Yesterday, 27th January, marker 75 years since the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camps in Poland. Therefore on this day each year, the United Kingdom celebrate ‘Holocaust Memorial Day’ as a way to remember those who tragically lost their lives at the hand of the Nazi’s and also to educate those who are unaware of the Holocaust and the extreme acts of Genocide that took place between 1933 and 1945.
The Holocaust took place around the time of World War Two. During this time, approximately six million Jewish people were killed, along with millions of other people, simply because of who they were.
– Jewish people were the main target of the Nazi’s
– Many disabled people were killed
– Black people were killed
– Gay people were killed
– Any non-supporters were punished, many also killed
The extent of the Holocaust was and still is devastating. With the brutality being hidden from the rest of the world and the extremity being unknown.
Nazi’s is the shortened name for National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP), a political party in Germany that was established in 1919 during the aftermath of World War One. In 1933, Adolf Hitler was voted into power and therefore became the leader of the party.
From the moment that they came into power, the Nazi Party began to persecute those who they did not see as being worthy members of society, most notably, Jewish people. They started to bring in laws to discriminate against Jewish members of society, banning them from obtaining certain jobs as well as banning them from certain public areas.
Eventually, the Nazi’s opened concentration camps in which they would imprison Jewish people and others who did not support their ideas. Whilst being in these concentration camps, people were forced to work and they would be treated in very cruel and inhumane ways. The first camp to have opened was called Dachau in Munich in 1933.
Between 1933 and 1945 the Nazi’s had opened more than 40,000 camps within the areas that they had control over. Some of these were work camps, others were transit camps where prisoners would be processed. However, in 1941 the Nazi’s opened the first extermination camp, where they killed millions of people, some were killed by guards for no reason, others died due to the conditions that they were living in and the way in which they were being treated and many were murdered by poison gasses in enclosed chambers.
The Nazi’s had control over many areas and many people. They brought in a law known as the Malicious Gossip Law, meaning it was illegal to make anti-nazi jokes or stand against what the Nazi’s believed in.
They banned Jazz music, they closed down 1,600 newspapers and controlled those that remained open, only allowing articles to be published if they had been approved by them first, books were destroyed if they were not written in a way that was accepted by the Nazi’s and textbooks were changed to include Nazi ideas.
Youth groups were created for young boys and girls in the attempt to force them to grow up and idolise Hitler and the Nazi Party.
On the 9th of November in 1938, Kristallnacht took place. This translates into ‘The Night of Broken Glass’. This consisted of mass raids, 91 Jewish people were murdered, 30,000 people being taken to concentration camps and 267 synagogues were destroyed.
Prisoners who survived in Poland were forced to walk to concentration camps in Germany. Many died during this gruelling walk.
The following year in September, the Germans invaded Poland, marking the start of World War Two. During the war, Britain, the US and The Soviet Union made their way through areas of Europe that were controlled by the Germans and began to discover the concentration camps. Despite the Nazi’s trying to hide the evidence of their brutality by destroying camps, the rest of the world began to find out about the true extent of the Holocaust.
The first camp to be closed down was Majdonek in Summer 1944. With Auschwitz-Birkenau closing down the following year.
During these very dark years in history, families were separated, millions were killed and many innocent people were turned into killers by the Nazi’s. This is known as one of the largest Genocides in history. It is important that this piece of history is never forgotten, those who lost their lives are never forgotten, those who saved others are honoured and we remember just how easy it was for people in power to have such a large, terrifying impact over others.
This year, many Holocaust survivors visited Auschwitz-Birkenau to mark 75 years of Liberation. Survivors ranging from the age of 75 (a woman who was born inside one of the camps) to 101. For many, this will be their last visit to the camp. One survivor said they are going in order to remind themselves of what they went through, to make sure that the memory of the events that occurred never die. The survivors want to make sure that this piece of history lives on, people remember what happened and honour those who were lost.
Hitler killed himself before he could be brought to justice for his actions. However many people who were involved in the Nazi Persecution, rounding up people to send them to camps, working as guards within the camps and so on, were brought to justice for their crimes. One man was convicted in 2015 for his role as a prison guard in one of the concentration camps. He was 94 years old. This shows that the past may be in the past, but it will never be forgiven or forgotten.
Me and Jacob are visiting Auschwitz-Birkenau in two weeks time. This is a place I have always wanted to see. A place that holds so many daunting memories, a rich piece of history, a place that everyone should visit in order to build upon their knowledge of the Holocaust but also help them fully understand the events that happened inside those grounds.