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In fewer than four years, more than 1.1 million people were killed by Nazi forces at Auschwitz under the command of Adolf Hitler. People were crammed into cattle cars with little food or toilets and transported to Auschwitz in German-occupied Poland. Upon arriving, they were divided into groups—those who could work and those who could not (mostly women and children). As Auschwitz survivor Eli Weisel wrote in his account, Night, Nazi guards issued orders and families were forever separated. “‘Men to the left! Women to the right!’” Weisel wrote, “Eight simple, short words. Yet that was the moment when I left my mother.”

Close to 1 million of those killed at Auschwitz were Jews. Also among the murdered were Roma, Sinti, Jehovah’s Witnesses, homosexuals, the mentally and physically challenged and political prisoners. 

By the time Auschwitz was finally liberated on January 27, 1945 by Soviet troops, Nazis had tried to hide their crimes and forced some 7,000 prisoners away from the camp on a death march. But there was no way to cover up the unprecedented atrocities committed at Auschwitz. 

Listen to HISTORY This Week Podcast: Episode 4: January 27, 1945 Surviving Auschwitz

Watch the HISTORY special, Auschwitz Untold, online or in the HISTORY App now.

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