Soviet Troops Liberate Auschwitz-Birkenau
As the Soviet Red Army made their way through Poland during November 1944, Heinrich Himmler ordered for the gassing of prisoners to cease throughout the Reich. The Nazis also attempted to destroy all evidence of their heinous crimes. In Auschwitz-Birkenau, the Nazis’ largest extermination facility, Crematoria II, III and IV were dismantled and later blown up, whilst Crematorium I in Auschwitz I was converted into an air raid shelter. Existing mass graves were exhumed and the bodies burned; documents and written records were also destroyed.
From January 1945, Himmler ordered the evacuation of all camps, so that prisoners would not fall into enemy hands. On 17 January 1945, 58,000 inmates of Auschwitz were evacuated to other camps. Around 7,500 prisoners were left behind as they were considered too weak or sick to walk, but around 600 of this number died or were killed before the Soviets reached the camp.
The 322nd Rifle Division of the Red Army liberated Auschwitz-Birkenau camp on 27 January 1945. This date is now commemorated in countries such as Britain as Holocaust Memorial Day. Despite the Nazis’ efforts to remove evidence of their crimes, the Soviets were not only met with thousands of sick prisoners, but mountains of victim’s clothing and around 7.7 tonnes of human hair.
Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial Museum
LIBERATION OF AUSCHWITZ
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Auschwitz Extermination Camp Liberated Jan. 27, 1945
The History Place
1945: Auschwitz death camp liberated
BBC On This Day – January 27, 1945