Seventy-five years ago, the 100th and 322nd divisions of the Soviet Army’s “1st Ukrainian Front” reached the Nazi concentration and extermination camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau, whose very name symbolizes the barbarism of the killing centres and concentration camps.
KL Auschwitz-Birkenau was a complex of over 40 concentration and extermination camps operated by the Third Reich near Oswiecim in occupied Poland during World War II, and a central site in the Nazis’ planned Holocaust, sometimes referred to as Shoa.
Auschwitz is in fact not one camp, but two: Auschwitz I, built in an abandoned Polish military base, and Auschwitz II, or Birkenau, a much bigger complex that went up later about two miles away to expedite the Nazis’ “Endlösung der Judenfrage” or “Final Solution to the Jewish Question”.
It is estimated that 1.3 million people were sent to Auschwitz, and 1.1 million died there including 960,000 Jews, 74,000 non-Jewish Poles, 21,000 Roma people, 15,000 Soviet prisoners of war, and up to 15,000 other Europeans.
Prisoners who were not gassed in chambers died of starvation, exhaustion, disease, individual executions, beatings or were killed during medical experiments.
What those soldiers came to see defied all forms of imagination. Emaciated bodies, unreal faces. Moving skeletons with flesh around it.
The last few years before they arrived at those gates of hell, they had already heard rumours about something different happening in the German labour camps, than providing work and food for the inmates. What the eyes of those liberators now came to see was something one could only imagine in a horror film.
What some had heard, now they could see with their own eyes. In the name of a racist and anti-Semitic ideology, people of all ages were deemed unworthy of living and were systematically murdered on a continental scale.
Every year around 27 January, the world is asked to remind that horror certain so-called human beings allowed to happen. All over Europe is paid tribute to the memory of the victims of the Holocaust. Around that commemoration day it is hoped for that people would stand still to think about what and how that horror could happen.
Mankind has to know such horror should never happen again. It is thus our duty to fight against speeches, wherever they are made, that seek to deny the existence of the Holocaust, that minimize its scale, or that attempt to absolve the murderers and their accomplices of their crimes.
Each decent human being should have the unwavering commitment to counter anti-Semitism, racism, and other forms of intolerance that may lead to group-targeted violence. All that have studied and all that live in what one would call a civilised world, should make every effort to improve public awareness, strengthen intellectual defences, in one word, ‘Educate’ – because people are not born anti-Semitic, people are not born racist, they become so.
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