Thursday, April 13, 2006

What the Soviets knew about Auschwitz - and when. Part III: the Liberation reports.

As the Red Army soldiers moved towards Auschwitz, liberated its sub-camps, liberated Auschwitz itself, the reports were being sent to the head of the political department of the 1st Ukrainian front, major-general Yashechkin, describing the information the Red Army was receiving on the way to Auschwitz and in the camp itself. As you will see, the information is fragmentary, sometimes inaccurate (as is only to be expected), but still it corresponds fairly well to what we know about this extermination camp. The reports have been published in Dokumenty obvinyajut. Kholokost: svidetel'stva Krasnoj Armii (compiled by Dr. F. D. Sverdlov; published by Kholokost foundation in 1996 in Moscow). The wrong spelling of the toponyms has been corrected in most cases.

To the head of the political department of the 1st Ukrainian front,
major-general Yashechkin

26 January, 1945

At the Libiaz station, which is to the south-west of Chrzanow, we have discovered the branch of the Auschwitz concentration camp with inmates who have survived by chance. Among them are 30 Jews, the rest - Hungarians, French, Czechs, Poles and Russians - all who have managed to hide in coal mines, where the inmates worked. The rest have been killed by the Germans. In all, in this camp at the Libiaz station there were 920 inmates.

One of them, the Jew Lever, has told the following: until Libiaz he was in Auschwitz. 25 to 30 thousand Jews from many countries of Europe simultaneously resided there. They have been brought here continuously for four years. Everybody who couldn't work - women, elder, children, sick, have been separated from the healthy males and immediately exterminated. They went to the separate barracks in the southern part of the camp, there they undressed, then in the special chambers they were killed by gases, and the corpses were burnt in crematoria. Altogether there were 12 ovens for this, which were working partially on electricity, partially on coal. He thinks that the number of the Jewish victims is approximately 400,000. In the last two years male inmates have also been subjects of extermination. The inmates were fed very poorly: once a day watery soup and 150-200 grams of bread. From the unbearable labor and poor nutrition people were becoming exhausted and died. Three times per week a doctor examined the inmates and those unfit for work were sent to the gas chambers.

Since October of 1944 Auschwitz camp was being evacuated to Germany and crematoria ovens were working especially tensely round the clock. In December of 1944 the ovens have been blown up by the Germans.

Head of the political section of the 60th army
major-general Grishaev
TsAMO RF, 60th army's fond, opis 10597, delo 151, listy 70-73.
To the head of the political department of the 1st Ukrainian front,
major-general Yashechkin

27 January, 1945

In the occupied Jaworzno a concentration camp has been discovered, which was created three years ago. The territory is fenced in by two rows of wire, with electrical current. In the camp mostly Jews brought from all the countries of Europe were being exterminated. Surviving inmates are dressed in striped hessian. Footwear - wooden stocks. On the left hand - brand-number. Inmates worked in mines, at electric power stations, miscellaneous hard jobs. Those unable to work were removed to the camps Birkenau and Aushvajs [Auschwitz], where they were killed, the corpses were burnt in crematoria ...

Head of the political section of the 59th army colonel Korolyov
TsAMO RF, 59th army's fond, opis 10442, delo 284, list 34.
To the head of the political department of the 1st Ukrainian front,
major-general Yashechkin

27 January, 1945

In the morning of January 27, 1945 our troops have liberated Auschwitz and Birkenau - two largest concentration camps. The Germans have fled. At the time of liberation there were up to 10 thousand inmates in the camps.

Death camp Auschwitz, according to the testimonies of the locals, was founded in spring of 1940. Inmates were being burnt in five crematoria. Many have been hanged on the gallows. The camp is surrounded by several rows of wire with high voltage current. It was strenuosly guarded by SS soldiers. Commandant - SS captain Hoess. In July of 1940 the first transport from Warsaw came with 5-6 thousand Jewish inmates. In period of large influx of inmates they were being exterminated by 10-15 thousand persons per week in the gas chambers, and were burnt in the crematoria. When cars with the Jews entered the camp, on both sides of them stood German soldiers, who beat everyone with whips and ramrods, many - to death. The inmates have been dying from hunger and thirst en masse. Each day one received up to 200 grams of bread and a cup of soup. In 1942 6 Poles escaped from the camp. In revenge, the Germans shot thousands of inmates. Each morning hundreds of undressed inmates were driven to the gas chambers. The Germans enjoyed the suffering of the unfortunate through the specially made windows. Sinister picture. Smoke from the ovens and stench spread around for ten kilometers.

Up to the beginning of 1945 all the Jews in the camp have been exterminated. The Germans, hiding the traces of crimes, blew up the camp, shot the witnesses.

Head of the political section of the 60th army
major-general Grishaev
TsAMO RF, 60th army's fond, opis 10597, delo 151, listy 82-83.
To the head of the political department of the 1st Ukrainian front,
major-general Yashechkin

28 January, 1945

Reporting:

Concentration camp Auschwitz ["Osventsim" in the Russian text], in German "Auschwitz", consists of 5 camps and a prison. Now several thousands of inmates from all the countries of Europe are left in them. Many inmates are on the adjacent roads. All are extremely exhausted, they cry, thank the Red Army. People - of many nationalities - but I have not met Jews. Inmates say that all of them have been exterminated.

Each camp is a huge area behind several rows of barbed wire with current. In each - many barracks, in them - two rows of two-tiered plank beds. A picture terrible in its tragedy.

Head of the political section of the 60th army
major-general Grishaev
TsAMO RF, 60th army's fond, opis 10597, delo 151, list 85.
To the head of the political department of the 1st Ukrainian front,
major-general Yashechkin

29 January, 1945

Special commission has established the horrible villainies of the German fiends in the camp Auschwitz, which surpass all the atrocities known to us.

According to the testimonies of the liberated, in 4.5 years up to 4.5 million people were exterminated. There were days when 25-30 thousand people were exterminated, first of all the Jews from all the countries of Europe. Before the Red Army's arrival, about 8 thousand inmates have been taken out to Germany. The Germans blew up ovens and scattered ashes in fields, pits with the burnt corpses have been leveled.

Head of the political section of the 60th army
major-general Grishaev
TsAMO RF, 60th army's fond, opis 10597, delo 151, listy 201-202.
To the head of the political of the 1st Ukrainian front,
major-general Yashechkin

1 February, 1945

About Auschwitz concentration camp.

In 20-30 km radius on the territory of Dombrow coal region there are 18 branches of the concentration camp. Each - up to 10 square kilometers. In a camp - up to 80 barracks. A barrack - for 200-300 inmates. The main purpose of the camps - mass extermination of people, first of all Jews, brought from across Europe. Inmates - the free labor force at mines and synthetic fuel factories. In 4.5 years in these camps 4.5 million of people were exterminated. There were days when 8-10 transports with inmates arrived. 5-10% of healthy, fit for hard work were spared, the rest - exterminated. 4 crematoria had 10 chambers each, for suffocating people with gas, and up to 30 ovens for corpse incineration. Each chamber held up to 600 persons. Crematoria did not cope with the burning of corpses, and part of them were burned in 40x40 meter pits, [with the help of] pouring the fuel.

Simultaneousy there were 25-30 thousand persons in the camp. The regimen quickly led to exhaustion, dooming inmates to death. They worked for 12 hours and more. Beatings, tortures, humiliation, shooting at every turn. In Auschwitz camp 2 thousand inmates were liberated, in Birkenau - 2.5 thousand, in others 500-800 persons. The Jews are exterminated completely. 40% are so exhausted that they can't move. They haven't been fed for several days already.

Head of the political section of the 60th army
major-general Grishaev
TsAMO RF, 60th army's fond, opis 10597, delo 151, listy 165-171.


Sovinformburo message of 31.01.1945 contains the following information:
Recently our troops have taken the town of Oswiecim. After occupation of Poland German-fascist scoundrels built in this region the largest concentration camp. This death camp consisted of five sections. Each of the sections occupies a large area, surrounded by barbed wire. Swiftly advancing units of the Red Army liberated many inmates of this camp. Former prisoner of Auschwitz Lukashev from Voronezhskaja oblast told: "The number of inmates in Auschwitz camp always ranged from 15 to 30 thousand persons. Children, ill and unfit for labor men and women Hitlerites killed with gases, and the corpses were burned in special ovens. There were 12 of these ovens in the camp. Inmates fit for labor were forced to work in mines. Those weakened because of hunger, beatings and hard work were exterminated by the Germans. In four years in the camp the German-fascist villains tortured and killed many, many thousands of people.
Lev Bezymenskij in "Informatsija po-sovetski" (Znamya, 1998, no. 5) quotes yet more reports.
The first official document about Auschwitz has been written on the day of liberation, January 27. It has been signed by the Soviets Chelyadin, Tomov and Rossel', and by the former inmates - doctor Yakov Gordon from Vilnius, Prof. Steinberg from Paris, and doctor Epstein from Prague. Their conclusion:
During the camp's existence 4.5 to 5 million people were exterminated, those who were mainly destroyed were the Jews of all occupied countries, Russian POWs and those driven away to Germany for labor - Poles, Czechoslovaks, Belgians, Dutch.
On the same day the head of the political section of 322nd infantry division colonel Okhapkin informed the 60th army:
The camps were branches of the death camp Auschwitz... The task - to exterminate 6 million Poles and all the Jews of Europe. And this plan of extermination of completely innocent civilians they have accomplished.
One could cite more documents, but this is already more than enough for analyzing several ignorant claims made by the deniers.

Previous << Part II: reports of the captured Germans, 1943-1944.

Next >> Part IV: Deniers and Boris Polevoi's article

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