On January 27, 1945, the Soviet Union liberated those imprisoned within the infamous Auschwitz concentration camp. We’ve all heard about the atrocities committed by the Nazis inside this death camp and I don’t think I need to go deeper with the details.
It’s appropriate that we celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Auschwitz liberation next week, when many of those imprisoned were finally freed from the clutches of the Nazi Schutzstaffel, more commonly known as the SS, a division with members who started out as Adolf Hitler’s personal bodyguards. Looking back, I can’t imagine the horrors happening within the camp. And to be honest, I couldn’t really speak for the victims, because I never went through their ordeal.
Notable inmates of Auschwitz included Anne Frank, St. Maximilian Kolbe, and Viktor Frankl. But then again, we must also remember the other 1.1 million who were mercilessly killed inside the camp. Some say the death count numbered at about 4.1 million. How one institution manned by 7,000 SS personnel could take so many lives, I really don’t know.
What began as a promise of working for freedom—arbeit macht frei—turned out to be a lie, as occupants were greeted by gas chambers and incinerators. Many also died from starvation, while others succumbed into disease.
Contrary to popular belief, Auschwitz did not just house Jews, but also other groups such as Poles, Romani, prisoners of war, Jehovah’s Witnesses, homosexuals, Catholics, and many others which the Nazis deemed as unclean or unfit.
Today, Auschwitz serves as a memorial, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979. It’s a haunting monument of one of the darkest periods in human history.
Yet many still seem to deny the holocaust ever happened, with their views stemming from anti-Semitic sentiments. They tend to forget that as mentioned above, it wasn’t just the Jews who were the victims within Auschwitz. That’s why we commemorate the 70th anniversary of its liberation—so we will remember the horrors which happened during the war, most especially inside concentration camps.