On January 27, 1945, the Russian army came upon Auschwitz and its various camps and subcamps.
What they found was terrible.
Afraid of anyone seeing what they had been doing in Auschwitz, the Germans went on a killing spree before the arrival of the Russians. They also tried to blow up the ovens where the murdered had been burned for years.
When the Russians arrived, they found corpses and 7000 starving prisoners.
A conservative estimate is that 1,000,000 people died there.
Here is a poem I wrote about Auschwitz. It is based on an incident Tadeusz Borowski, a survivor of Auschwitz, describes in his memoir This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen.
During the war, there was only work and death.
The work broke you down, filled your stomach
with rocks and threw you in the river to drown.
The work shoved a bayonet up your ass
and twisted the blade till you were dead.
In the camps, there was only what we ate
and those we worked with—sometimes women.
But we never made love. I’ll tell you why.
Fear. I remember once a thousand men
were working a field with sticks, and trucks came
and dumped naked women in front of us.
Guards were whipping them to the ovens,
and the women screamed and cried to us, pleaded
with their arms stretched out—naked mothers,
daughters, and sisters, but not one man moved.
Not one. Fear will blind you, and tie you up
like nothing else. It’ll whisper, “Just stand still,
soon it will be over. Don’t worry, there’s nothing
you can do.” You will take this fear to the grave
with you. I can promise. And after the war,
it was the same. I saw things that were as bad
as what happened in the camps. I wish
I had had a gun there. I would have
pressed it here to my forehead, right here.
Better that than what I feel now. This fear.