Today is recognized by the countries of the world as Holocaust Remembrance Day. Today, marks the anniversary of the liberation of the largest of the Nazi death camps-Auschwitz.
Auschwitz was completed in 1940 and was originally designed to detain Polish political prisoners. However, because of its prime location-central to Nazi-occupied nations as well as near railines- it soon was used for more than just a prison camp.
In 1933, Adolf Hitler announced the beginning of his “Final Solution”. This would be the slow process of extermination of the Jewish nation from Europe, and in Hitler’s plan, the world. He saw the Jewish people as undesirables in his “Aryan” race as well as the source of Germany’s destruction and decline after the First World War. His dangerous ideology caused the death of 6 million Jews-men, women, and children. Nearly one million of these were killed in Auschwitz.
Auschwitz was the home to numerous sub-camps. The main camp-Auschwitz 1- held nearly 10,000 political prisoners; Auschwitz 11 was home to some 90,000 prisoners at a time; and Auschwitz 111, 40,000. The majority of detainees were Jews. Upon entry, they would be examined by the Nazi “doctor”, tattooed with a number, assigned a hut, and immediately placed to work. While the gate said, “Arbeit Macht Frei” or “Work Makes You Free”, the prisoner’s “work” would not make them free. It was only a means to an end which was death.
Those examined by the camp “doctor” and declared unfit for slave labor, would immediately be ordered to the “showers”. These showers were disguised gas chambers where prisoners would be killed. Because those declared “unfit” were assigned to the chambers, they were not documented, thus the number of those actually killed is unknown.
The mass murder in Auschwitz continued for 5 years. On January 27, 1945, the Soviet Army discovered the camp exposing the horrors of the Nazi regime.
Today, January 27, 2023, marks the 78th anniversary of this liberation. It is a solemn reminder of the millions of lives lost. A generation erased from the pages of history. The Arkansas Air and Military Museum, along with the rest of the world, commemorates this day, and honors the memory of those lost during the years of the “Final Solution”. We dedicate our future to remembering the past, so that the lives of those who perished in Auschwitz, will never be forgotten. As Ronald Reagan said, “And then, rising above all this cruelty, out of this tragic and nightmarish time, beyond the anguish, the pain and the suffering for all time, we can and must pledge: Never again.”