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January 17: Final Roll Call at Auschwitz

Lawrence Bush
January 17, 2010

Warsaw Jan 17 1945 fb003On this day in 1945, the Red Army of the Soviet Union freed the Polish city of Warsaw from Nazi control. More than half of Warsaw’s pre-war population of 1.3 million had died, including 98 percent of its nearly 400,000 Jews, and the city had been reduced to rubble. Anticipating the Red Army’s advance, the SS at the nearby Auschwitz concentration camp complex held a final roll call and began an evacuation, with some 60,000 prisoners setting out on death marches to the west. When the Soviets liberated Auschwitz on January 27, they discovered 7,000 barely alive human beings and some 350,000 men’s suits, 837,000 women’s outfits, and 16,000 pounds of human hair.
“The people were liberated, mankind was not.” —Shimon Peres

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.