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An Annotated Bibliography: Soviet Involvement in the Liberation of Concentration Camps

Riley Poolson

Miss Schmidt

Honors English 9

2/27/18
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Riley Poolson

Miss Schmidt

Honors English 9

2/27/18

An Annotated Bibliography: Soviet Involvement in the Liberation of Concentration Camps

“Liberation of Auschwitz.” Liberation of KL Auschwitz, 2015,

70.auschwitz.org/index.php?Itemid=133&id=17&lang=en&option=com_content&view=

article.

During the final years of the war, many of the Nazi forces began to fall back on both

eastern and western fronts. Along the eastern fronts, as the Germans retreated to the safety of

interior Germany, they had to deal with many of the concentration camps they were leaving

behind. In southern Poland, outside the main city of Krakow, SS officers in charge of the

infamous Auschwitz began the retreat from the looming Soviet advance. While evacuating

Auschwitz, the Nazis moved more than 65,000 prisoners into interior Germany. Along with the

moving of the prisoners in the death marches, the Nazis also began camp liquidations in January

of 1945. These camp liquidations started after the main evacuation and were meant to remove

any evidence of what the Nazis had done. Once camp liquidation was finished, the remaining SS

left and at the end of January on the 27th of 1945, the soldiers of the First Ukrainian Front

entered the gates of Auschwitz in Oświęcim, Poland. After small skirmishes between Soviet and
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Nazi forces in some places in the camp, Auschwitz and its subcamps were liberated that

afternoon. While searching the camp, Russian soldiers had thought they had yet again came

across a German factory. But after more looking they came to witness the true work of the Final

Solution. Like in camps previously found before, Soviets found many of the dead lying across

the vast camp, along with this, soldiers also found remains of the crematoriums, barracks, and

the obvious remains of the gas chambers used in the camp. The Russians also found over 7,000

prisoners which immediately received medical aid from the Russian hospital erected outside the

camp to receive many of the ill and maimed prisoners. The Russians also recorded many of their

findings on film which they had brought with them. This new film was then taken back to Russia

and used as propaganda against the fleeing Nazis. These propaganda films became some of the

first evidence given to the world showing what the Nazis had been doing throughout the war.

“Liberation of Nazi Camps.” United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, United States

Holocaust Memorial Museum,

www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10005131.

During the end of WW2 both allied powers and Russian forces began two simultaneous

offenses on Nazi Germany. The two fronts were the allied front, heading from France to Berlin,

and the Russian front, moving from Western Russia to Berlin. The allies were composed of

American, British, French, and Canadian forces. The Russian front however, solely composed of

Russia grand army, which was over millions strong. While pushing toward Berlin, both sides

became aware of Hitler’s concentration camps, as thousands of them were discovered throughout

the final days of the war. On the east side of the war, Soviet soldiers were some of the first to

witness the horrors of the Final Solution. Along their way Russian forces liberated infamous
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camps such as Majdenak, Auschwitz, Sachsenhausen, Gross-Rosen, and Ravensbrueck. Along

with these, Soviets also liberated hundreds of smaller concentration camps, as well as transit

camps, ghettos, marches and many others. As the Russian army discovered these camps, they

were not expecting to see what they saw. When entering the camps, soldiers thought they had

captured a Nazi factory. They had come across very industrialized buildings in these areas many

times. They soon found out they had come across the very terrible ideas the Nazis had created as

they found piles of dead, open graves, and warehouses of belongings. One of the worst things

they had found were the thousands of survivors left behind by the Nazis. Many soldiers were

shocked to see them because of how poorly the prisoners were treated in the camps. These

prisoners were from many different background such as Russians, Poles, men, women, and

children, and mainly Jews.

“Liberation of Sachsenhausen concentration camp.” Holocaust Memorial Day Trust,

hmd.org.uk/content/22041945-liberation-sachsenhausen-concentration-camp.

After its construction in 1936 Sachsenhausen was first a Nazi prison used to house

political prisoners. It held about 1,600 prisoners until 1938. In November of 1938, Kristallnacht

occurred, during the events of Kristallnacht over 6,000 Jews were deported from the Berlin

region to the camp. In the early 1940s, Sachsenhausen became a very industrialized

concentration camp, it held numerous sub-camps surrounding it along with factories for the

prisoners. Along with that, Sachsenhausen held a small gas chamber, which was often used to

kill any insubordinates. One of the more infamous atrocities carried out at Sachsenhausen was in

its medical wing. In this part of the camp, prisoners were subject to cruel and unusual medical

experiments. Many of these experiments left the patients dead, extremely injured, or fatally ill.
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As the camp increased in size, the number of prisoners increased greatly as at its peak, it saw

thousands of victims enter the camp. Many of these new prisoners were sent to work

immediately in Sachsenhausen’s neighboring factories. In the middle of 1945, Soviet forces had

just reached through Poland and into Germany’s original territory. As they continued to near the

outskirts of Berlin, one of the things they had discovered north of the Nazi capital was

Sachsenhausen. Like many of camps, they had found many of the same things. Soviet soldiers

found deplorable bunks, mounds of corpses, remains of gas chambers and crematoriums and

many prisoners were left behind. When arriving, Russian troops discovered more than 3,000

prisoners waiting for them. These prisoners were left behind by the Nazis because they were to

weak and ill to evacuate. Although the Russians were able to save them, they were one day late,

as over 30,000 of the camp’s well enough prisoners had escaped just before the Soviet liberation

of the camp.

“The death camps.” Majdanek – The Holocaust Explained: Designed for schools,

www.theholocaustexplained.org/the-final-solution/the-death-camps/majdanek/.

Majdanek was a Nazi concentration camp based outside the major Polish city Lublin

(which is in southeast Poland). The camp began to handle prisoners in 1941. In its beginnings, the

camp a labor camp for Soviet prisoners of war. In its later years when Hitler implemented his Final

Solution, the camp held a Jewish majority and was one of Nazi Germany’s main extermination

centers. Majdanek held seven gas chambers, all of which were used to kill many of the Jews who

had just entered the camp. Along with this, the camp was very large, being able to hold thousands

of prisoners at once. With the increasing influx of prisoners, the camp planned to expand itself

during the years 1943 to 1944. Towards the end of the war, this expansion was cancelled due to
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the rising threat of the collapse of the German empire, along with the threat of the Soviet advance

in the east, and the allied advance in the west. After Germany’s defeat in its planned invasion of

Russia, the eastern line of Nazi defenses begins to dissolve away as the Russians begin and extreme

counter offensive towards Germany’s capital Berlin. As the Russians attacked German territory,

the Nazis had to quickly abandon many of their concentration camps in a hurry, to ensure that

Germany and its secrets could not fall into Soviet hands. When Germany began to lose Poland,

one of the very first regions to enter Soviet hands was eastern Poland. As the Russian army

travelled toward Berlin, they came across Lublin. Outside of Lublin, the Russians began to find

one of the most infamous crimes in the world. When the Russians entered the camp, they came

across what they thought was a large factory complex. But as they searched more, they came across

piles of dead dozens of feet high, open graves, the seven active gas chambers, and a couple hundred

prisoners.

Wiesel, Elie, and Marion Wiesel. Night. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2017.

Night is the story of a young man named Elie Wiesel and his family. During WW2 Elie

lived in a small town in the country of Hungary. When the Nazis invaded his town, his

community was forced into a Jewish ghetto where they spent a short period of time. After being

in the ghettos, the Nazis deported Wiesel’s town to Auschwitz, where many of them were killed

on arrival. Elie was one of the few Jews to survive the selection process. Through the next few

years Elie spent his time in agony as he tried to survive the camps with his father. While in the

camp, prisoners began to hear rumors about the ending of the war and the fall of the Nazis. One

of these rumors was about the Soviet advance. This rumor gave a short boost of hope to the

remaining prisoners in the many concentration camps. As more of the rumors about this spread,
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the reality of them became greater. Many times, during the end of the war, prisoners like Elie

could hear fighting going on near the camp. Many of the camp’s inhabitants assumed these were

sounds of the Russians, who were headed straight for them. But, the closer the sounds of war got,

the more the Nazis had to push the camps away, keeping Elie away from liberation. Towards the

end of the war, Elie, who was ill at the time, decided to leave with the death marches to escape

what he thought was liquidation, but what he did not know was that two days later, Russian

forces liberated the camp he just left.