Auschwitz: A terrible yet necessary reminder

BY MATTHEW COLLINS - JANUARY 27, 2015

In the words of George Santayana: “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Those words echo of the utmost relevance when looking back on a moment in history that would have profound effects on the way in which we as humanity view ourselves.

Today marks the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz concentration camp by the Soviet Red army; a day now commemorated as International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

The camp is considered to be the most infamous in what would collectively become known as the Holocaust; a period during the Second World War in which millions of lives would be lost in the wake of the deplorable “final Solution” of the Nazi regime to purify its race.

Auschwitz, which was the largest of the concentration/death camps, began its heinous operations in 1940 whereby those who were considered less than human by the then German state were sent through its doors and sentenced to slave labour, subjected to shocking medical experiments and, in many cases, “exterminated” in its gas chambers.

Of the millions of lives which perished in the concentration camps, which included Jews, gypsies, homosexuals, prisoners of war, communists, disabled people and so on; it is believed that Auschwitz alone took the lives of 1-million individuals.

As the Soviet Army was approaching the camp, on its way to the heart of Nazi Germany (Berlin), the camp was abandoned by Nazi officials taking with them tens-of-thousands of prisoners, with thousands of them dying along the way, to Loslau (now Wodzislaw Slaski) on what is known as a "death march". Those who survived the journey were sent off to other concentration camps. 

This move left Soviet soldiers to be taken aback by scenes of the absolute barbarity of humanity’s darkest side; witnessing scenes of corpses laying in piles and  abandoned prisoners left to their own demise.

This dark corner in the history books seriously made the world rethink its notion of claimed superiority over others in realising that such thinking was destructive to an unimaginable degree.

It has been said that such a gruesome and costly war, along with the holocaust victims it took, helped pave the way for the freedom and independence of countless nations (including Africa) whose people had themselves been subject to the very pseudo-notions of superiority-inferiority relationships which the Holocaust taught us to abandon.

Three years later, the International Declaration of Human Rights would be laid down by the United Nations as well as the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

 

Image courtesy of: en.auschwitz.org