“I was very ill with pleurisy and typhus, Frieda Menco Brommet remembered. She was nineteen years old, Dutch Jew and a prisoner in Auschwitz-Birkenau. And then came January 18, 1945 and we heard shouting in the distance. The Germans came to our barrack and they said, ‘Everyone march! If you can’t get up, you will be shot.’ So we had to go.”
“I had no clothes; my mother fetched a few rags. She took me under her arm, dressed in those rags and I fainted. I hadn’t been on my feet for months. And people were walking over me.” While the rest of the inmates marched on Frieda’s mother dragged her back. “We couldn’t move. We stayed. And we were not shot.” We were in no man’s land for 10 days and my mother fed me with snow. Then the Russians came.” (Auschwitz, Deborah Dwork, Robert van Pelt, Robert Jan Pelt, pg 9)
Statement by Alexander Vorontsov of Moscow, camera operator in the Soviet military film crew that recorded the liberation of Auschwitz:
“A ghastly sight arose before our eyes: a vast number of barracks (in Birkenau)… People lay in bunks inside many of them. They were skeletons clad in skin, with vacant gazes. Of course we spoke with them. However, these were brief conversations, because these people who remained alive were totally devoid of strength, and it was hard for them to say much about their time in the camp. They were suffering from starvation, and they were exhausted and sick. That is why our interviews, such as they were, had to be very brief. We wrote down the things they told us. When we talked with these people and explained to them who we were and why we had come here, they trusted us a bit more. The women wept, and – this cannot be concealed – the men wept as well. I believe that not even the commanders of our army had any idea of the dimensions of the crime committed in this largest of camps. The memory has stayed with me my whole life long. All of this was the most moving and most terrible thing that I saw and filmed during the war. Time has no sway over these recollections. It has not squeezed all the horrible things I saw and filmed out of my mind…”
Source: Scenario of the documentary film Die Befreiung von Auschwitz, by Irmgard von zur Mühlen (Chronos-Film GmbH, West Germany), commissioned in 1986 by the HolocaustMemorial Council of the USA. APMAB, Scenario Fond, vol. 53, pp. 23–26, 29, 40
With eminent arrival of Soviet forces, the Nazis evacuated some more than 65,000 mostly Jewish prisoners from Auschwitz, forcing them on a death march on January 17, 1945.
Mira Honel, a young woman deported to Auschwitz from France, stayed behind to nurse the ill inmates who did not join the evacuation. She described her feelings on that historic day, January, 27, 1945.
“The Russian are here, and our torment is ended. Freedom, you are here! I’ve been expecting you for such a longtime and with so much confidence. I was certain that you would come. It seems to me that I have been victorious. Even though I have no weapons in my hands, I feel as if I fought to attain you, as if I have devoted my entire life to this struggle. But why am I so sad now that I have won you and possess you? I always told myself that I might die of joy on this day. So why am I not happy?”
(Herman Langbein, People in Auschwitz, pg 473).