Our Responsibility to Bear Witness
On the 70th anniversary of liberation of Auschwitz, with the last eyewitnesses in their twilight years, the responsibility to bear witness falls on us. We who have had the privilege of hearing directly from survivors must now ensure that future generations will learn from this watershed event in human history. With Holocaust denial ever-present in our world, and antisemitism on the rise, there is an increased urgency to teach the dangers that unchecked hatred can pose for society—dangers that we must continue to guard against if we are to fulfill the survivors’ vision of “Never Again.”
Our Responsibility to Learn
Auschwitz was the largest camp established by the Germans. It included three different camps: Auschwitz I, Auschwitz II (Birkenau), and Auschwitz III (Buna or Monowitz). In addition there were over 44 subcamps. Auschwitz was a concentration camp, a killing center, and a forced-labor camp. It was located 37 miles west of Krakow (Cracow), near the prewar German-Polish border. Learn More
Auschwitz was the only German camp to tattoo its prisoners, yet not all prisoners who came through Auschwitz received a tattoo. Learn More
In mid-January 1945, as Soviet forces approached the Auschwitz complex, the SS began evacuating Auschwitz and its satellite camps. Nearly 60,000 prisoners were forced to march west from the Auschwitz camp system. Thousands had been killed in the camps in the days before these death marches began. More than 15,000 died during the death marches from Auschwitz.
On January 27, 1945, the Soviet army entered Auschwitz and liberated more than 7,000 remaining prisoners, who were mostly ill and dying. It is estimated that at minimum 1.3 million people were deported to Auschwitz between 1940 and 1945; of these, at least 1.1 million were murdered. Learn More
For additional resources go to AHEC Curriculum Links and select <Auschwitz-Birkenau>.
International Holocaust Remembrance Day
In 2005, the United Nations General Assembly designated this day as International Holocaust Remembrance Day, an annual day of commemoration to honor the victims of the Nazi era. Every member nation of the U.N. has an obligation to honor the memory of Holocaust victims and develop educational programs as part of an international resolve to help prevent future acts of genocide. The U.N. resolution that created International Holocaust Remembrance Day rejects denial of the Holocaust and condemns discrimination and violence based on religion or ethnicity.