TWO rescues in one week. The first one in Europe. “Until the liberation of Auschwitz by the Red Army on 27 January 1945, approximately 1.2 million prisoners had been brought to the camp, about 90% of whom were murdered in gas chambers on their arrival. The liberators of Auschwitz found thousands of survivors, including children.” [https://www.yadvashem.org/holocaust/this-month/january/1945-2.html]
The heroes were not Americans. “The Red Army obtained detailed information about Auschwitz only after the liberation of Cracow, and was therefore unable to reach the gates of Auschwitz before January 27, 1945.”
“About 7 thousand prisoners awaited liberation in the Main Camp, Birkenau, and Monowitz.
Before and soon after January 27, Soviet soldiers liberated about 500 prisoners in the Auschwitz sub-camps in Stara Kuźnia, Blachownia Śląska, Świętochłowice, Wesoła, Libiąż, Jawiszowice, and Jaworzno. Over 230 Soviet soldiers, including the commander of the 472nd regiment, Col. Siemen Lvovich Besprozvanny, died in combat while liberating the Main Camp, Birkenau, Monowitz, and the city of Oświęcim. The majority of them are buried at the municipal cemetery in Oświęcim. In the Main Camp and Birkenau, Soviet soldiers discovered the corpses of about 600 prisoners who had been shot by the withdrawing SS or who had succumbed to exhaustion. [http://auschwitz.org/en/history/liberation/day-of-liberation/]
The second rescue that time was in the Asia-Pacific. “There is no Foreign Legion in the American Army. But there is one particular group composed of daring characters who court death and who are sent on missions behind enemy lines. These are the ‘Rangers’. When sent on missions they do not wear the military uniform in order not to be detected by the enemy, but a special one by which they will not be mistaken for spies.”
“Two of these rangers, one of whom is a Mexican friend of ours, came last night from a humanitarian assignment. They narrated that there are a hundred of them, guided by 200 guerrillas who have penetrated the enemy lines 60 kilometers towards Cabanatuan where some 500 American war prisoners are being detained. After a brief battle all the Japanese soldiers were killed. They had a hard time convincing the prisoners that they had come to liberate, not to kill them. The prisoners could not believe them. Many of the prisoners had to be carried because of their weakness. Two of the rangers and 20 guerrillas were killed in the operations. The liberated prisoners were brought to hospitals in various towns of Pangasinan until they could be transported to their country.”
“No one can explain why there are hardly 500 prisoners in Cabanatuan when there were an estimated 10,000 of them in 1942. How many had died of hunger, sickness or torture, or brought out of the Philippines or died in Japanese boats sunk by American submarines or planes? We doubt if any satisfactory explanation could be made on this. All we have now was a cold fact, as sad as it was eloquent.” [Diary of Juan Labrador, O.P., January 31, 1945]
This second successful Allied operation was in the Philippines. “Major Lapham’s guerrillas in central Luzon played a prominent part in effecting the dramatic rescue of over 500 Allied internees from the ill-famed Cabanatuan prison camp. The first in a series of bold liberations of Allied prisoners from enemy hands, this daring raid was carried out 25 miles behind Japanese lines by a mixed force of 286 guerrillas, 121 troops of the 6th Ranger Infantry, and 13 Alamo Scouts. The guerrillas acted as the eyes of the raiding force to guide it through the brush and as its ears to be on the alert for any surprise flanking movement by the enemy. They constructed roadblocks at the northeast and southwest approaches to the stockade to hold up hostile reinforcements and also arranged for food caches so that the liberated prisoners could be fed at convenient points along the return route.”
“The attack was launched on the night of 30 January 1945. Within 30 minutes the entire Japanese garrison had been wiped out and the last prisoner removed from the prison area.
The Rangers’ return was covered by a guerrilla delaying action which successfully fought off approximately 800 enemy reinforcements sent to assault the strategically placed roadblocks. Meanwhile the litter patients from the camp were transported by guerrilla-organized carabao cart train to Sibul Springs, whence they were evacuated to a hospital at Guimba.” [G-3, HQ Sixth Army, Combat Notes, No. 5, 21 Mar 45, pp. 1-10. Reports of General MacArthur. Chapter X: Guerrilla Activities In The Philippines. The Campaigns Of Macarthur In The Pacific. Volume I. https://history.army.mil/books/wwii/MacArthur%20Reports/MacArthur%20V1/ch10.htm]
These two Allied victories, which were part of the original United Nations’ campaign to eradicate Hitlerism, are celebrated 75 years later. For instance, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stressed last 23 January 2020 at the ceremony of unveiling the Memorial Candle monument dedicated to residents and defenders of besieged Leningrad that the Jewish state would always remember that Auschwitz had been liberated by the Red Army. [https://tass.com/world/1112317] Pope Francis last 26 January 2020 asked the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics to stop for a moment of prayer and reflection on the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz and say “Never Again”. [https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-holocaust-memorial-auschwitz-pope/pope-asks-catholics-to-say-never-again-to-the-holocaust-idUKKBN1ZP0HB]
In addition, Prime Minister Mark Rutte made the Netherlands’ first government apology for the war-time persecution of Jews. He gave an address in Amsterdam in memory of victims of the Holocaust on the eve of the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz. Only 38,000 of the 140,000 Jews who lived in the Netherlands survived World War II…”Seventy-five years after Auschwitz, anti-Semitism is still amongst us. That’s exactly why we fully recognise what happened and say it out loud,” Rutte said. [https://sg.news.yahoo.com/dutch-govt-offers-first-apology-wwii-persecution-jews-194526515.html]
The UN General Assembly 15 years ago had designated 27 January (the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp) as an annual International Day of Commemoration to honor the victims of the Holocaust, and at its 42nd Meeting (AM) the Brazilian delegate Ronaldo Mota Sardenberg had said that the fight against the crime of genocide would only be complete when States adhered to and implemented human rights instruments in both the domestic and international spheres. [https://www.un.org/press/en/2005/ga10413.doc.htm] This year, at the Fifth World
Holocaust Forum in Jerusalem, Israel, United States Vice President Pence said: “When soldiers opened the gates of Auschwitz on January 27, 1945, they found 7,000 half-starved, half-naked prisoners, hundreds of boxes of camp records that documented the greatest mass murder in history. Before the war was over, in its five years of existence, more than 1.1 million men, women, and children would perish at Auschwitz.” [https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/remarks-vice-president-pence-fifth-world-holocaust-forum-jerusalem-israel/]