Ian (lovingboth) wrote,

A million deaths is a statistic

Today is of course the 70th anniversary of the Red Army's liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau complex of factories, concentration camps and extermination centre. As part of its story on the commemorations there, the BBC website says, "Some 300 Auschwitz survivors returned for the ceremony under a giant tent".

Why does so much of the Holocaust coverage deal with Auschwitz? Obviously, it was the site of about a million murders of Jewish people and several hundred thousand other murders, but that's 'only' a sixth of the Jewish total. A big reason is because there were a significant number of survivors and obvious physical evidence.

What the BBC story doesn't say is that 300 is almost double the total number who made it to May 1945 from the other extermination camps in Poland:

Chełmno - total of murders not known, but somewhere between a quarter and a third of a million. Survivors: seven, not all of whom made it to the end of WWII. For example, one escaped, wrote a report about what he'd seen, then was recaptured and died in...

Bełżec - total of murders not known, probably around half a million. Survivors: seven.

Sobibór - total of murders, about a quarter of a million. Survivors: about seventy, most as a result of a successful rebellion that led to the early closing of the camp.

Treblinka - total of murders, upwards of three quarters of a million, possibly nine hundred thousand. Survivors: about seventy and, again, most as a result of a rebellion.

.. so say 150-160 survivors vs roughly two million deaths. And that's getting to the end of the war alive: almost all of them are now dead.

In their main period, all of these four were just extermination camps: unlike Auschwitz, the overwhelmingly vast majority of people sent there were dead within a couple of hours. Unlike Auschwitz, all used carbon monoxide from exhaust fumes to kill: Chełmno in special vans, the others in gas chambers. And unlike Auschwitz, all were successfully destroyed before the Red Army arrived, leaving things like bits of bone in the soil as the evidence as to what had happened there.

The large majority of rest of the three million were killed by the mobile killing units of the Einsatzgruppen, following the German military into the Baltic republics, the Ukraine and Russia, and in the ghettos. There is even less public awareness about their fate...

This entry was originally posted at http://lovingboth.dreamwidth.org/538396.html, because despite having a permanent account, I have had enough of LJ's current owners trying to be evil. Please comment there using OpenID - comment count unavailable have and if you have an LJ account, you can use it for your OpenID account. Or just join Dreamwidth! It only took a couple of minutes to copy all my entries here to there.

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