Today, January 27th, which marks the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz Death Camp by Soviet troops, falls out on the first of the Hebrew month of Shevat, which, according to one opinion in the Mishnah, is the beginning of the spring season. How appropriate! The Red Army arrived on this day and liberated the 7,000 prisoners who were still in the camp. Another 60,000 prisoners had been removed from the camp by the Nazis and sent on the infamous death march.

Auschwitz included a concentration camp, a killing center, and forced-labor camps. It was located 37 miles west of Krakow (Cracow), near the prewar German-Polish border. It is estimated that a minimum of 1.3 million people were deported to Auschwitz between 1940 and 1945; of these, at least 1.1 million were murdered.

The horrors of the depravity that Jews experienced at Auschwitz is described simply as “Night” by renowned survivor and historian, Elie Wiesel. The odyssey from this depravity, to the successful emergence of the State of Israel and the rebuilding of strong Jewish communities world-wide, including some in Eastern Europe, is nothing short of miraculous. As a result, this historically significant day, January 27th, has been designated as International Holocaust Remembrance Day,* a proposal that was put forth by the State of Israel 15 years ago.

Given the significance of this year’s anniversary, the Israeli government hosted the Fifth World Holocaust Forum at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Remembrance Center in Jerusalem. This year’s forum includes over 40 world leaders, representing top level officials from the protagonists of both sides of World War II, including the United States, Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Russia, Italy, and of course, an Israeli delegation headed by president Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The meeting, titled, “Remembering the Holocaust, Fighting Anti-Semitism,” is expected to be the biggest political event that has ever taken place in Israel. Holocaust survivor and Chairman of the Yad Vashem Council, Rabbi Israel Meir Lau, the former Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi of Israel and currently the Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv, will be among the speakers.

*It should be noted that since 1953, Jews have observed a special Holocaust memorial day on the 27th of Nissan, which has been designated by the State of Israel as Yom Hashoah. Many traditional Jews mourn those who perished in the Holocaust on Tisha b’Av, the ninth of Av.

This Jewish Treat includes materials previously published in the following Jewish Treats:

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