• Issue: April 1965
  • Designer: Y. Zim
  • Plate no.: 147
  • Method of printing: Photogravure

When the Russian army reached Poland in January 1945, it found nearly 3,000 forgotten men and women languishing in the great death factory of Auschwitz. In the following months of that year, the Allied armies of liberation were to discover throughout Europe strange mounds of ashes, bones and human fat. The evidence of a ruthless program of human extermination was disclosed in all its horror to an unbelieving world.

During the war years, the Nazis had set up hundreds of concentration, transit and labor camps throughout occupied Europe. For the Jews these camps had a single aim - their total extinction: they were the culmination of a policy of race hatred that was first aired in the days that preceded the "Nazi Revolution" in Germany.

The Nazi regime rode to power on the slogan of supremacy of a "master race" destined to rule over all "inferior peoples." To bring about the unity of all classes of the German people, the Nazi leaders used the old "scapegoat" technique. The Jews, a dispersed and defenseless people, were a convenient target for this ideology.

On April 1, 1933, only two months after they came to power, the Nazis launched their program of anti-Semitism. The notorious day of boycott, followed in 1935 by the enactment of the infamous Nuremberg Laws, gave cold and merciless expression to the Nazi plan to destroy the Jews of Germany. In November 1938, the Nazis perpetrated a nation-wide pogrom. Jewish homes, businesses and synagogues were smashed and burnt, thousands of men and women savagely beaten and flung into concentration camps. Protesting priests and outraged liberals who opposed Hitler's policy of violence were also put behind bars.

As Nazi ambitions spread beyond the borders of Germany, anti-Semitism became part of the technique of European conquest. In March 1938, German columns poured into Austria and within a few months all areas of public life were "judenrein." A year later, the Jews of Czechoslovakia underwent the agony of mass arrests, imprisonment and expropriation.

The outbreak of World War II gave a new dynamism to the racial mania of the Nazi movement. The plan for the liquidation of the Jews of Europe gathered momentum. In such Polish cities as Warsaw, Lublin, Krakow and Lwow, the Jews were herded into ghettos, to die in their thousands of disease, starvation or wanton slaughter.

In January 1942, a decision was taken by the Nazis to hasten the policy of physical extermination. Huge killing plants with skillfully designed crematoria were set up in the heart of Poland. The murder camps of Majdanek, Treblinka, Belzec and Auschwitz, most terrible of all, will never be forgotten in the history of mankind as symbols of twentieth century barbarism.

In the grim days of 1942, the SS, the trained agents of the "final solution," rounded up hundreds of thousands of Jews in the crowded ghettos. Sealed trucks began rolling eastwards, bringing from six to ten thousand victims to their final destination each day. The details of extermination were preceded by the most devilish tortures to rob the camp inmates of every vestige of humanity and self-respect in their last hours.

Throughout the spring and autumn of 1943, the Nazis systematically blotted out the remnants of the ghettos. Millions of Gentiles from occupied territories, too, met their end in the camps.

Towards the close of 1944, as the tide of battle turned against the Nazis, they became involved in a desperate race to extinguish the evidence of their crimes. They had tried to guard the secret of their vile intention, both to delude their victims and to hide the monstrosity from the eyes of the world. On January 17, 1945, the last roll was called in Auschwitz. The following day the SS quitted the camp, but not alone: they took with them 60,000 living skeletons. The "final solution," executed with all the technological efficiency of our times, culminated in the unspeakable anguish of the death marches from Poland to Germany.

Alongside the dreadful tale of man's inhumanity to man there was unfolded an epic of gallantry and resistance. In Auschwitz, Treblinka and Sobibor, nameless heroes kindled the spark of desperate revolt. After the uprising in Sobibor, the camp was dismantled and the gas chambers were demolished, and the Nazis sought to veil the memory of their crimes by planting a forest over the graves of those who had died at their bloody hands.

The testimony of the "living dead" found in the camps by the conquering Allies was a fractional relic of the immeasurable human and national tragedy which Jewry had suffered. A single longing stirred the hearts of the indomitable survivors - to turn their backs on the charnel-houses of Europe and build life anew in Israel. For all mankind, the death camps are a warning, ever to be remembered, of how evil and hatred can bestialize the minds of men.

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20 Years Liberation From The Concentration Camps