After being in operation for around five years, Auschwitz was finally liberated by the Soviets on January 27th, 1945. Auschwitz was one of the largest of a series of concentration camps created by the Nazi regime to exterminate what they viewed as “lesser races.”
Being one of the largest camps, a horrifying number of victims were taken there to work or be killed. According to Auschwitz.org, 1.1 million Jews were deported into Auschwitz from 1942-1944, along with around “160 thousand Poles, Gypsies, Byelorussians, Ukrainians, French, and others…”
According again to Auschwitz.org, as the Red Army of the Soviets advanced further into Nazi-controlled Poland, German leaders formulated two plans to either abandon the camp or hold onto it depending on how the war proceeded. When the war continued in favor of the Allies and the Soviets, the Nazis burnt down what they could that was evidence of their crimes.
The legacy of Auschwitz and other concentration camps should always be remembered for the terrible crimes committed there and the horrors of genocide. However, the history of genocide nor ethnic cleansings has not ended; it instead continues strongly in the 21st century.
Israel has had a violent history since its creation in 1948 and life hasn’t improved for the remaining Palestinians in Gaza and West Bank. Some of the most recent controversies brought into popular light involve Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory. These settlements are meant to bring Israelis into Palestinian land so that the Israeli government can claim the territory as their own. These settlements are seen as a violation of the Geneva Convention by the UN.
Additionally, the government of Myanmar, located in Southeast Asia, has been oppressing their Rohingya Muslim minority since 1982. According to the Human Rights Watch, the Nationality law of 1982 in Myanmar prevents groups that are not considered to be one of the “National Races” from traveling and getting secondary education. Citizens that are not considered to be of the “National Races” can also be made to do forced labor and arbitrarily give up their property.
Auschwitz should serve as a reminder of the horrors of genocide and ethnic cleansing and the cruelties that governments are capable of committing.
As humans, we should always be on the watch for these cases, such as the ones in Israel and Myanmar, and be willing to take action, bring light to, and speak out against these atrocities.
Tristan is a History major and is the president of the BU History Club.