‘For ever let this place be a cry of despair and a warning to humanity…’ screams a plaque at Auschwitz-Birkenau. January 27, 1945, about 7,500 Jewish prisoners were evacuated by the Russian Red Army from the most notorious of Nazi concentration camps. The plaque was erected by the survivors of the Holocaust, the horrific ordeal that began in 1941 when Heinrich Himmler, Nazi Germany’s Minister of the Interior, designated Auschwitz-Birkenau as the destination for the “final solution of the Jewish question in Europe.” In those three years, the Third Reich systematically aggregated and annihilated 1.5 million Jewish internees in the death camp. Most were gassed to death but a great number also died of starvation and disease. Today, the camp is a memorial museum and a 120 Zloty (€35) daytrip from the Polish city of Krakow, 70 km away.
On the 68th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, which fell January 27, AMANDEEP SANDHU shares memories of the seven life-changing hours that he spent there. Sandhu is the author of two books, Sepia Leaves and Roll of Honour. Learn more about his work at his website.