On 27 January 1945, the Soviet Army liberated Auschwitz. Ivan Martynushkin was one of the liberators of Auschwitz. Below are some excerpts about what he witnessed.
“We beat back the Germans in one village, passed through, and came out onto some kind of enormous field almost completely surrounded by electrified barbed-wire fences and watchtowers, we saw buildings beyond the barbed wire. And as we got closer, we began to see there were people.”
“We saw emaciated, tortured, impoverished people. Those were the people I first encountered…We could tell from their eyes that they were happy to be saved from this hell. Happy that now they weren’t threatened by death in a crematorium. Happy to be freed. And we had the feeling of doing a good deed—liberating these people from this hell.”
“It was hard to watch them. I remember their faces, especially their eyes which betrayed their ordeal. But what did I feel when I saw these people in the camp? I felt compassion and pity understanding how these people’s fate unfolded. Because I could have ended up in the same situation. I fought in the Soviet army. I could have been taken prisoner and they could have also thrown me into the camp.”
“At first there was wariness, on both our part and theirs. But then they apparently figured out who we were and began to welcome us, to signal that they knew who we were and that we shouldn’t be afraid of them, that there were no guards or Germans behind the barbed wire. Only prisoners.”