Today marks the 76th anniversary of the closing and liberation of Auschwitz, one of the most notorious and largest concentration camps.
Auschwitz opened in May 1940 as an operation of Nazi Germany during World War II and the Holocaust. Under the order of Heinrich Himmler, this massive camp was constructed in southern Poland and expanded with a total area of 472 acres.
With the initial intention of being a detention center for political prisoners of the Nazis, Auschwitz quickly became a death camp for Jewish people and enemies of the Nazi Germans until it was shut down by the Soviet Union in January 1945.
Auschwitz has become the symbol of genocide and the mass murder of Jewish people under the German Nazi regime, according to Auchwitz.org. The distinctive blue striped uniforms consisting of a cap, trousers and a jacket were given to the men, and women wore a dress or skirt along with a jacket and kerchief for their head, according to The Holocaust Explained.
Upon arrival, young children, pregnant women and the elderly were ordered to take showers in a bathhouse disguised as gas chambers, according to History.
While those who were seen as “unfit” to work in the camp were sent to be killed immediately, the remaining individuals were forced to work for long hours with limited time to eat and rest. Those who were selected to work were tattooed with a serial number corresponding with their uniform.
Auschwitz.net shows that they performed tasks like mining, producing chemicals and weapons and fuel for building infrastructure. Thus, these people were killed through being burned, poisoned in disguised gas chambers, executed, starved and beaten to death, and they died from disease and exhaustion from the long labor, from malnutrition and in countless other ways.
History shows that approximately 1.3 million people were sent to the detention camp, and of those, 1.1 million were Jews. Of these, 232,000 were children.
History marks that on October 10, 1944, the exact number of 800 children were gassed to death with a Zyklon-B poison at the camp. Nearly 85% of the innocent women, men and children in Auschwitz, about 1.1 million people, were murdered. However, it is impossible to calculate the number of lives lost in the camp, according to History.
To get a perspective of the number of people sent into Auschwitz, there were nearly 110,000 pairs of shoes left behind just from the two years they operated. Further, Auschwitz was heavily guarded, thus, escaping was often unsuccessful and resulting in immediate death or more extensive torture from the Nazis.
On January 27, 1945, Auschwitz was liberated by the Soviet Union, its prisoners freed from imprisonment, slavery or enemy occupation. Nearly 7,000 people were remaining in the camp when it was liberated. The Nazi Germans attempted to evacuate as many of their prisoners as possible when the Soviet Union was approaching Auschwitz.
Beginning on January 17, 1945, the Germans forced them to walk in long lines consisting of thousands of prisoners who initially thought they were walking in a death march towards other concentration camps. When the Soviets arrived, the unhealthy individuals left at Auschwitz were either shot or simply left behind by the Nazi Germans.
History explains guards that remained covered up evidence by burning warehouses full of possessions. Along with this, they also attempted to cover the evidence of their mass murders with efforts like burning the corpses of victims.
Auschwitz, likely the most infamous concentration camp, operated and created by the Nazi Germans, is known for its mass killing of many people deemed enemies by the Nazis, many of whom were Jewish. More than 7,000 lives were saved from the suffering inflicted by the Germans. Yet, many of those who were freed from Auschwitz did not survive due to the overbearing neglect and torture they endured.
Recently on Jan. 6, the U.S. Capitol Building was attacked by a large group of pro-Trump supporters who protested about President Trump’s loss in the 2021 election. Among these people, a 56-year-old man identified as Robert Keith Packer was seen wearing a “Camp Auschwitz” sweater with the words “Work Brings Freedom” printed underneath an image of a skull, according to NBC News.
The German translation of “Work Brings Freedom,” “Arbeit Macht Frei,” is displayed across Auschwitz’s front gate as the concentration camp’s slogan. This incident indicates that even after 76 years of liberation, the concentration camp Auschwitz is still a symbol of hate, genocide, and terror.
Today, we remember the lives lost in Auschwitz and celebrate 76 years of liberation with determination to make sure that such hateful atrocities never happen again.