This one is focused on a different aspect of the Holocaust, particularly Aucshwitz (again). I’ve explained the premise of the video below – but first, please watch it:
Auschwitz liberation footage
Building on the Auschwitz liberation footage
You’ll notice that apart from the short intro, I didn’t narrate much over this video. It’s the case here that a picture is worth a thousand words and, in my opinion, showing the footage without the distraction of me talking over it is more impactful.
Auschwitz liberation date
No one can imagine what it was like for the Soviet soldiers that eventually liberated Auschwitz on 27th January, 1945.
Auschwitz concentration camp liberation
Were they expecting it? Yes and no. The fact that there was a concentration camp there was known for a number of years before by the Polish government in exile in London and the allied forces. The top brass also knew that mass exterminations were taking place there but they ever got to grips with just how large scale, efficient and indiscriminate the exterminations were.
Therefore, it’s likely that the soldiers liberating the camp knew something about Auschwitz but nothing could have prepared them for what they discovered. In the days leading up to the 27th, SS troops murdered tens of thousands of prisoners and sent many others marching through deep snow into the countryside and the neighbouring town, Oświęcim. It is, therefore, entirely plausible that word had spread to the advancing Red Army troops. But ultimately, little is known of the liberation of the camp, let alone the experiences of the liberating soldiers immediately before the 27th January, so exactly what they knew prior to reaching the Birkenau camp is difficult to say.
Auschwitz how many died
What is known, however, is the that they discovered 7500 survivors and 600 corpses. There would have been evidence of mass extermination. Crematoriums still smoking – the air still smelling of burning bodies, hastily dug mass graves and also clothes and possessions of the executed.
There was over 1,000,000 pieces of clothing, including 370,000 mens suits and 840,000 women’s garments. There was also 7.7 tonnes of human hair. This all would have provided the Russians with a glimpse of the scale of the activities that went on there.
Auschwitz’s liberating soldiers’ reaction
One thing the video can’t show is the immediate reactions of the Russian soldiers. Primo Levi, one of the prisoners who was rescued from Auschwitz recalls of the soldiers:
They did not greet us, nor did they smile; they seemed oppressed not only by compassion but by a confused restraint, which sealed their lips and bound their eyes to the funereal scene. It was that shame we knew so well, the shame that drowned us after the selections, and every time we had to watch, or submit to, some outrage: the shame the Germans did not know, that the just man experiences at another man’s crime; the feeling of guilt that such a crime should exist, that it should have been introduced irrevocably into the world of things that exist, and that his will for good should have proved too weak or null, and should not have availed in defence.
The motivation and reason behind this holocaust video
The reason for making this video actually came from the famous scene in Band of Brothers where they discover a concentration camp. I first watched this scene when I was around 11 years old and it has had a lasting impact on me. It’s actually one of the main reasons my interest in WW2 is so focused on the Holocaust.