On January 27,1945, Soviet soldiers arrived at gates of Auschwitz to find 7,500 emaciated prisoners. Seven decades later, the remaining survivors make their way back to Poland. The Holocaust survivors gathered on Tuesday to mark the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp where some 1.1 million people, mostly Jews, were murdered between 1940 and 1945.
The presidents of Austria and Germany, the countries that gave rise to the Nazi party, attended the ceremony. Surprisingly, Russia’s Vladimir Putin, whose country’s men were responsible for the Auschwitz liberation, was not there.
There were around 300 Auschwitz survivors at the commemoration. A decade ago, there were 1,500.
“It is likely the last decade anniversary where significant numbers of actual survivors of Auschwitz and other Nazi concentration camps will attend. This year, the youngest of the 300 who traveled to Poland for the ceremony are in their 70s,” said Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, a reporter who was also in attendance, according to NPR.
Irving Roth, 85, is one of the survivors who attended the commemoration. He can still see A10491, his fading identification number, tattooed on his arm.
Roth was taken from his home in Slovakia and transported to Auschwitz with his family when he was 14 years old. When they arrived, Roth and his brother Bondi were sent into one line of prisoners and his grandparents and cousins into another. The line his other family members were in was sent straight to the gas chamber.
When the Soviet soldiers came to liberate the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp, Roth couldn’t believe it. “Nobody wants to kill me anymore. Wow, I’m going to live. I’m going to reach my 16th birthday,” said Roth, according to an interview with CBS.
Two years after liberation, Roth moved to the United States with his surviving family members. Years later he founded the Holocaust Resource Center in Buffalo, New York.
Roth continues to travel around the country to share his story so that the world never forgets what happened at Auschwitz.