The Liberation of Auschwitz
View of the train station in Oswiecim, Poland, before the war. US Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Hilda Tayar
Blimcia (née Stapler) Rauchwerger holds her baby son Aizek two years before they both perished in Auschwitz. Chrzanow, Poland, 1941. US Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Helen Sendyk
Street portrait of Kurt Chutz taken less than a year before he was deported to Auschwitz. Belgium, 1941–42. US Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Lisa Wahler
Faculty of the Jewish high school in Milan. From right: Professor Foa, Rabbi Nathan Cassuto, and Professor Tedeschi, all of whom were deported to and killed in Auschwitz. May 1941. US Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Anna Marcella Falco (Tedeschi)
Prisoners at forced labor constructing the Krupp factory at Auschwitz. Poland, 1942–43. US Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Instytut Pamieci Narodowej
Jewish women and children from Subcarpathian Rus await selection on the ramp at Auschwitz-Birkenau. Poland, 1944. US Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Yad Vashem More
SS guards walk along the arrival ramp at Auschwitz-Birkenau. Poland, May 1944. US Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Yad Vashem More
Orange plaid scarf found by 14-year-old Ruth Krautwirth while imprisoned at Auschwitz-Birkenau US Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, gift of Ruth Krautwirth Meyerowitz More
Concentration camp inmate uniform cap issued at Auschwitz and worn by Henry Carter. US Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of the American Jewish Archives More
One of a series of aerial photographs taken by Allied reconnaissance units during missions dating between April 1944 and January 1945. US Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of National Archives and Records Administration, College Park More
View of the Trzebinia subcamp of Auschwitz, taken after January 17, 1945. US Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Instytut Pamieci Narodowej
Personal effects taken from the prisoners at Auschwitz before they were taken to the gas chamber. These belongings were found after liberation, in warehouses at the camp. US Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Philip Vock
View of Auschwitz-Birkenau under a blanket of snow immediately after the liberation. US Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Mark Chrzanowski
The bodies of prisoners who perished during the evacuation of Auschwitz-Birkenau lie covered in snow on the main street of the camp immediately after the liberation. US Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Mark Chrzanowski
Female survivors trudge through the snow immediately after the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau. US Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Mark Chrzanowski
Survivors at the gate to the Auschwitz concentration camp. US Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of National Archives and Records Administration, College Park
Members of an international commission of inquiry view the ruins of the crematorium in Auschwitz-Birkenau. March 1945. US Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Norman Salsitz
A displaced person in Bergen-Belsen placed this ad, with photo, seeking information about her daughter, Estusia Haberman, born in Lodz and deported to Auschwitz in 1944. US Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Abraham Greenstein More
Boxed files in the International Tracing Service's Incarceration Camp Documents Unit containing 11 binders of the files of Roma (Gypsies) at Auschwitz. US Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Richard Ehrlich More
January 2015 marks seventy years since the liberation of Auschwitz, the largest camp established by the Germans. A complex of camps, Auschwitz included a concentration camp, killing center, and forced-labor camps. It was located 37 miles west of Krakow (Cracow), near the prewar German-Polish border.
In mid-January 1945, as Soviet forces approached the Auschwitz camp complex, the SS began evacuating Auschwitz and its satellite camps. Nearly 60,000 prisoners were forced to march west from the Auschwitz camp system. Thousands had been killed in the camps in the days before these death marches began. Tens of thousands of prisoners, mostly Jews, were forced to march to the city of Wodzislaw in the western part of Upper Silesia. SS guards shot anyone who fell behind or could not continue. Prisoners also suffered from the cold weather, starvation, and exposure on these marches. More than 15,000 died during the death marches from Auschwitz. On January 27, 1945, the Soviet army entered Auschwitz and liberated more than 7,000 remaining prisoners, who were mostly ill and dying. It is estimated that at minimum 1.3 million people were deported to Auschwitz between 1940 and 1945; of these, at least 1.1 million were murdered.
Voices from Auschwitz
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.
—Fritzie Weiss Fritzshall
The train arrived in the middle of the night, so we were greeted by very bright lights shining down on us. We were greeted by soldiers, SS men, as well as women. We were greeted by dogs and whips, by shouting and screaming, orders to try to empty the train, by confusion... There is no way to describe your first coming to Auschwitz.
—Lilly Appelbaum Lublin Malnik
And they said, “From now on you do not answer by your name. Your name is your number.” And the delusion, the disappointment, the discouragement that I felt, I felt like I was not a human person anymore.
Historians and survivors discuss the significance of Auschwitz.
US Holocaust Memorial Museum; Photos courtesy of Ryszard Domasik of the Auschwitz Memorial