International Holocaust Memorial Day is celebrated annually on 27 January, in accordance with a decision by the UN General Assembly.
This date was chosen because on 27 January 1945, Russian forces advancing towards Germany reached the extensive Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration, labour and extermination sites in occupied Poland.
They first entered Auschwitz III, the IG Farben camp at Monowitz: a soldier from the 100th Infantry Division of the Red Army entered the camp around 9 am on Saturday, 27 January 1945.
The 60th Army of the 1st Ukrainian Front (also part of the Red Army) arrived in Auschwitz I and II around 3 pm.
They found 7,000 prisoners alive in the three main camps, 500 in the other subcamps, and over 600 corpses. The rest had been dragged onto the infamous death marches, on which many were killed or expired, though some survived.
The total number of victims can never be determined precisely. 6 million is the generally accepted total of Jewish victims deliberately murdered in the Holocaust; up to 5 million others (non-Jews) is often suggested – brutally starved, deliberately worked to death, shot or gassed.
For some background to Nazi Germany’s advance towards this nightmare, see the two immediately previous posts here.
We are encouraged to put a lighted candle (if safe to do so) in in our windows on the night of 27 January.
The UK Commemorative Ceremony for HMD 2022 will be broadcast online on Thursday 27 January 2022 at 7pm. The narrator will be Sandi Toksvig OBE. We can register to join the Ceremony by clicking here.