Saturday, January 27, 2007

January 27

Today is international Holocaust Remembrance Day, marking the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz camp by troops from the Soviet First Army in 1945. When the Soviet forces arrived that day, they found a mere 7000 prisoners remaining at the three Auschwitz facilities. Most of those who remained were desperately ill and dying. The rest of the camp -- as many as 60,000 people -- had been evacuated on January 18, forced to march west in unfathomably cold weather to the city of Wodzislaw. A quarter of the marchers died along the route, shot by SS soldiers for falling behind or collapsing from exhaustion in the snow.

When Soviet troops entered Auschwitz, an 18-year old Hungarian Jew named Bart Stern was among the first survivors they found. Unlike most of his comrades, Stern was healthy, having avoided the death march by hiding out from German troops in a large bread bin. Then -- when the Polish and Ukrainian prisoners in his old barracks refused to let him back in -- Stern spent his nights hiding in one of the crematoria, surrounded by dead bodies, until January 27.

Otto Frank, the father of the famous diarist Anne, was also among those who remained at Auschwitz on that day. He was the only member of his family to survive. Since its construction in 1940, the Auschwitz facility had received roughly 1.3 million prisoners, 90% of whom had been killed.

Six years after the liberation of Auschwitz, the United States tested a 1-kiloton, air-delivered atomic weapon at Frenchman Flats. IT the first atmospheric nuclear test conducted at the Nevada Test Site. Over the next decade, several dozen additional atmospheric tests were carried out in Nevada, with the largest -- a 188-kiloton shot -- taking place in 1958, a year in which the US detonated an average of one nuclear blast for every week of the year.

Photo from Reuters

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