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The Last Agony at Auschwitz: Liberation, January 1945

A woman and a child survive. CL:Archives of the State Museum in Oswiecim

"If National Socialist Germany is going to be destroyed, then her enemies and the criminals in concentration camps shall not have the satisfaction of emerging from our ruin as triumphant conquerors. They shall share in the downfall. Those are the Fuehrer's direct orders and I must see to it that they are carried out down to the last detail." Heinrich Himmler, March 12, 1945

Mass burials in liberated Auschwitz by the Soviet Army in January 1945. CL:Archives of the State Museum in Oswiecim

A forty-year-old inmate at liberation in late January l945. CL:Archives of the State Museum in Oswiecim

"'Freedom'-we repeated to ourselves and yet we could not grasp it. We had said this word so often during all the years we dreamed about it. that it had lost its meaning....We could not grasp the fact that freedom was ours." Victor Frankl, Survivor, Man's Search For Meaning

"This moment, on which all my thought and secret wishes had been concentrated for three years, evoked neither gladness nor, for that matter, any other feelings inside me. I let myself drop down...and crawled on all fours to the door." Filip Mueller, Survivor, Eyewitness Auschwitz

The Dean of Canterbury, Doctor H. Johnson, and Polish Judge, Jan Sehn, inspect the prisoners' barracks. CL:Archives of the State Museum in Oswiecim

"A few days later the camp was evacuated....And then we sent out on our march....After only a few kilometers the first few collapsed. Anybody unable to get up was immediately shot. Even now, when their time was so obviously almost up. the SS took care to remove every last trace of their crimes."
Filip Mueller, Survivor, Eyewitness Auschwitz


Surviving children show their tattoos. January 1945. CL:Archives of the State Museum in Oswiecim


The Soviet Army enters Auschwitz, January 27, 1945. CL:Archives Of the State Museum in Oswiecim


In November 1944, the Auschwitz gas chambers were dismantled. The mass murder was to remain a secret. On January 18, 1945, those inmates capable of walking were evacuated in a "death march" which became the final struggle for thousands of Jews. When the Russians arrived only several thousand ill prisoners remained at Auschwitz. This tragic pattern--last- minute mass murder, death marches, starvation or death from exposure in overcrowded camps in the interior of the Reich--typified the last days of the Nazi terror. Despite valiant medical efforts many camp inmates died after liberation. Those who survived had to deal with both the psychological and physical legacy of their imprisonment in the camps.

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