Auschwitz and Its Soviet Liberators

On the 65th anniversary of the entry of the Red Army to the former Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau, let us share two completely different takes on what happened on January 27, 1945 — a day as bitterly cold as today.

For Poland, which lost many of its citizens in the camp, Jews and Catholics alike, Soviet soldiers couldn’t have brought freedom to the camp or the country because they enjoyed little freedom back home and later helped transplant the Soviet system of totalitarian oppression to post-war Poland and half of Europe.

Russia, on the other hand, calls the above Polish view blasphemous and demands unconditional respect for its sanctified Soldier the Liberator. Before 1989, Soviet propaganda tried to imprint it in the minds of millions of people in the Soviet-oppressed part of Europe.


Those conflicting visions are still visible today even though Soviet propaganda is long gone.

Poland’s conservative daily Rzeczpospolita, traditionally suspicious of Russia, runs its anniversary article today entitled “Auschwitz: Indifference of Liberators.”

“We were terribly hungry,” said Auschwitz survivor Kazimiera Wasiak. “In the camp, they fed us soup with overcooked fat worms. We begged the Soviets to give us at least a piece of meat, but they would only throw bones into the snow.”

“The Soviets? I saw two of them,” said another survivor Hanna Wardak. “They walked by me and other children with some ropes and they didn’t even look at us. They didn’t give us anything to eat, they didn’t help.”

At least the Nazi oppression was over for the people in the Auschwitz camp, but the liberation looked different from how the Soviet propaganda would portray it later, Rzeczpospolita concluded.

You can easily find the propaganda photos of the re-enactment of the camp’s liberation. Soviets shot them many days after they entered Auschwitz. There are stills taken from newsreel footage of the re-enactment — cheering crowds, hats thrown into the air, all fake.

So now the same story told by liberal daily Gazeta Wyborcza, which, by the way, asks rhetorically if Auschwitz was in Poland or in Germany — and never answers the question.

Where was Auschwitz? For all of the 19th century, Auschwitz was in Prussia. For the brief 20-year period in the early 20th century, it became Oswiecim in Poland, only to be annexed again with all of Upper Silesia by Nazi Germany.

Sixty-five years ago, in 1945, Auschwitz was in Provinz Oberschlesien, or the Province of Upper Silesia, in Nazi Germany, and Hitler wanted it there as part of his One-Thousand-Year Reich.

Back to the second account of the liberation:

“The Red Army soldiers […] finally reach a barrack with starved, ragged, ill children. The youngest may be two or three years old. The soldiers open their backpacks and give them everything that is edible. A six-year-old boy grabs [Lt. Yury] Ilinsky by the hand and doesn’t want to let go. […] Ilinsky immediately decides to take the child with him, to his battalion. He will be fed and dressed there, he’ll be better off with the army than among civilians. But the head of the battalion orders the boy to be brought back [to the camp]. The kid is crying. Ilinsky also has tears in his eyes.”

Both stories could have easily happened — there were thousands of people still in the camp when the Soviets came — but it looks like after several generations have passed we’ll never know for sure how much truth there is in the conflicting versions of the Auschwitz liberation. It’s worth remembering both sides of the tale.



The polish jews it is well kown that received no help by the vast majority of the catholic poles.
The polish cathilic church showed absoludly no interest to the common secret of persecution of the polish jews no help or any kind of support was offered.
The polish cathilic people took advandage of the nazi persecution of polish jews taking jewish property and valuables for a piece of bread.
The wriiter points to the Red Army but is hiding the fact what every body knows very well – the deep antisimitism of the cathiolic polish society taking full advantage of the nazi final solution in Poland.
Hardly any polish helped any polish jew at that terrible time,they were indiferent and the majority were pasivly supporters.Remember the anti-jewish atrocities in the Baltic countries by the local people at times worst than the nazis.

dear symeon, what you have written is deeply one sided. Antisemitism was strong in eastern europe, and in rural societys, bu it does not show the whole picture. My family in central Poland, city of Lodz, second biggest and maybe poorest at that time city of Poland, had many jew friends, and part of that family was taken away with the jews, others had to flee.
Today i have a jewish friend who’s family was protected by whole township, and beacouse of thiers german roots, they were treated by german as volksdeutsch’s. Pure luck? Not entirely. Every man coul give them up but they did not
I’m not trying to implicate the poles are brave heroes of 2WW. Im just trying to tell that both things could have happen. In 50’s people were persecuted beacouse they were catholics, that does not mean that poles are anticatholics.
In every nations, there are lots of scums and lowlife, that are feeding on a mysery of others. Its not just polish speciality

Dear Symoen,
If you claim that no Pole help Polish Jews please go to Jerusalem and walk into Yad Vashem and check out the Righteous among the Nations records – why the majority on the list are Polish?

Give credit where credit is due: the Soviet Red Army did liberate the concentration camps and liberated Poland from the Nazi invaders . This is an indeniable historical fact .
What the Soviet did in Poland after the war ended is a different book altogheter .
One should ask himself if Poland would be better off under Nazi occupation or under Soviet occupation ?

@ SYMEON wrote ” Hardly any polish helped any polish jew at that terrible time” Do you know about Irene Sendler, in Polish Irena Sendlerowa ? She was a Polish social worker who served in the Polish Underground and the Zegota resistance organization in German-occupied Warsaw during WWII. Sendler saved 2,500 Jewish children by smuggling them out of the Warsaw Ghetto and was nominated for the Nobel Peace prize. Most of them placed in catholic family. Haw dare you are.

A so-called middle road as to Soviet Auschwitz liberators may be appropriate … at the same time, I believe one must consider the Katin Forest massacre and the “waiting” by Soviet forces to engage the Nazis prior to moving into Warsaw when evaluating what the Soviets did or did not do in Poland.

This is regular historical re-writing. The Soviets didn’t liberate anyone, and as soon as they discovered the Nazi death and prison camps, the first thing Stalin did was keep them going – for the enemies of the Soviet Russian empire instead of the the Third Reich. WWII wasn’t about liberation for anyone, it was about the same thing every war is about: power, land and money. It was the Russian Empire verses the German Empire, with the aging British and French empires in the mix until the newly established (as of WWI) American empire. WWII was not about fighting fascism and certainly not about saving Jews.

To Symeon,
Being also Jewish I have a different perspective on this issue. Germany had distinct policies toward Poles then other nations. Any Pole that was found harboring Jews was executed with the whole household, which includes women and children. No other nation faced the same punishment. People in France for example were punished monetarily. There is simply no comparison. More Poles get honor in Israel for helping Jews then from any other nation.

To Symeon,
Being also Jewish I have a different perspective on this issue. Germany had distinct policies toward Poles then other nations. Any Pole that was found harboring Jews was executed with the whole household, which includes women and children. No other nation faced the same punishment. For example, people in France faced monetary fines for the same offense. There is simply no comparison. More Poles get honor in Israel for helping Jews then from any other nation.

” By the 1920’s and ’30’s the majority of Polish Jews were living in varying degrees of poverty, the result of the overall poor economy of the newly independent Polish state, compounded by government sanctioned anti-Jewish measures such as a 1938 law revoking the citizenship of Polish Jews living abroad. Jews had limited access to Polish universities and professions. They lived in a general climate of anti-semitism which not infrequently flared into violent pogroms. So even before the Nazi occupation, Jews in Poland were isolated from the mainstream and in a poor position to defend themselves against the extremely severe measures that were to follow .”

The policies you are mentioning were no different in Germany, France and England. Anti-Jewish sentiments were visible in every country in Europe at that time. Even United States had discriminatory policies toward Jews.

I was amazed when I read this peice. Now I realize that there is nothing to be suprised about since the world is slowly forgetting the history and certain people and countries will stand to gain by tarnishing and downplaing the true liberators involvement and cause in this case. Let’s drag their names through mud, nobody asked this half dead, imporvished, barely standing soviet army to come to come to the rescue, they only made things worse. This article is downright ridiculous and I hope people realize that. Although this is nothing new to expect this sort of an opinion from a Polish person given their hatred for the Russians.

I knew an Italian man who was extremely grateful to the Red Army and the Russians for his liberation from a Nazi concentration camp .
It’s time for the Poles to come to terms with their own past and stop blaming others for their present shortcomings.
No need to say more .

I was convinced again that Mr. Sobczyk can write only about the hatred to Russia irrespective of a theme of article. It’s not professional at the minimum…

russia, for all that it was a totalitarian government, did liberate auchwitz. they weren’t nazis. uber civilized, tolerant and free, germany turned on a dime into the insane asylum of europe. we still have not been able to really know why. perhaps we never will. the poles, estonians, latvians, rumanians, were only too happy to collaborate. killing a thousand years of european jewry. we’re still here. maybe that’s how g-d wants it. uh oh.

While it is probably impossible to ever know the role of the Russians when they liberated Auschwitz, we do know what happened to Jews returning to Poland after the war. What happened was a series of pogroms and individual murders of thousands of returning Polish Jews. Many of these murders were simply because Polish Jews were reclaiming their property that Poles had simply moved into when the Jews were taken away. As the result of these murders of the Jews by the Poles about half of the returning Jews left Poland by 1948, again abandoning their homes but this time to save their lives from the Poles.

There is no question that many Poles helped Jews but the evidence is undeniable that most Poles were either passive or supportive of the removal of the Jews from their midsts. And this antipathy by Polish catholics is not old news, as recently as last week Polish Bishop Tadeusz Pieronek said in aninterview that the Jews use the Holocaust as “a weapon of propaganda, used to obtain benefits which are often unjustified,” which, in his view, “promotes a certain arrogance that I find unbearable” and then concluded that the “Holocaust as such is a Jewish invention…” The Catholic Church in Poland has as yet to chastise the Bishop for such views.

Russia committed as much evil as did Hitler if not more. They have terrorized populations everywhere they went. In Germany, Russians troops raped incident women and children.

Thanks for bringing new perspective. This totally changes things. I don’t think that anybody in the right mind would like to help anybody and risk their own family lives in the process. Nobody ever mentions that.

Why are Jews judging themselves differently from other people? They did not like the treatment they received in Europe, but they institute the same treatment toward Palestinians. It seems to me we have double standards. Is it Ok then to discriminate against Palestinians?

Jews were discriminated in every part of Europe and Russia prior to WWII. Meanwhile in the Muslim world Jews were respected and left alone to do as they wish. How do they repay the Arabs? By killing incident people and stealing their land. Why? It seems the abuse became the abuser. It seems ironic to say “never again” and you see the current injustice in Palestine and nobody does anything to stop it.

Yes many individuals helped, but too few.

The same kind of dastardly anti-semitic deeds done by many of the bastardly nations of Europe during WWII are being done today. Instead it is now Israel that bears the brunt of these words and actions geared towards wiping Jews from the face of the earth.

It seems these evil nations and peoples have not learned the lessons of the ancient world empires of the Babylonians, Persians, Greeks and Romans which challenged the Jews and were wiped out by God. While you need bulldozers to find the remanents of these empires, the Children of israel live forever.

Greeks and Romans (Italians) are still around. Russia is becoming stronger than ever despite the pogroms. Persians simply changed their name to Iran. Same could be said about the Babylonians, now Iraq. The only nation that was erased from the map was Israel and its people were at the mercy of other nations.

Soviet occupy half of Poland with Ribbentropp-Moltoff Pact…then occupy the whole thing after their Nazi partners decide half of Poland is not enough. Plenty of Blood to go around. Russians demand thanks and respect from Poles for saving them and giving them a Workers Utopia. друзья навсегда

Poland should have never been an independent country. Historically, it never really was. Poles should come to terms with that too. I hope the old Prussian eagle will be once again flying high on the street flags of Danzig!

Russian intelligence agents posing as “Prussians” or Germans (or Jews) are hard at work on this blog. I love the picture of the Wehrmacht officer shaking hands with a Russian “soldier” in the middle of Poland. The Russian looked ecstatic at being able to touch a a human being and the German was wearing gloves – better safe than to get some disease.

The Prussian, you are sick.

No Respect ,

If the Russians did give Poland the ” Workers Utopia ” , what do you think the Germans would have given Poland if they would have won the war ?

@Gerard M , Poland’s Jews did happily and actively help the Russians in the murdering of Polish citizens then and after WW2, circa 100 000 people .So don’t compare to organized pogroms by Bolsheviks NKWD whereas build Communist regime.

@A point to pounder- answer, same slave nation.

Everyone makes the same mistake by equating Prussia with Germany. They are not the same. Please study the history. As for Poland, it gave the most to the world, in terms of human capital, when it was the westernmost Russian province. Right now it seems to be producing mostly plumbers. If we divide Poland with Russians, as we had in the 19th century, the world might start talking about great sons and daughters of Poland again. On the flip side, it might not: The very reason that Poland does not seem to produce much fame nowadays, except plumbers, is because the vast majority of the human capital was of the Jewish origin. Call me a KGB, BND, or Mossad agent all you want, but factually I am right. I work for CIA!

@A point to pounder- same , slave nation. Read the History.

      • :

@The Prussian, yes read history.
New history, for Germany is bad too. WWII, displacement had on his conscience and pacification, destroying and burning houses, whole towns and villages, looting property and destroying national treasures, and the policy and Germanization other nation groups .pakt Ribbentrop – – Molotov), plan of attack on Poland (Fall Weiss “) and the extermination of the Polish nation, developed by the authorities and the central institutions of Nazi Germany long before the aggression III Reich.General East Plan, who founded the displacement of approximately 85% of the remaining (after the war) the surviving Poles and transformation of the Polish state lands in the area of colonization for Germanic peoples and races. During the pacification of these and other places there have been cases of people burning alive. In furtherance of the Nazi policy of extermination of the Polish society the key role played by a system of camps (concentration camps, mass extermination centers, penal camps – Investigative subordinate to the SS and the Gestapo and the relocation camps and transition activities associated with resettlement headquarters, and forced labor camps and special camps for children and adolescents).Thank you prussian.

I believe it is misleading to write or say, “The ___(fill in the name of an ethnic group) did this”, or “The___
(fill in as before) thought this way” (or “had this attitude”). Take any ethnic group that in any way was touched by World War II or the Holocaust. Some in the group acted and thought nobly (refused to go along with any of the perverse ideologies—Naziism or other notions of ethnic superiority to which they were exposed); some acted ignobly (collaborated); while others simply went about their daily lives as before, not actively opposing the Holocaust but not contributing to it either. Also I believe it is wrong to say “Russia did this” or “Germany felt that”, as countries, and groups in general, are abstractions, and, as such, cannot do anything concrete or have any emotions; only human beings, and certain animals, can do these things.

Agreed with von Wittenau. Personally, I am sick of ignorant people equating Prussians and Germans with Nazis. And, moreover, we came to terms with some horrible history. Russians are in the process of coming to terms with Stalinism. Poles, on the other hand, never came to terms with their ignoble past, especially during WWII. I realize that the geographical position of Poland, being stuck between Prussia and Russia, did not leave too much space for maneuver, but it does not mean the country should always prostitute itself to the stronger neighbors. Dutch certainly did not.

To stick with Marcin Sobczyk’s topic, the German and Soviets signed the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact prior to the start of WWII which divided Poland into two parts. Germany declared war and invaded Poland from the West on September 1, 1939 and the Soviets invaded Poland from the East on September 17. So, from the beginnings of the war, the Germans and Soviets were allies. On June 22, 1941, the Germans betrayed their Soviet Allies and invaded them in ‘Operation Barbarossa’. IMPORTANT: From this point on, the Soviets became part of the Allied cause, fighting the Germans and pushing them back West. When the Soviets repelled the Germans into occupied Polish territory, it was on January 27, 1945, “out of convenience”(in my opinion), they liberated the Jews from the Auschwitz Nazi German Concentration Camp in occupied Poland. The Soviets were not under any circumstances in the Auschwitz area specifically to liberate anyone, not even the Jewish people. They did this out of “mere convenience”(again, my opinion) because they happened to be in the area and in favorable military condition to liberate the camps. Otherwise, after the war, the Soviets and their henchmen ruled Poland viciously for over the next 5 decades.

For those of you who enjoy revising history and accusing Poland and Poles of pograms and anti-semitism, you better get your facts straight. Considering on the eve of WWII, Poland had one of the most populous Jewish populations in the entire world, and Jews have been living their for many centuries, this is the true indication of how well Jews felt living in Poland. For, if life was so terrible in Poland for the Jews, you would have never seen such a enormous number of Jews living there for such a long period of time. Given the huge concentration of Jews residing among one of the most Catholic people in Europe, some conflicts between both religions were of course inevitable. However, considering the large scope and numbers of both Catholics and Jews living side by side, the rate of conflicts between the two were suprisingly “low” and for the most part, both groups lived in overall relative harmony. One can say, yes, there was some anti-Jewish feeling among a very small percentage of Catholic Poles, and yes, there were also also anti-Catholic feelings among a small percentage of Jewish Poles as well. Such feelings were attributable to both groups, both Catholic and Jewish Poles, and it was not only one sided. Historically, any so called ‘pogroms’ which were previously mentioned by some on this blog were *usually* instigated by Russians or Germans who occupied Polish lands for many centuries. Regarding alleged pograms which accuse Catholic Poles at Jedwabne and Kielce, the true causes are still disputable until today. Findings by self proclaimed historians like Jan Gross are still inconclusive. At Jedwabne, it was well known that the majority of the Jewish population in that area had Soviet leanings and sympathies, and in Kielce, the alleged pogram there was more likely instigated by the Soviets as to publicly embarrass Poland internationally.

During the post WWII Soviet occupation of Poland, it is well known that a large, disproportianate percentage of Poles and Russians of Jewish origin ran the most vicious security apparatus and tortured, exiled, murderd hundreds of thousands of Catholic Poles. As published in a report by of the Institute of National Remembrance (IPN) from the November 2005 issue of its Bulletin, pages 37–42: ŻYDZI W KIEROWNICTWIE UB, STEREOTYP CZY RZECZYWISTOŚĆ? The following has been concluded:

“The content of the MSW Informator and personnel files of 450 persons occupying managerial positions in the Ministry of Public Security, complemented by data drawn from other sources. [Source: 40] As the results show, in the period of 1944–1954 of the 450 top managers of the Ministry of Public Security (from the head of division up), 167 were of Jewish origin (37.1%). After the MBP (Ministry of Public Security) was dissolved and its place was taken by Kds.BP (Committee for Public Security) in 1954, that number dropped to 86 managerial positions (34.5%). In that period (1944-1956), among the 107 managers and deputy managers of the voivodeship offices of state security, there were 22 of Jewish origin (20.5%). After having included other high positions in the voivodeship offices of the UB/UdsBP (the heads of department and the deputy managers of department), the most persons of Jewish origin were located in the security apparatus of the voivodeships of: Szczecin (18.7%), Wrocław (18.7%), Katowice (14.6%), Łódź (14.2%), Warszawa (13.6%), [Source: 41] Gdańsk (12%), and Lublin (10.1%). In the remaining voivodeships that figure was about 7%, reaching the lowest level in Zielona Góra Voivedeship (3.5%) [Source 42].”

During this period, Jews made up less than 1% of the population in Poland.

Poles living in post WWII Poland do remember Jews such has Jakub Berman and Hillary Minc, who prosecuted and murdered thousands of innocent Polish Catholics. No one single ethnic or religious group are without their imperfections, and there are always the few bad apples in the basket.

In Poland, many pro-British newspapers. In England and now, 70 years ago, traditionally strong sympathy for Nazism.
No wonder Hitler considered the British future allies and copied the methods of the British General Kitchener.
If the be on the pro-Nazi propaganda, it is clear that the Soviet soldiers did not know that Auschwitz-Birkenau, or Auschwitz-Birkenau – an extermination camp.
It became known only later.
At first they thought that this is the usual camp – as the rest of the camp prisoners-as the camp of General Kitchener.

For Poles, Soviet soldiers were the negative relationship – the Poles built all Nazi camps, gave the Germans and Jews fleeing prisoners, often shot in a Soviet soldier and ordered from London, provoked the failure of Warsaw uprising – either to steal the Red Army’s victory or increase the number of dead Soviet soldiers and the inhabitants of Warsaw.

Davids comment(# 2:02 am January 28, 2010) is explaining some myths of WW2, but at the same time, there are some myths about catholic poles and jewish poles, as if at that time jews weren’t catholics and practised exclusively judaism and some readers may think, that all jews lived in ghetos at that time…

USSR was brainwashing state – there were many who naively believed in ideals and there were many others who went through gulags and others who was forced to accept this ideology and as a result whole generation of Soviets has Stockholm syndrome, who still defend previous ideology and take sides of jailers of nations
Let’s think, that Oswencim was just fortunate event for Soviets, as if it wasn’t it had to be made, like Katyn was blamed as deed of germans for almost 50 years

One should ask himself if Poland would be better off under Nazi occupation or under Soviet occupation ?
There are no better occupations… but if you think in terms of “better”, then you can find answer by comparing combined american-brittish-french short occupation of Western part of Germany and Berlin or longer occupation by Soviets of Eastern part of Germany
There are no good or better sides in war… as a matter of fact – war is most dectructive and cruel event for everyone involved and Poland’s fate was decided again in Jalta, this time USSR was making pact with others…

Majority of German soldiers advancing on Poland in 1939 saw no one killed a Polish soldier.
One German soldier was attacking in the forefront wrote in his memoirs that he saw the first Polish soldier killed in 5-day offensive.
The Polish army was running faster than the advancing German troops.
Present Pole distinguish 3 main qualities – cowardice, pride and anti-Semitism.

My best friend in high school was the son of two Polish jews who emigrated to the US after the war, the father had a successful scrap metal business. They met in Auschwitz. their story was that the Soviets just threw open the gates of Auschwitz, what little communication with the prisoners was that they were free to leave. the couple joined a group of prisoners who wandered in the countryside starving. They came upon a farmhouse and knocked on the door. A stout Polish farmwoman answered the door and told the Jews to go away, then slammed the door. Just then, a truckload of Russian soldiers came down the road , jumped out of the truck and pounded on the door. When the woman didn’t open, they smashed the door open and found her hiding. they tore her clothes off to rape her and found she was an SS man in disguise!. they then beat him to death. They piled in the truck and drove off after telling the prisoners they could help themselves to any food they found.

a story from someone who was there, the prisoners were so used to constant death that they thought nothing of it at the time and just wanted to eat, they were grateful that the Russians showed up when they did

To Poles

You may like it or not, but thousands of Russians died liberating your country. Be noble, if you are not strong enough to admit it, just keep quiet.
If after WWII you were “occupied” or occupied at any time in your history, it is your own fault.
Why are you still looking for somebody who prevented you to be a great free country of happy people??? Now, when I read all those comments on terrible Russians, the only obstacle to happy life, I see only angry narrow people with unsatisfied ambitions to be a grate nation. Seems it will never happen

Russian – have you washed today? do you know soap is? Russians make for poor soap.

Russian people was lost 22 000 000, including releasing Poland 650 000

To write it would be desirable reading nothing the author and comments

Ugly creatures moral

There are so many interesting stories about the Holocaust. In college, I studied about Theresienstadt concentration camp and it was amazing how a cultural environment of the prisoners thrived under fascism.

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