75 Years Ago Today – January 21, 1945 – Before Liberation of Auschwitz

Death March art

DEATH MARCH: The residents of Polish towns through which the prisoners are marched recover the corpses of 1,101 male and female prisoners, and bury them in 29 mass graves along the route (see Friday’s “vlog” as we retrace this route and visit these memorial sites).

The first columns of women to reach Wodzislaw are loaded into open freight cars from morning to late into the night—Rena and her sister Danka may have been among those first women who arrive “half-dead, unconscious and feverish.” These transports move further into the interior of Germany to Gross-Rosen (which is re-routed to Dachau—67 of 1,408 prisoners on that transport die on route or upon arrival), Sachsenhausen (1/4 of these prisoners die enroute), Ravensbruck and Buchenwald. Rena and her sister were on the transport to Ravensbruck.

BIRKENAU: Five female prisoners attempt to escape from the women’s camp in Birkenau. They are detained by a drunken SS man, who take the youngest woman into the guard room. Shots ring out and the woman flees, having killed the SS. She and her friends hide in a railroad car and return to the women’s camp.

Prisoners break into the SS storerooms and discover that there is enough food to last for several months. Those left behind immediately form groups and break into the storeroom. They load two butchered hogs, cans of preserved meat, condensed milk, noodles, etc. in wheelbarrows and put the kitchen in Birkenau back into operation to feed the prisoners still locked behind the electric gates of Birkenau.

With the absence of all SS in the camps, tension lessens but liberation is still days away, and the death march continues for over 30,000 prisoners, many of whom are marched 50 kilometers to Wodzislaw in Silesia through blizzard conditions and with no food or water.

(Source: Czech, 795-797)

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