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january 27 is holocaust remembrance day. it was on this day in 1945 that the soviet army liberated auschwitz concentration camp. it is estimated that at least 1.3 million people were deported to auschwitz between 1940 and 1945. of these, a minimum of 1.1 million were murdered.

it’s worth noting that the u.s. state department knew about the genocide as early as 1942, but actively sought to suppress its public knowledge. also of note, the war department declined to bomb the extermination facilities and the railway lines leading to auschwitz because it was deemed “too far a flight”, even though u.s. bombers flew directly over the camp to bomb oil factories only 5km away.

in 1955, an exhibition at the camp opened to the public, displaying such things as prisoner mug shots; hair (of which almost eight tonnes was found by the red army) and shoes taken from murdered prisoners; and canisters of zyklon b pellets used for gassing.

the sign seen at the gates of base camp reads arbeit macht frei, or “work makes you free”. built by prisoner-labourers, there is speculation the upside down ‘B’ was done on purpose as a signal to new arrivals about what was actually happening behind the facility’s gates.

to learn more, see “auschwitz: the nazis and ‘the final solution" (bbc, 2005), "escape from auschwitz" (secrets of the dead, 2011), "america and the holocaust: deceit and indifference" (american experience, 1994) (william j vanden heuvel’s response), and “god on trial" (masterpiece, 2008). photos by bruno tamiozzo

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