Photos show the horrors of Auschwitz, 75 years after its liberation

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An aerial view of the Auschwitz II-Birkenau extermination camp on December 19, 2019 in Oswiecim, Poland. Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
  • January 27, 2020 marks the 75th anniversary of the Soviet Army’s liberation of Auschwitz, the largest and deadliest Nazi concentration complex.
  • First established in 1940 in German-occupied Poland, Auschwitz had a concentration camp, a labour camp, large gas chambers, and crematoria.
  • More than 1.1 million people were murdered at Auschwitz, including nearly one million Jews. On the day of liberation, only 7,000 were saved.
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It was the greatest tragedy of the Holocaust. In just five years, over one million people were murdered at Auschwitz, the largest and deadliest Nazi concentration camp.

Auschwitz was established in 1940 and located in the suburbs of Oswiecim, a Polish city the Germans annexed. Between 1940 and 1945, it grew to include three main camp centres and a slew of subcamps – each of which were used for forced labour, torture, and mass killing.

An estimated 1.3 million people were deported to Auschwitz during its five-year operation, and approximately 1.1 million were killed.

The terror of Auschwitz finally subsided on January 27, 1945, when the Soviet Army liberated the remaining 7,000 prisoners from the camps.

On the 75th anniversary of this liberation, these photos exhibit the horror and history of Auschwitz.


Auschwitz was established in 1940 in the suburbs of Oswiecim, Poland. During its first year, authorities cleared 15 square miles for the camp.

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An aerial view of the Auschwitz II-Birkenau extermination camp on December 19, 2019 in Oswiecim, Poland. Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Source: The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum


Auschwitz I, the first camp to undergo construction, was initially created for three reasons: to imprison enemies, to use forced labour, and to kill certain groups of people.

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The crematorium near gas chamber one at the former Nazi death camp of Auschwitz I in Oswiecim, Poland, Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019. Markus Schreiber/AP

Sources: The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Auschwitz‑Birkenau Memorial and State Museum


Construction of the largest camp, Auschwitz II, also called Auschwitz-Birkenau, began in October 1941. Electrified barbed wire divided it into 10 different sections.

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The remains of brick stone chimneys of prisoner barracks can be seen inside the former Nazi death camp of Auschwitz Birkenau or Auschwitz II. Markus Schreiber/AP

Sources: Jewish Virtual Library, The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum


Auschwitz-Birkenau’s different sections were for “women; men; a family camp for Roma (Gypsies) deported from Germany, Austria, and the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia; and a family camp for Jewish families deported from the Theresienstadt ghetto,” according to the Holocaust Memorial Museum.

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Women in the barracks at Auschwitz, Poland, January 1945. Galerie Bilderwelt/Getty Images

Sources: The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum


Inmates were put into poorly structured wooden barracks with 36 bunks each. Five to six prisoners were packed in so over 500 prisoners were in each unit.

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Source: The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum


Incoming prisoners who were selected for forced labour received tattoos and had a serial number sewn into their uniforms. Auschwitz was the only concentration camp to do this.

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Auschwitz concentration camp survivor Eva Behar shows her number tattoo in her home on December 1, 2014 in London, United Kingdom. Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Source: The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum


Shortly after construction, Auschwitz-Birkenau became the largest killing centre and central location for the extermination of Jews in Europe.

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Bodies of prisoners found in Auschwitz, shortly after liberation in 1945. Reuters

Source: Museum of Jewish Heritage


In 1942, two farmhouses just outside the camp were turned into gas chambers.

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Source: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum


But as Auschwitz-Birkenau became a central location for mass killing, these gas chambers were too small. Four new chambers were built between March and June 1943, each containing a disrobing area, gas chamber, and crematory ovens.

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Shoes of victims exterminated at Auschwitz. Rolf Vennenbernd/picture alliance via Getty Images

Source: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum


As millions of people were murdered, mounds of eye glasses, razors, shoes, and other belongings were left behind.

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Remains of glasses from people exterminated at Auschwitz. Pawel Ulatowski/Reuters

In 1942, Auschwitz III, also known as Buna or Monowitz, opened near the town of Monowice to house more forced laborers.

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An ariel picture taken of Auschwitz barracks taken on December 15, 2019 in Oswiecim, Poland. Pablo GONZALEZ / AFP via Getty Images

Source: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum


Forty-four subcamps with different specialisations were established at Auschwitz between 1942 and 1944. The Nazis made prisoners work on large farms, in coal mines, in weapons production — basically anything the German military needed for war.

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A photo of women deemed fit for work, taken in May 1944 in Auschwitz. AFP via Getty Images

Source: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum


Between 1940 and 1945, an estimated 1.3 million people were sent to Auschwitz. Approximately 1.1 million were killed.

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Cadavers of women and Children who died in cold weather at Auschwitz. Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images

Source: Museum of Jewish Heritage


In January 1945, before Soviet forces could reach the camps for liberation, nearly 60,000 people were forced to march west, and thousands more were killed.

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Soviet soldiers with survivors of Auschwitz in 1945. REUTERS:HO AUSCHWITZ MUSEUM

Source: The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum


The terror finally subsided on January 27, 1945, when the Soviet Army reached the gates of Auschwitz.

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Soviet soldiers arriving at the gates of Auschwitz in 1945. REUTERS:HO AUSCHWITZ MUSEUM REUTERS

Source: The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum


When Soviet soldiers arrived, only between 6,000 and 7,000 prisoners remained. The majority of them faced starvation, death, and illness.

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Source: The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum


Available records indicate that when the soldiers arrived, at least 700 youth prisoners were still at the camp, half of whom were Jewish.

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Children who have lived to be liberated by the Red Army from the Auschwitz concentration camp on January 27, 1945. TASS via Getty Images

Source: Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial Museum


In many cases, the liberated children were malnourished, severely weak, vitamin deficient, and diseased. Of 180 children examined after liberation, 40% had tuberculosis.

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Jewish children, survivors of Auschwitz, with a nurse behind a barbed wire fence, Poland, February 1945. Galerie Bilderwelt/Getty Images

Source: Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum


Immediately after liberation, many of the children were sent to hospitals organised by the Soviet army and the Polish Red Cross.

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Holocaust survivor Rachel Rubin shows a photograph of herself as a 14-year-old girl shortly after her liberation in 1945 Julian Stratenschulte/picture alliance via Getty Images

In 2016, a group of children who survived the horrors of Auschwitz met to take their photo together.

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81-year-old Paula Lebovics, 79-year-old Miriam Ziegler, 85-year-old Gabor Hirsch and 80-year-old Eva Kor pose with the original image of them as children taken at Auschwitz at the time of its liberation on January 26, 2015 in Krakow, Poland. Ian Gavan/Getty Images

In total, 6 million Jews were killed during the Holocaust. One-sixth of these exterminations happened at Auschwitz alone.

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Photographs are displayed at the Birkenau Museum, December 10, 2004 of the many faces of the men, women and children at the Auschwitz II. Scott Barbour/Getty Images

Source: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum


To commemorate this grave tragedy, world leaders met in Israel this week to mark 75 years since the camp’s liberation.

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Russia’s President Vladimir Putin arrived in Israel on a working visit to attend celebrations marking the 75 th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. Mikhail Metzel/TASS via Getty Images