January 27, 1945, was the liberation of the Auschwitz Concentration Camp, one of the most notorious camps of World War II, by the Soviet Red Army. This date is now known by the United Nations and the European Union as International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
In America, Holocaust Remembrance Day is observed on April 8.
In Israel, it’s called Yom HaShoah, or “Holocaust Remembrance Day,” and begins at sundown on April 27. The Hebrew word Shoah, or “catastrophe,” is often used for Holocaust. Almost 200,000 Holocaust survivors are still alive.
The USC Shoah Foundation, founded by Stephen Spielberg in 1994, after completing his Academy Award-winning film Schindler’s List, has recorded over 55,000 stories of survivors. My previous employer EMC Corporation, now Dell EMC, donated the data storage equipment to hold the 115,000 hours of recording information.
Auschwitz, unlike the slave labor camp Dachau, had become a death camp or an extermination center. More than a million people had been murdered here. For context, that’s about the size of San Jose, CA. It became the most known among the six extermination camps as the symbol of the Holocaust.
By comparison, my visit to Auschwitz was an entirely different experience than my visit to the concentration camp at Dachau, as I’ll recount below.
History of Auschwitz
The invasion of the Republic of Poland on September 1, 1939, by Nazi Germany triggered the beginning of World War II.
Incidentally, this attack that the Allies called the “Invasion of Poland” was named by Germany The 1939 Defensive War since Adolf Hitler had claimed that Poland had attacked Germany and that:
“Germans in Poland are persecuted with a bloody terror and are driven from their homes. The series of border violations, which are unbearable to a great power, prove that the Poles no longer are willing to respect the German frontier.”
Auschwitz had initially been a camp for transient workers in World War I, and subsequently, a Polish army barracks, renamed from the town of Oswiecim, a Polish city annexed to the Third Reich by the Nazis.