Liberation of Auschwitz

Liberation of Auschwitz

U.S. #2981e from the “1945: Victory at Last” World War II sheet.

On January 27, 1945, Soviet troops liberated the Auschwitz concentration camp, marking the beginning of the end of the Holocaust.

The Holocaust targeted European Jews and other ethnic groups, such as Gypsies, Poles, and Slavs, by the Nazis during World War II. Adolf Hitler considered these groups to be genetically inferior to his “Aryan” master race. Removing the Jews was one of the steps in Hitler’s plan for world domination.

To facilitate this mass murder the Nazis built concentration camps. At first these highly organized camps were used to terrorize and intimidate, but in 1941 when Hitler decided to murder all of the Jews, the camps became killing factories. About 2.5 million people were murdered at the concentration camp in Auschwitz, Poland alone.

U.S. #2981e – 1995 Liberation First Day Cover.

Witold Pilecki was the only person known to voluntarily be imprisoned by the Nazis at Auschwitz Concentration Camp. Pilecki was a Polish cavalry officer who saw heavy fighting at the outset of World War II. When the Soviet Union invaded Poland from the east, the Polish resistance collapsed. Pilecki then helped found the “Secret Polish Army,” an underground resistance unit.   As news of the Auschwitz camp surfaced, he volunteered to investigate and allowed himself to be captured.

For two and a half years Pilecki organized resistance, fed information about the camp to the outside world, and wrote about the details of the camp. Pilecki helped create resistance cells and smuggled information out of the camp. But by 1943, he realized no help was coming. Pilecki decided to escape to give his report in person, and one night he and two other prisoners succeeded. Pilecki’s reports, however, were dismissed as unbelievable exaggerations, and neither the British nor the Russians would help.

U.S. #UX168 – Holocaust Memorial Museum postcard with Silk cachet.

Then in mid-1944, about half of the 130,000 prisoners were moved to other camps. That November, the Soviet Red Army began approaching Auschwitz through Poland. Aware of their impending arrival, the camp’s Nazi organizers quickly began to dismantle the crematoriums and convert them into air raid shelters. They destroyed most written records and other evidence of what had occurred there, including many of the buildings. Another 58,000 Auschwitz detainees were evacuated on January 17.

United Nations #948 – U.N. stamp honoring International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Then, on January 27, 1945, the Soviets arrived and liberated the remaining 7,500 prisoners. Though the Nazis had destroyed much of the camp, the liberators were still shocked at what they found there, including the belongings of over a million people. By the end of the war approximately 6 million Jews, about two-thirds of all the Jews in Europe, had been killed by the Nazis. Total number of civilians killed by the Nazis is estimated to be at least 11 million.

Item #CNS5525 – Mystic-enhanced coin honoring the liberation of the concentration camps.

Fifty years later, the United Nations named January 27 as “International Holocaust Remembrance Day,” to honor the victims of the Nazi era. Secretary-General Kofi Annan called the Holocaust “a unique evil that cannot simply be consigned to the past and forgotten.”

Click here to visit the U.S. Holocaust Museum Memorial’s website.

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10 responses to "Liberation of Auschwitz"

10 thoughts on “Liberation of Auschwitz”

  1. Somehow my Dad survived the concentration camps. Mostly he was held in Mauthausen. He never easily discussed what happened there. He had PTSD before there was a defined condition. Because of my personal search of this topic, I don’t know if I can handle a trip to the Holocaust Museum. But, yes, absolutely; NEVER FORGET.

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  2. I was in total shock when the first footage hit the newsreels at the local theater. It is indelibly emblazoned in my mine. It is pure denial if one says it did not happen

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  3. If it is possible for people to go to the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC I recommend it to all lovers of freedom. I went a few years ago and just standing in the smallish train car where 80 or more people were packed like bundles of newspapers for long journeys to the camps made such an impact on me that it is hard to not see the horror that this period of history was. I had many dreams of this nightmare of history. Any time I hear comments made that we are exaggerating what happened under the Nazi’s I know that the people making those comments have no clue to reality or what may be worse simply don’t care. When I heard stereotypes being used to describe minorities who are US citizens or aliens during the last Presidential campaigns then I realize that some nationalistic people may be re-energizing this racism that characterized the Nazi regime and need to be closely watched by all of us lest their racist ideas begin to run our country to the loss of our freedoms and rule of law and reason.

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  4. A very dark day for humanity; difficult to believe it happened, but it certainly did. I’ve visited three different concentration camps and they are just plain sickening. I went the last time to ensure my Son saw it. We can never forget that this type of thing can happen; on a smaller scale it is happening right now in Syria.

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  5. The Law for Restoration of Professional Civil Service passed April 7,1933. In September 1935 the Nuremberg Laws were enacted.

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