On This Day, 1945: Soviet troops liberate Auschwitz, freeing thousands of malnourished prisoners and exposing to the world a myriad of horrors.
The Soviets had been pressing deeper into Poland throughout January of 1945, and upon reaching Auschwitz, troops encountered a truly horrific scene.
In the days preceding their arrival, the Gestapo began systematically destroying evidence, murdering prisoners and looting the camp stores of valuables.
The camp itself was divided into three sectors, with nearly 40 smaller units dotted around the area. It is in ‘Auschwitz II’ that we find the truly monstrous face of the camp; the ‘bathhouses’, crematoriums and units dedicated to experimentation on prisoners – experiments coordinated performed by Josef Mengele.
When inspecting the camp, Soviet troops found cellars full of bodies, barracks packed with over 7,000 malnourished prisoners and storehouses containing thousands of suits, dresses and shoes.
The liberation of Auschwitz exposed to the world the full extent of Nazi rule throughout Europe. The mass murder of European Jews, gypsies, political dissidents and other ethnic/social groups had been fine tuned and industrialised.
Dozens more camps would be discovered across liberated territories in the months to come, many of which were destroyed in the years following. Auschwitz, however, remains a symbol of a dark period in European history, open to all as a reminder of how low humanity can stoop.