousand who remained alive there. The estimated number of people who were murdered at the Auschwitz camp system are some 1.1 million out of the 1.3 million who were sent there.
In remembrance of those who were murdered, starved, tortured and beaten in these horrific extermination camps this day has been set aside as "International Holocaust Remembrance Day". In honor of this day and of the victims we remember on this day, I wish to point out and recommend for further study several past postings in the archives of "Today in History" which deal with Holocaust topics:
April 29 = Dachau is Liberated
July 6 = Anne Frank's Family Hides
October 9 = Oscar Schindler Dies at Age 66.
November 9 = "Kristallnacht"
December 15 = Eichmann Gets Death