Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Holocaust Memorial Day: Keep The Memory Alive

The theme for this year's Holocaust Memorial Day is 'Keep the Memory Alive' which was brought along by the fact that today marks seventy years since the liberation of Auschwitz. The theme is an extremely important one. It's about making sure that people don't forget what happened all those years ago, that we remember the impact it had on the world, make sure that people understand and learn about it and then carry this memory on for future generations. 

This is an extremely sensitive topic for a lot of people and isn't something that should be taken lightly.There are some things that are explained a little more graphically in this post. So, if you feel uncomfortable now is the time to stop reading. 

Given the fact that it's been 70 year since the liberation of Auschwitz, I thought I'd just post a small history about it. 

Auschwitz-Birkenau Camp was a concentration and extermination camp. It opened in 1940 and was located in Southern Poland. Auschwitz is now open for people to visit the camp and take tours around it. 

Auschwitz was the largest and could be noted at the most notorious of all Nazi death camps. Whilst the camp was being constructed all nearby factories were appropriated and the people were evacuated whilst their homes were bulldozed by the Nazis. 

At first, Auschwitz was open as a detention centre for political prisoners. By mid-1942 the majority of the people who were being sent to concentration camps were Jewish. When they arrived in the camp they would be examined by a Nazi doctor. Anyone who was unfit for work, including children, the elderly and pregnant women would be ordered immediately to take a shower. They would be marched into gas chambers which were disguised as bath houses. Due to the fact that these people were never registered as actual Auschwitz inmates, it's impossible to be able to tell how many people died in Auschwitz. For those who were deemed as fit enough to work they would die from overworking, disease, or insufficient nutrition,

Some of the prisoners in Aushwitz were subjected to horrendous and barbaric medical experiments that were led by Josef Mengele, For example, in order to study eye colour he would inject a serum into dozens of children's eyes which would cause them extreme pain. He had also injected cholorform into the hearts of twins to determine if they would both die at the same time and in the same manner. 

As 1944 came to a close though and the defeat of the Nazis by the Allied Forces seemed to be on the horizon, the Auschwitz commandants began to destroy evidence of the horrendous treatment that had taken place in the camp. Buildings ended up being blown up, torn down, or set on fire and the records were destroyed. 

However, in 1945 when the Soviet Army had entered Krakow, and the Nazis ordered that Auschwitz should be abandoned. In what came to be known as the 'Auschwitz death marches', at the end of the month, there was an estimated  60,000 prisoners that were deported from the camp and marched along with Nazi guards, for about 30 miles. Countless prisoners died whilst being marched from the camp and those who survived were sent to concentration camps in Germany. 

On January 27th 1945, the Soviet Amy entered Auschwitz and they found approximately 7,600 sick or emaciated detainees that had been left behind. They also found mounds of corpses, hundreds and thousands of pieces of clothes, shoes and human hair that ha been shaved off of the heads of prisoners. It's estimated that around 1 million people had died in Auschwitz. 

This is why it is so important to keep this memory going. So many people lost their lived through the Holocaust and it's something that cannot be forgotten about If we forget about it, we stop learning from it. The Holocaust effected so many people. So many individual people who weren't able to carry on going after their dreams and carrying on with the lives that they wanted. 

I think it can be agreed that this isn't something that one person can do by themselves. It's something that we'll have to work together to do.
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