By Suzanna Dworsky
Images of children imprisoned behind fences and bars are seared into our collective consciousness. Seventy-five years ago, on January 27, 1945, the children depicted in the photograph above were set free.
That day four Soviet Red Army soldiers had set out on a mission to locate and report on the conditions at a complex of slave-labor camps known to be at the site of the German IG Farben plant in the suburbs of the Polish town of Oświęcim. As a result of their maneuvers, Auschwitz was liberated.
Auschwitz was the largest complex of prison camps established by the Germans during World War II. It comprised forty concentration, forced labor, and extermination centers where Adolf Hitler’s plan to kill all Jews—the “Final Solution”—was put into practice. This genocide is called the Holocaust.
Germans deported at least 1.3 million people, including Jews, Gypsies, Slavs, homosexuals, together with captured Russian and British soldiers, to Auschwitz between 1940 and 1945. Of these, 1.1 million were murdered there.
The Red Army liberated approximately 7,000 children, women, and men, from Auschwitz, most of whom were deathly ill from disease and starvation. Where were the other prisoners?
The SS (Schutzstaffel) was the foremost agency of security surveillance, terror, and murder within Germany and German-occupied Europe. As Red Army forces advanced on occupied Poland in mid-January 1945, the SS began evacuating Auschwitz. It forced some 56,000 prisoners, mostly Jews, to march west in sub-zero temperatures. Somewhere between 9,000 and 15,000 people died on the 60km forced march. The SS put those who survived on freight trains and shipped them to prison camps deeper in German occupied territory.
More than forty world leaders gathered for the Fifth World Holocaust Forum at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem this January 23 to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. The leaders spoke with one voice to denounce racism and urge collective vigilance against a worldwide resurgence of anti-Semitism.
A solemn ceremony was also held at the site of the Auschwitz camp on January 27. Nearly 200 Holocaust survivors and delegates from more than fifty countries gathered outside the camp’s infamous gate.
To learn more about the Soviet liberation of Auschwitz, you are invited to attend a presentation by Suzanna Dworsky, entitled “Liberation—The First Hours,”at a “Lunch and Learn” event sponsored by CHESMA (Comunidad Hebrea en San Miguel de Allende). The presentation is based on an excerpt from her book, Ruach, and tells the true story of the camp’s liberation relayed through the first-person account of a Soviet soldier’s “Commander’s Situation Report.” Some eighty photographs accompany the presentation.
“Lunch and Learn” is a new program sponsored by CHESMA, AC. During each session, participants are invited to bring their own lunch—we always have coffee and tea—and learn about a topic presented either by a knowledgeable member of CHESMA or by someone invited from outside the community. If you have an area of expertise to share with us, call the JC3 at 185 9191. Please join us for this presentation. Reservation