27 January 1945: Liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau

On 27 January 1945, Soviet soldiers liberated Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi concentration and extermination camp.

When Soviet soldiers arrived, they found several thousand emaciated survivors and the smouldering remains of the gas chambers and crematoria after the Nazis had attempted to destroy evidence of their crimes.  Approximately 1.1 million men, women and children were murdered at Auschwitz-Birkenau, and over 90% of them were Jewish.

At the last moment our death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment in Auschwitz and we were delivered to the gates of hell. There we were still to be interrogated. On arrival we were stripped, whipped, shaved and tattooed. From then on, we had no names. I was now number 39934 and my mother was number 39933.

– Kitty Hart-Moxon OBE

Auschwitz-Birkenau was built in the suburbs of Oświęcim, a city in the south of Nazi-occupied Poland. It was a network of several camps, combining forced labour and extermination camps.

Auschwitz-Birkenau © Bill Hunt

As Soviet forces approached the camp, the Nazis killed several thousand prisoners, and began evacuating others from the camps, forcing them to go on gruelling death marches.

Auschwitz-Birkenau has become a symbol of the horror of industrialised murder, and what can happen when hatred is left unchecked.

Today, we commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day (HMD) on the anniversary of the liberation of this camp.  We remember all the victims of the Holocaust and Nazi persecution, and those killed in subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur.

HMD is for everyone. Together we bear witness for those who endured genocide, and honour the survivors and all those whose lives were changed beyond recognition.

Explore our other dates to remember

Ivor Perl

Ivor Perl

Ivor was just 12 years old when he was taken to Auschwitz and survived with the help of his older brother and several strokes of fortune.

Auschwitz-Birkenau

Auschwitz-Birkenau

Auschwitz-Birkenau is the most infamous of all Nazi camps and we commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day on 27 January, the date of its liberation by Soviet troops. Over 1.1 million people were murdered at this site, and over 90% of them were Jewish.