In this latest CARR Insights Blog, Senior Fellow, Mr Chris Webb, provides a descriptive account of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau and what those events mean for the remembrance of the Holocaust.
On Saturday at around 9:00 am, the first Russian soldier from a reconnaissance unit of the 100th Infantry Division of the 106th Corps appears on the grounds of the prisoners’ infirmary in Monowitz. The entire division arrives half-an-hour later – with soldiers distributing their bread among the sick. The same day a military physician with the rank of captain arrives and begins to organise assistance. Of the 850 sick prisoners left behind during the evacuations, more than 200 prisoners die by January 27.
In the afternoon soldiers of the Red Army enter the vicinity of the Auschwitz main camp and Birkenau. Near the main camp, they meet resistance from retreating German units. 231 Red Army soldiers die in close combat for the liberation of Auschwitz, Birkenau and Monowitz. Two of them die in front of the gates of the Auschwitz main camp. One of them who dies is Lieutenant Gilmudin Badryyevich Baszrov.
The first Red Army reconnaissance troops arrive in Birkenau and Auschwitz at around 3:00 P.M. and are joyfully greeted by the liberated prisoners. After the removal of mines from the surrounding area, soldiers of the 60th Army of the 1st Ukrainian Front, commanded by General Pawel Kuroczkin, march into the camp and bring freedom to the prisoners who are still alive. On the grounds of the main camp, there are 48 corpses and in Birkenau over 600 corpses of male and female prisoners who were shot to death or died of other causes in the last few days.
At the time of the Red Army’s arrival there are 7,000 sick and exhausted prisoners in the Auschwitz, Birkenau and Monowitz camps. Dr Otto Wolken remains in the camp and is one of the organisers of the assistance measures for the prisoners. At the same time, however, he also secures the various camp documents that provide information on the crimes committed by the German SS in the Auschwitz Birkenau concentration camp.
He reports the following numbers of surviving prisoners: Auschwitz – 1,200 sick prisoners, Birkenau – 5,800 prisoners of whom 4,000 are women. Meanwhile, in Monowitz, 600 sick prisoners.
So, 75 years after the liberation, Auschwitz has become the symbol of the Holocaust, whether that is right or wrong, is a debate for another time. It has become a symbol, because in Auschwitz, most of the buildings have survived. A visit to Birkenau shows a lot of the buildings have not, but what remains is iconic. The death camps such as Belzec, Sobibor and Treblinka, in Poland, which combined killed more Jews than Auschwitz, were demolished and trees planted, and nothing or very little remains to show the terrible deeds that happened there.
The number of survivors inevitably dwindles, and it is unbelievable that the rise of Anti-Semitism continues in the 21st Century. The factual account above, does not account for the horrors the Soviet troops encountered on that day in January 1945, but every year we need to be reminded of it and for the world to remember and take note.
We must never let the Shoah be forgotten or happen again.
Mr Chris Webb is a Senior Fellow at CARR and Founder at Holocaust Historical Society. See his profile here.
© Chris Webb. Views expressed on this website are individual contributors and do not necessarily reflect that of the Centre for Analysis of the Radical Right (CARR). We are pleased to share previously unpublished materials with the community under creative commons license 4.0 (Attribution-NoDerivatives).
Reference: Auschwitz Chronicle, Danuta Czech, Henry Holt and Company, New York, 1989