|By Mark Mikula |
On January 27, 1945, the Russian Army liberated Auschwitz.
Auschwitz, perhaps the most notorious World War II concentration camp, is also the name of a region on the border of Germany and Poland. Millions of people—primarily Jews—were forced into labor and killed by the Nazis during World War II in what became known as the Holocaust. The Nazi war campaign focused on a platform of Aryan supremacy, which resulted in the murder of millions of Jews, Russians, Poles, Serbs, and Roma. The Nazis also exterminated physically and mentally disabled Germans, homosexuals, and many of their own citizens who opposed the Nazi cause. Between 1940 and 1945 over a million men, women, and children perished at the Auschwitz complex.
Auschwitz was comprised of the main Auschwitz camp, the Monowitz labor camp, and the Birkenau death camp. Commanding officer Marshal Ivan Konev led the soldiers of the Soviet First Army of the Ukrainian Front in the effort to clear Auschwitz.
In advance of the liberation, the Germans increased the rate at which they incinerated prisoners before leading tens of thousands more on a grueling march westward away from the camp. Many of those who evacuated the camp under Nazi control perished before reaching safety, but thousands remained when the Soviets arrived to free those fortunate enough to survive.
On the U.S. Holocaust Museum website, Bart Stern recounts, “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.”
As difficult as it is to study the atrocities that occurred at Auschwitz, it is vital we remember this piece of our world history and learn from it so such crimes are not allowed to recur. Coverage of Auschwitz and its liberation can be found in many Gale products. Here is a selection of articles from several of our databases:
“Auschwitz” from Encyclopedia of Genocide and Crimes against Humanity in Global Issues In Context.
“Auschwitz: Should the Allies Have Bombed the Railroad Facilities and Crematoriums at Auschwitz and Other Death Camps?” from History in Dispute in World History In Context.
“Ethics after Auschwitz: the holocaust in history and representation” from Criticism in Literature Resource Center.
Primary Source: “Leitner, Isabella.” from Prejudice in the Modern World Reference Library, 2007 in World History In Content.
These informative eBooks are also available from GVRL:
- The Horrors of Auschwitz World History New York: Lucent Press, 2017.
- Learning About the Holocaust: A Student’s Guide Ronald M. Smelser. New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 2001.
- Auschwitz A Place in History Chicago: Britannica Digital Learning, 2012.
- The Holocaust: An Encyclopedia and Document Collection Paul R. Bartrop and Michael Dickerman. Chicago: ABC-CLIO, 2017.
About the Author
Mark Mikula is a senior content developer for several of Gale’s history databases. In his travels, he has attended numerous film and theater festivals; the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament in Stamford, Connecticut; and the oldest consecutively held Fourth of July celebration in Bristol, Rhode Island.