In January 1945, Soviet forces grew close to Auschwitz. As a result, the Nazis began evacuating the death camp, forcing 60,000 prisoners to march west, away from the approaching Soviet forces. Nazi guards murdered anyone who showed any sign of weakness as they marched away from Auschwitz. In addition, terrible weather, lack of food and horrific sanitary conditions resulted in the death of thousands.
On January 27, 1945, the Soviet army arrived at Auschwitz and liberated more than 7,000 sick and dying prisoners who remained in the concentration camp. The UN has designated January 27, which falls on Sunday this year, as International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
To mark the liberation of Auschwitz, I share this short video that I took at Auschwitz this summer and the words of Bernard Offen, a survivor of Aushwitz-Birkenau (I did share this last year):
“Looking at Auschwitz-Birkenau today you see a lot of grass and, as a consequence it looks quite peaceful in some ways. But back then, there wasn’t one piece of grass that existed within our reach. If there had been, we would have eaten it! Any grass that did remain was all trodden down: there was either mud or dust. It’s also quiet (today), the silence almost mocking the memory I have of the terror that filled Auschwitz-Birkenau not so long ago.”