Listen

Auschwitz

Alina Dabrowska was 20 years old when she first heard about Auschwitz. She was an inmate at a prison in Nazi-occupied Poland — incarcerated for helping Allied forces — and one day in 1943, while walking the grounds, a new arrival warned her about it.

"She said, 'You're all going to Auschwitz! Do you know what kind of camp that is?' " Dabrowska recalls. "She told us that if someone is out of strength, they were immediately killed. She told us many horrible things. None of us believed her."

Vladimir Munk remembers the day he walked free from Blechhammer, a sub-camp of Auschwitz in eastern Germany.

"I was happy," Munk says. He was sick and starving, but he had survived.

The Soviet Army liberated Auschwitz on Jan. 27, 1945. The concentration camp in Poland is where more than a million people, mostly Jews, were murdered during the Holocaust. This Monday, on the 75th anniversary of the liberation, Munk is traveling back to Auschwitz for the first time since he was imprisoned there.

Bogdan Bartnikowski recalls occasionally asking older inmates, out of innocence or desperation, when he would be released from Auschwitz. He recalls, too, the answer that inevitably came back.

"You want to be free?" they would tell Bartnikowski, who was 12 at the time. After a mirthless laugh, they would point to the chimneys. "This is how you get out. There is no other way out."