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Nazi Concentration Camps

When and why were people forced on death marches at Auschwitz?


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May 16, 2012 10:07PM

In November of 1944, in the face of the approaching allied Red Army, Himmler ordered gassings to stop and for a "clean-up" operation to be put in place in order to conceal traces of the mass murder and other crimes that they had committed. The Nazi's destroyed documents and dismantled, burned down or blew up the vast majority of buildings.

The orders for the final evacuation and liquidation of the camp were issued in mid-January 1945. The Germans left behind in the main Auschwitz camp, Birkenau and in Monowitz about 7,000 sick or incapacitated who they did not expect would live for long; the rest, approximately 58,000 people, were evacuated by foot into the depths of the Third Reich.

Those prisoners capable, began forcibly marching at the moment when Soviet soldiers were liberating Cracow, some 60 kilometers from the camp. In marching columns escorted by heavily armed SS guards, these 58,000 men and women prisoners were led out of Auschwitz from January 17-21. Many prisoners lost their lives during this tragic evacuation, known as the "Death March."