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To General Petrenko and his troops

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  • Andrey
    It is a part of an article in the Russian newspaper “Izvestiia”

    “We found the concentrated camp accidentally”

    Usually the victims of Hitlerite’s genocide, the prisoners of the ghettos and the concentration camps are recalled in January, 27th. But the co-chairman of the Fund “Holocaust” Ilia Altman fairly said that first of all it is necessary to recall about the soldiers who stopped that horrific slaughter, about the soldiers who liberated the prisoners. Their names are known for only few people but our country must know the names of its heroes. Because of the help of the Fund “Holocaust” a correspondent of the “Izvestiia” newspaper met with Colonel in retirement Vasilii Vasilievich Gromadskii. His soldiers and he were the first Soviet soldiers who entered in the Osventsim concentration camp.

    In January, 26th Soviet troops were assaulting the town of Auschwitz. There were stone buildings, lots of German submachine gunners and snipers. Our soldiers bespattered them with grenades and went further. Sometimes they even left some Germans at their rears. Gromadskii recalls that the main task was to go in the West, as soon as possible to go in the West. 18-years old Lieutenant Gromadskii was wounded in his hand in the combat for the town of Auschwitz. Two other soldiers also were slightly wounded. There was a forest behind of the town. Suddenly the forest became to be under an artillery fire. The company went through the forest for about an hour under the artillery fire. Three our soldiers were killed. To 16:00 o’clock the forest disappeared in spite of a map marks. The soldiers found an unknown object, which was enclosed with a barbed wire. Gromadskii recalls: “We had no slightest idea what we had found. We didn’t know anything about the existence of a concentration camp near Auschwitz and, all the more, we didn’t know what happened there.” Gromadskii recalls that a few German submachine gunners fired a few bursts of fire and it became silent around. The Soviet soldiers didn’t see any people. “There was a gate with a lock there, I do not know was it the central entrance or another one. I ordered to force the lock. There was no one inside. We came about 200 meters and saw that the prisoners, about 300 people in striped clothes, were running to us. We pricked up our ears as we were informed that the Germans sometimes change their clothes… But those people were prisoners really. They cried, they embraced us, a woman tried to give us a little sugar. They told that millions of people were murdered here. I still remember how they told us that only the amount of the perambulators that Germans had carried out from Osventsim was 12 carriages. They showed us the chimney of the crematorium and said us that people were burnt down there. They wanted that we to look over the whole camp. I only glanced at a barrack.” Only 40 minutes passed. Then a soldier-messenger arrived and informed that the Germans are advancing to the camp in one and a half kilometers to the north. Gromadskii with his platoon went to repel the German attack. He never was in Osventsim more. But it was Osventsim that is his main memoir about the war: “I spent 9 months in the frontline, I was heavily wounded in March, 30th of 1945 in the region of Ratibor. And the death of a soldier was understandable as he is fighting. We were accustomed to it. But the destruction of children, peaceful people was a shock for me.”

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  • joea
    started a topic To General Petrenko and his troops

    To General Petrenko and his troops

    Didn't see any of the ceremonies about the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz but heard only that one survivor thanked the troops who had actually liberated them. I read a book called "Before and After Auschwitz" by General Vassili Petrenko who wished to answer why there was never a direct order to liberate the camp. Also an essay in the same volume by Ilya Atlman and Claudio Ingerflom called "THe Kremiln and the Holocaust" about Soviet attitudes to the Jewish persecution. As there is soul-searching also here in the West about what could have been done. Of course the Slavic people were in general just a little above Jews for the Nazis. Anyway wanted to salute those brave men who put a direct end to the horror. Will be away for a week but hope to join any discussion when I am back.

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