Nearly 70 years ago, the 7,000 living inhabitants of the Auschwitz camp system were liberated from the facility by Soviet soldiers.
Deborah Cardin, assistant director of the Jewish Museum of Maryland, said the liberation is one of the key moments in modern Jewish history.
"This is a really milestone event. Auschwitz, for many people, is a symbol of the system of death camps," Cardin said. "It certainly was a seminal event to experience that liberation. We felt it was important to remember and commemorate the experience."
Sunday, Jan. 25, the museum will feature a commemoration of the liberation of Auschwitz, entitled "A Town Known as Auschwitz: The Life and Death of a Jewish Community." The event will feature a speech from Shiri Sandler, director of the Auschwitz Jewish Center in Oswiecim, Poland, the site of the facility. Sandler will discuss the current exhibition at the Museum of Jewish History, New York City.
The speech will discuss the history of the town of Oswiecim — known by the Germans as Auschwitz — from the 16th century through the post-war period. The speech will feature photographs of the town and of the Jewish residents who inhabited the town for centuries.
According to the Museum of Jewish History, Oswiecim was founded in the mid-13th century, finally growing into a mid-sized market town with a sizable German population by the end of the 1300s. Between the 1200s and 1600s, Jewish settlers began migrating to the area from central Europe. By the 1860s, they made up half of the town's population.
According to the United States Holocaust Museum, the Nazis first occupied the town in September 1939 and annexed it into the Third Reich. During this time, the Auschwitz death camps were constructed, and the first Jewish prisoners were sent on June 14, 1940.
Auschwitz was the largest camp established by the Germans during World War II. The complex was split into three main components, a killing center, concentration camps and slave labor camps.
In total, it is estimated that 1.1 million Jews, 150,000 Polish citizens, 23,000 Roma and Sinti, and 15,000 Soviet prisoners of war joined 25,000 other prisoners at the Auschwitz camp complex. Of these totals, it is estimated at least 960,000 Jews were killed at the facility along with 74,000 Poles, 21,000 Roma, 15,000 Soviets and 10,000 to 15,000 additional prisoners.
The camp was liberated Jan. 27, 1945 by Soviet forces. By the time the Soviets had arrived, though, only around 7,000 prisoners remained, as the SS began evacuation of the site Jan. 18 as word of the coming Soviet forces reached them. Nearly 60,000 prisoners were forced to march from the camp to the city of Wodzislaw, a 38-mile walk, during which 15,000 prisoners were killed for falling behind or from the stress of travel.
Following the liberation of the Auschwitz camp, 77 survivors returned to Oswiecim. More than 90 percent of the town's Jewish population had been killed in the camps.
Reach staff writer Jacob deNobel at 410-857-7890 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
If You Go
What: "A Town Known as Auschwitz: The Life and Death of a Jewish Community"
When: 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 25
Where: Jewish Museum of Maryland, 15 Lloyd St., Baltimore
Cost: $8 general admission, $6 seniors older than 65, $4 students, $3 for students younger than 12
For more information: Visit or call 410-732-6400