The Liberation of Auschwitz, January 1945
The Liberation of Auschwitz, January 1945
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. This photograph is taken from a film shot at the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp by Alexander Vorontsov, a Soviet photographer who accompanied the Red Army during the liberation of the camp.
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. This photograph is taken from a film shot at the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp by Alexander Vorontsov, a Soviet photographer who accompanied the Red Army during the liberation of the camp. Thirteen children appear in the photograph, seven of whom have since been identified either by themselves or others.
Second from the right (partly obscured): Bracha Katz (formerly Berta Weinhaber) was born in 1930 in Bratislava, Slovakia (then Czechoslovakia). Her parents were Elias and Lea Weinhaber, and she had six brothers and sisters. Elias, descended from a long line of rabbis, was the head of the Jewish community of Bratislava.
In April 1944, the Germans entered Bratislava and the Weinhabers were deported to the Sered camp. In June, they were sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau.
When they arrived at the ramp at Birkenau, a Jewish Kapo approached Berta, and told her to pretend that she and her brother Adolf were twins. Even though Adolf was two years her junior, the Germans believed them, and they were taken to Dr. Mengele's medical experimentation block. Adolf did not survive. Berta was liberated by the Red Army on 27 January 1945.
In 1949, she immigrated to Israel with her sister; they were the only members of the family who survived the Holocaust.
Third from the right (front): Shmuel Schelach (formerly Robert Schlesinger) was born in 1934 in Mytna Nova Ves, Czechoslovakia. His parents were Artur and Jolan Schlesinger, and he had one younger brother. In September 1944, Shmuel and his six-year-old brother were sent ahead of their parents to a pre-arranged hiding place in the city of Nitra. Their parents planned to join them there, but were caught by the Germans. After wandering from one hiding place to another without any money to pay those who hid them, Shmuel and his brother were also caught in October 1944. The family was sent to the Sered camp, and from there, they were deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau on 31 October 1944.
Jolan was forced on a death march to Bergen Belsen, and did not survive.
Shmuel and his brother were liberated by the Red Army on 27 January 1945.
After the war, they were housed in an orphanage in Czechoslovakia, where they were eventually reunited with their father. Shmuel immigrated to Israel in 1949.
Third from the right (back): Gabi Neumann was born in Obyce, Czechoslovakia, in 1937. His parents were Jozef and Regina Neumann, and he had two siblings. The family was incarcerated in the Sered camp. They were released for a short time in August 1944, but were caught again and deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau in November 1944. Gabi and his sister survived, and were reunited with their mother after liberation. Gabi immigrated to Israel in 1949.
Fifth and sixth from the right: Sisters Eva Slonim and Marta Wise (née Weiss):
Eva was born in 1931 in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia. Her parents were Eugen Yaakov and Margaret Meital Weis, and she had eight sisters and a brother. During the war, Eva was able to live under an assumed Aryan identity with false papers for a while, but she was eventually arrested in Nitra, and after being severely tortured, she was sent to the Sered camp. On 3 November 1944, she was deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau together with her family.
Eva and her sister Marta (on her left in the photograph) were kept in Mengele’s medical experimentation block together with the twins and dwarfs. They managed to stay alive there until the liberation. In early 1946, Eva moved to Australia.
Marta was born in 1934, and like her sister Eva, she lived under an assumed identity but was eventually arrested, sent to Sered, and from there to Auschwitz.
After the war, Marta moved to Australia. She immigrated to Israel in 1998 and settled in Jerusalem.
Fourth from the left (back): Erika Dohan (née Winter) was born in 1931 in Trnava, Czechoslovakia. Her parents were Viola and Leo Winter, and she had one brother. At the end of August 1944, the Germans invaded Slovakia and Erika and her family went into hiding with a Christian family. They were caught in October 1944, and sent to the Sered camp. On 1 November 1944, the family was deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau.
Erika and her brother were liberated by the Red Army on 27 January 1945. (Her brother is not in the photograph).
In June 1949, Erika immigrated to Israel.
From left: Tomy Shacham (formerly Schwarz), was born in Nitra, Slovakia in 1933. His parents were Henrich and Alzbeta Schwarz, and he had two siblings. In October 1944, the family was taken to the Sered camp in Slovakia, and from there they were deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau in November. Only Tomy and his mother survived. Tomy immigrated to Israel in 1949.
On 27 January 2005, 60 years after they were photographed by their liberators, seven of the 13 children photographed took part in a ceremony in Poland marking 60 years since the liberation of Auschwitz. Gabriel Neumann researched this photo and was then able to recreate the story behind it. He organized the journey of the survivors back to Auschwitz to mark the 60th anniversary of their liberation.
For an article about the return of several of the children in the photograph to Auschwitz 60 years later, click here.