Survivors of Auschwitz return to camp for 75th anniversary 270120 CREDIT REUTERS STRICTLY NO REUSE AFTER 30 DAYS
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Auschwitz Survivors Return To Camp 75 Years After Liberation

Dignitaries, including the Duchess of Cornwall, joined the survivors for a commemoration service as part of Holocaust Memorial Day.

Survivors of Auschwitz return to camp for 75th anniversary 270120 CREDIT REUTERS STRICTLY NO REUSE AFTER 30 DAYS

Around 200 Holocaust survivors from around the world have returned to Auschwitz concentration camp to mark 75 years since its liberation.

Dignitaries, including the Duchess of Cornwall, joined the survivors for a commemoration service as part of Holocaust Memorial Day.

Auschwitz, the largest of the Nazi concentration camps, was established in 1940 in German-occupied Poland, near the city of Oswiecim.

More than 1.1 million men, women and children died there, of whom an estimated one million were Jewish.

A survivor of two concentration camps, Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen, told Forces News how she "wanted to die" and was "ready to give up" when the Bergen-Belsen camp was liberated by British forces.

"I crawled out, I couldn't walk," said Susan Pollack, who was 14 years old when she was imprisoned in 1944.

"I crawled out into the open and I wasn't conscious anymore.

"But somebody [a soldier] lifted me up... and placed me in an ambulance."

President Andrzej Duda leads the commemoration service at Auschwitz 270120 CREDIT POOL
Polish president Andrzej Duda leads the commemoration service at Auschwitz.

The Nazis had been evacuating prisoners from Auschwitz and starting to destroy evidence of their crimes since mid-1944.

Between 17 and 21 January 1945, around 56,000 prisoners were marched out of Auschwitz.

It is estimated that at least 9,000 people died during the evacuation.

Roughly 7,000 prisoners lived to see the liberation of the Auschwitz camps and were admitted to hospital or allowed to return home.

One Holocaust survivor who returned to Auschwitz is 90-year-old Renee Salt.

The grandmother-of-five, who had just turned 15 when she arrived at the camp in 1944, was taken to Auschwitz by train from the Lodz ghetto in Poland.

Women and children (left) and men (right) being lined up at Auschwitz 01011940 CREDIT PA
Women and children (left) and men (right) lined up at Auschwitz in 1940 (Picture: PA).

She said she had been promised a better life there, but when she arrived, guards told her: “This is the place where people are sent straight to the gas chambers.”

It was at the camp that Mrs Salt, who now lives in north London, last saw her father.

"He jumped off the train, I jumped after him and by the time I got off he had disappeared like into thin air," she said.

"I never saw him again. He went without a kiss, without a goodbye, he just disappeared.

"I kept asking about him after the war. I asked many people from different camps but no-one knew anything. I assumed he must have been killed."

Auschwitz-Birkenau Jewish stones on rail tracks CREDIT BFBS 240120
A stone left at Auschwitz that reads: "Never again!" Choose the right for the world."

Ahead of the commemorations, the chief executive of the Holocaust Education Trust said society needs to "do better" following a rise in anti-semitism. 

"I never thought when I started this work that I would have spent the past three years calling out anti-Semitism in mainstream politics," Karen Pollock said.

"I didn’t expect to witness attacks on synagogues in Halle in Germany or in Pittsburgh.

"I don’t think any of the survivors thought they would witness what they have witnessed in their lifetime and it’s for their sake that we need to do better."

Meanwhile, the Government is donating £1 million to help preserve Auschwitz to "ensure the lessons" of the camp "live on for generations to come".

Cover Image: Survivors of Auschwitz lay wreaths (Picture: Reuters).