The Auschwitz extermination camp was liberated on 27 January 1945 by Soviet troops, who found only a few thousand prisoners alive but exhausted of strength and energy; the others had been forced by the Nazis to walk west, in the so-called “death marches“
The Germans, before running away, had tried to burn and destroy all evidence of the abominations committed, but many structures and warehouses were still there to tell the undeniable truth, for example the sheds that still contained the victims’ personal belongings: hundreds of thousands of men’s clothes, over 800,000 women’s clothes, hundreds of thousands of glasses, shoes and more than six tons of women’s hair.
The liberators found the unimaginable, in Auschwitz as in all the Nazi camps, and only after the liberation everyone found out the real dimensions of the Nazi genocide. The few survivors were extremely tired by forced labour, lack of food and months or years of mistreatment, some of them were barely able to move. The survivors of the concentration camps had to face a long, endless path of physical and psychological rehabilitation.
When General Dwight D. Eisenhower arrived at Auschwitz with his men, he had an initial and understandable moment of discouragement, but, immediately after, he ordered to take photographs of the mass graves where bones, clothes, huge piles of broken and skeletal bodies laid, of the barracks in which there were even 1000 prisoners at a time, of miles of electrified barbed wire, gas chambers, crematory ovens, uniforms, sentry towers, weapons and of all those who had managed to survive such barbarism.
He also decided to take the inhabitants of nearby towns to the fields to show them what had happened perhaps everyone had already guessed without having the courage to do anything, and forced them to bury the bodies of the dead.
His words were clear and far-sighted:
“That we have as much documentation as we can – whether it’s filmed recordings, photographs, testimonials – because there will come a day when some idiot will stand up and say that this never happened”
Unfortunately that day arrived not long after, the negationist and revisionist theories fill books today, web pages and social networks, and the living witnesses of the Nazi extermination are less and less; today more than ever it makes sense to cultivate with care and attention the memory based on historical truth that no negationist will ever be able to erase.