On 17th January 2014, a group of walkers gathered at the gate of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the former German Nazi concentration camp, to embark on a march of death to pay tribute to the last victims of the camp who died during the camp's evacuation in January 1945.
In fear of approaching Red Army, the Germans decided to deport the last surviving Auschwitz prisoners into the Reich from 17th to 21st of January 1945. Despite severe weather conditions and the exhaustion of inmates, approximately fifty-six thousand people were forced out of the camp and herded westwards. German guard officers killed everyone who was unable to keep the pace of the march or who stopped for the call of nature or to do up their shoes. The marches left behind dozens of dead bodies.
Three years ago, the retiree Jan Stolarz, then seventy-one years ago, decided to commemorate the victims by doing exactly the same route. Each year, more people join his initiative. This Friday, they will set off again to march for over seventy-seven kilometres, to reach Wodzisław Śląski where the inmates, who were forced to join death marches, were loaded onto train wagons and shipped into the Third Reich.
By Krzysztof Bielawski
English translation: WJ