Letters to the Editor

Letter: Remembering Auschwitz

Auschwitz was liberated 75 years ago, on Jan. 27, 1945. Survivor and author Primo Levi described seeing four horsemen from the Soviet Army enter Auschwitz III, a labor camp operating a factory about seven kilometers east of Auschwitz I, the main death camp, around 9 a.m.

The symbolism of four horsemen, at least in Western thought — well, it’s hard to process the image. Who were they? The best guess is lead reconnaissance for the Soviet Army’s 100th Infantry Division. Horses were more reliable on Eastern European roads in the winter. They did not bog down in snow and mud, and you didn’t have to worry about mechanical problems or precarious supply lines for fuel.

Levi described the four horsemen as confused and embarrassed. Somehow that sounds right. Lead elements are supposed to keep an eye on the enemy, maintain contact without conflict. They report back on size, activity, location, unit, time and equipment. No one and nothing could have prepared them for this.

These particular four horsemen probably followed the Krakow rail line west until they stumbled upon the compound’s gates. It’s likely they had ridden through the night, lost track of where the German Army was, and were trying to re-establish contact by following the most probable retreat route, a rail line. They instead found Auschwitz III.

The main body for the 100th Infantry Division arrived later that same day in the mid-afternoon, and began attending to the survivors left by the retreating SS guards. Russian soldiers from the 60th Army of the Ukrainian Front reached Auschwitz I at the same time. The four horsemen were long gone by then, probably still cold, hungry, confused and searching.

Auschwitz was liberated 75 years ago. These benchmark moments come and go with little notice, not unlike the four horsemen. I didn’t see any note in our paper of record. Perhaps I missed it. Perhaps we are a little confused and embarrassed by it all, too. It’s a lot to process. Given Cambodia, Rwanda, Bangladesh, Bosnia and dozens of other places, it’s fair to question what we have learned, or even if we have learned. Maybe we just have to be the four horsemen — keep moving, keep looking, and process it all in time.

— Gregory S. Fisher



Have something on your mind? Send to letters@adn.com or click here to submit via any web browser. Letters under 200 words have the best chance of being published. Writers should disclose any personal or professional connections with the subjects of their letters. Letters are edited for accuracy, clarity and length.