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Seventy-five Years Ago Today....


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I think I'm right in saying that the liberation of Auschwitz passed, at the time, almost without being noticed. I haven't researched this in detail but I do recall noting that in The Times Archive the initial report, astonishingly, amounted to about five lines, tucked away in some obscure part of the newspaper. What other reporting there was, I don't know, and I certainly wasn't conscious of it myself. Was there ever anything in the Birmingham newspapers?

I suppose it wasn't too surprising if this was a non-event. So much else going on at that moment, not least the end of the Battle of the Bulge which had led to 81,000 American casualties; and much else in Western Europe, on the Eastern Front and in the Pacific. Also it was the Soviet Army which was involved and so news, and any detail, was minimal.

So different a few weeks later when the camps in the West were liberated – names we all know now as well: Buchenwald on April 11th , Belsen 15th, Dachau 29th. Journalists and military film crew closely involved almost immediately. I remember very clearly the day when the Daily Mail carried the first reports, almost certainly of Belsen. My parents didn't want to let me see it and hid the paper under an armchair. That ruse didn't work and so, a week after my ninth birthday, I surreptitiously read everything.

I don't know how long it took for a full understanding of Auschwitz to be achieved and become widely known. But I think it took an age. And now it's a name which will never ever be forgotten and nor should it be.