On 27 January 1945, during the close of the Second World War, the Soviet Red Army, as part of the Allied forces, liberated the largest Nazi concentration camp, the Auschwitz-Birkenau and this day was chosen by the United Nations in 2005 as the International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
See previous ‘This Day in History’ in the linked article.
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International Holocaust Remembrance Day – Background
- The Auschwitz concentration camp was a network of concentration and extermination camps set up by the Nazi regime in Germany during the Second World War period in Germany and other German-occupied areas.
- Initially, political prisoners were brought to these camps and the first extermination took place in 1941.
- These camps went on to become the site of the “Final solution to the Jewish Question” as propagated by the Nazi regime. Jews were brought from Germany and other German-occupied states to these camps. Starting with discrimination in society and government, the Jews forced to give up their homes and were segregated in ghettos. They had to relinquish their jobs and businesses. Later, they were forced to settle at these camps. Auschwitz held the largest such camp.
- Life at these concentration camps was brutal. The inmates were subject to forced labour under inhuman conditions. They also had to suffer horrible atrocities. Many died of diseases. Even children were not spared. Any inmate suspected of suffering from some form of ailment was killed.
- The “Final Solution” involved killing the inmates of the camp in gas chambers. The pesticide Zyklon B was used to kill many people en masse.
- It is estimated that out of the 1.3 million people sent to the camp at Auschwitz, at least 1.1 million perished.
- 90% of the people killed there were Jewish. The rest were Romani, Polish, Soviet POWs, other people of various nationalities and homosexuals.
- This mass brutality and killing of millions of people during the Second World War by the Nazi regime is known as the Holocaust.
- Many of the inmates were subjected to medical experimentation (without consent and anaesthesia) that resulted in death, mutilation or painful agonies for the subjects. Even children were subject of such medical torture.
- The Red Army liberated the Auschwitz concentration camp on 27 January 1945.
- The State of Israel initiated this observance, which was started in 2005.
- The UN urges member countries to mark this day in honour of the millions of Holocaust victims. An estimated 6 million Jews; 250,000 mentally and physically challenged people; 200,000 Romani; 9000 homosexuals died at the hands of the Nazi regime.
- The Holocaust remains a powerful symbol of anti-war sentiments and is also a reminder for people to stop discrimination and end the targeting of people on the basis of religion, ethnicity, political or personal beliefs. It is a reminder that every individual should enjoy human rights and live life to the fullest of his capabilities and desire without causing harm to the environment or fellow creatures.
Also on this day
1921: The Imperial Bank of India was founded which later became the
State Bank of India.
2009: Death of former President R Venkataraman.