Auschwitz Survivors Urge: “Never Forget”

Auschwitz Survivors Urge:
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( – Survivors of Auschwitz, the largest and most notorious Nazi extermination camp, marked the 75th anniversary of the camp’s liberation Monday – and urged the world to remember what happened there as a warning against allowing it to happen again.

In a somber commemoration, a handful of survivors of the infamous death camp remembered the horrors they faced 75 years ago — and warned the world that the hatred that caused the Holocaust still exists.

Auschwitz was a sprawling complex of more than 40 concentration and labor camps set up by the Nazis near Oświęcim in occupied Poland, but the dark heart of this sinister facility was Auschwitz II/Birkenau, an extermination camp equipped with gas chambers. Around 900,000 people — mostly Jews — were murdered in the gas chambers and about 200,000 more died in the other camps from disease, starvation or brutality.

The camp was liberated by the Soviet Army on January 27, 1945. When the Soviets arrived, they found about 7,500 living prisoners and 600 corpses. What they didn’t know at the time was that a week earlier, almost 60,000 more inmates had been forced on a death march to the west. Those who survived that ordeal were transferred to other camps, mainly Belsen, which was liberated by the British in April that same year.

At first, there was little publicity about Auschwitz; the Soviets were focused on reaching Berlin and were used to the idea of death camps anyway because they had dozens of their own. However, when US and British troops began finding camps further to the west, the discoveries were greeted with horror — which was then eclipsed by the realization that a far bigger camp had been built in Poland.

Almost 200,000 inmates of Auschwitz survived the camp, although up to half died later on death marches or in other camps. Most of the survivors were already adults when they were liberated — young children were usually gassed on arrival — so now, 75 years on, only a few first-hand voices from Auschwitz remain. On this anniversary, they’re asking to be heard.

Many survivors tried to bury their memories of the camp for decades. One, Alina Dabrowska, only felt strong enough to discuss Auschwitz after returning to the camp in 2001 for the first time since she’d been an inmate there. Now, she travels to Germany twice a year to talk to young people about her experiences. Janina Iwanska also visits Germany to warn of what happened to her as a 14-year-old girl.

Pawel Sawicki, an Auschwitz museum guide, says “This is not an anthropological discovery of ‘Oh, people 75 years ago were able to do something like this,’ and we are surprised. They [still] are able to do it. They did it before. And people still hate each other.”

A valuable lesson we should “Never Forget.”

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