On January 27, the world commemorates millions of victims of the Holocaust and holds different education programs to keep the tragic lessons in the memory of generations and prevent their recurrence. Ukraine has started to commemorate victims of the tragedy at the state level since 2012.
The events dedicated to the day when the Red Army released from the Nazis the prisoners of the largest in Europe Auschwitz concentration camp. We tell you about this horrible page in history and about the events held in terms of the coronavirus pandemic.
Release of Auschwitz prisoners
This day, in 1945, the Soviet forces released the Auschwitz concentration camp (Oświęcim-Birkenau) in Poland from the Nazis, discovering there the largest ‘factory’ for the destruction of people in the territory of occupied Europe. Since then, Auschwitz became the symbol of the Holocaust. On January 27, 1945, Mayor Anatoly Shapiro was one of the first people who entered the camp. His division broke through to Auschwitz with fights and demined the avenues of approach. Commander Shapiro opened the gates of Auschwitz-I, liberating the prisoners of the camp. The forces of the 1st Ukrainian Front were among those who liberated the camp.
The UN General Assembly adopted Resolution #60/7 on November 1, 2005, that announced January 27 to be the International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust. The resolution states that “the Holocaust, which resulted in the murder of one-third of the Jewish people, along with countless members of other minorities, will forever be a warning to all people of the dangers of hatred, bigotry, racism and prejudice…”.
The events are also held to enlighten about the reasons, consequences of the crimes and counteract the hatred ideology. 76 years after the liberation of Auschwitz, the genocide and mass atrocities continue to occur in the number of the world regions and the issue is still relevant as the UN noted.
"It would be a dangerous error to think of the Holocaust as simply the result of the insanity of a group of criminal Nazis. On the contrary, the Holocaust was the culmination of millennia of hatred, scapegoating and discrimination targeting the Jews, what we now call anti-Semitism",” UN Secretary-General António Guterres stated.
The Holocaust has profoundly affected the countries, where the Nazi crimes took place. Besides, it had a universal impact in many other parts of the world.
The Conveyor of Death
Auschwitz is one of the most atrocious concentration camps as exactly in its territory the Nazis started to practice the mass murders of unprecedented levels. It was the work camp and at the same time, it was the center of the immediate destruction.
It is impossible to establish the precise number of deceased in this concentration camp as many documents were destroyed. The historians agree that about 1.5 million people were destroyed in Auschwitz; the majority of them were Jews.
The prisoners were taken to Auschwitz in overcrowded freight wagons. Many people died on the way – from cold, hunger and diseases. People were deprived of personal belongings – they can be seen at the Memorial and Museum Auschwitz-Birkenau. There were a few gas chambers and a few crematoriums. When the capacities of the crematoriums were not enough, the bodies of prisoners poisoned with gas were burnt in ditches.
After the liberation of the camp by the Soviet forces, some elements of the buildings were used as the hospital for released prisoners. In 1947, the territory of the concentration camp was reequipped in the museum; while in 1979, the memorial complex was included in the UNESCO World Heritage list. Annually, hundreds of thousands of people all around the globe come to the museum.
From the Greek language, the Holocaust is translated as a burnt sacrifice and it means the systematic prosecution and destruction (genocide) of Jews by Nazi Germany and collaborationists in 1933-1945.
During the Holocaust, about six million Jews were killed; however, the precise number of deceased cannot be announced.
How the memory of the deceased will be commemorated
Annually, the UN and UNESCO form a new program. The main topic of the commemorative events in 2021: “Facing the Aftermath: Recovery and Reconstitution after the Holocaust”.
On January 27, the Memorial Ceremony in memory of the victims of the Holocaust will take place. The UN Secretary-General, the UNESCO Director-General, high-level guests, a Holocaust survivor testimony and the memorial prayers will be included in the ceremony.
Within the program, the UN will remember the measures assumed after the Holocaust thanks to which the process has begun of recovering and reconstitution of particular people, communities and systems of justice.
The UN stated that the integral part of the reconstitution process is the account of the evidence about what happened before and during the Holocaust. The fight against the denial and distortion of the historical events was one of the main conditions for successful recovery and reconstitution. Within this topic, the meaning of the responsive measures assumed for the protection of the memory of the victims; the contribution of the witnesses in the context of the preservation of the historical truth are considered.
“Against a global context of rising anti-Semitism and increasing levels of disinformation and hate speech, Holocaust education and remembrance is even more urgent, as is the development of an historical literacy to counter repeated attempts to deny and distort the history of the Holocaust,” the UN stated.
The UN plans the discussion forums in an online format, screening and discussion of The Windermere Children film (biographical drama about the recovery and rehabilitation of 300 young orphaned Jewish children who survived the Holocaust).
The Memorial and Museum Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland will also hold an online event due to the coronavirus. The main topic of the 76th anniversary of the liberation will be the fate of the children in Auschwitz.
“Over 200,000 children were murdered in Auschwitz. Completely innocent, good, curious about life, loving their closest ones, trusting children. The adult world - after all, so often unjust and cruel - has never demonstrated so much of its heartlessness, its evil. This cannot be justified by any ideology, reckoning or politics. This year we want to dedicate the anniversary of liberation to the youngest victims of the camp,” Director of the museum, Dr. Piotr M. A. Cywiński said.