Ref. 75777-3It was 60 years ago today that the notorious concentration camp was liberated. GARETH BETHELL talked to two who survived the Nazis.

It was 60 years ago today that the world gained another glimpse into the horrors of the Nazi concentration camps.

For many people now the stories of the atrocities, of the mass murder of men, women and children are little more than images they have seen on TV.

For some they are not even that.

But there are those in Swindon for whom today's Holocaust Memorial Day has a far greater relevance.

Barbara Sawicka, 79, of Stratton and Jurek Stawarz, 75, of Old Walcot have both been touched by the event in which six million people lost their lives at the hands of Hitler's Nazis.

Mr Stawarz was 11 when he was forced to leave his home in Poland and sent to Siberia while his cousin was sent to Auschwitz after the German invasion of his homeland.

Mrs Sawicka, also originally from Poland, was arrested by the Gestapo the German secret police when she was 16.

Along with her two sisters and one brother she was then sent to a concentration camp in occupied Poland before being moved to another camp in southern Germany.

Despite living through the brutal regime, they were not aware of the extent of the evil taking place in the camps.

"During the war it was such a taboo," Mrs Sawicka said.

"We did not know entirely about the concentration camps. But everybody lost somebody.

"When we worked on the farm at our camp the Gestapo would always say to us, 'if you don't like it here there are worse places we can send you."

Mr Stawarz agreed: "My cousin was taken to Auschwitz right at the very beginning, I think he must have been one of the first people to go. But nobody really knew what it was about.

"There was a sign above the entrance that read 'work will set you free' and often there was a band playing as you went in. People were told they were going to the promised land."

When Mr Stawarz was exiled from home his family had little idea of what was going on.

"We had to leave everything and we were going in to the unknown. We had half-an-hour to get ready.

"The journey took three weeks and many people didn't make it."

His cousin was held at Auschwitz for 11 months before he was moved to Buchenwald, a concentration camp in Germany.

Since the end of the war Mr Stawarz and his cousin have visited Auschwitz on a number of occasions.

"He showed me places and he was so nervous, he was not himself. I thought that he was going to go mad," Mr Stawarz said.

"It all came back to him. He showed me where there were rooms full of glasses and rooms of shoes.

"You feel very uneasy about it walking around Auschwitz. You get the feeling that the ghosts are there."

Although concentration camps like Auschwitz are still standing the number of people who lived to tell the tale is falling with every passing year.

"In another five years or more there won't be anyone who lived through the camps," Mrs Sawicka said.

With this in mind they both agree that Holocaust Memorial Day, which this year takes the theme of 'Survivors, Liberation and Rebuilding Lives' and coincides with the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, is something people should take notice of.

Mr Stawarz said: "It's definitely a good idea to have a memorial day.

"Because the young people, the majority of them, don't know what it is about.

"People like us know what happened but the full horrors in the history places and the libraries are covered in dust.

"There should be more publicity about it. More people should know."

Mrs Sawicka also thinks it is vital if people are to learn from the mistakes of the past.

"People still have not learnt from it," she said.

"It goes on in other countries. It has happened in Yugoslavia and other places.

"It should never happen but it does."

Six million murdered by Nazis

The Holocaust was the systematic murder of Jews by Hitler's Nazi Germany during the Second World War.

Six million people perished.

Gypsies, gays, communists, Soviet prisoners of war, Poles, Jehovah's Witnesses and underground resistance fighters were also exterminated.

Victims were sent to concentration camps.

The Final Solution was a Nazi death sentence on all Jews.

Six death camps were built in occupied Poland to systematically kill Jews who were gassed and their bodies burned in crematoria.

The six camps were at Chelmno, Treblinka, Sobibor, Belzac, Majdanek and Auschwitz.

Between December 1941 and the end of 1944, more than four million people, mainly Jews, were murdered in these six camps alone.

Three-quarters of Hitler's victims died during an 11-month period between March 1942 and February 1943.

More than 9,000 people were killed each day at the height of exterminations at the Auschwitz Concentration Camp.

An estimated 1,100,000 to 1,500,000 people, mostly Jews, were murdered at Auschwitz.

The Nazis wiped out two-thirds of all European Jews.

In Poland the Jewish death toll exceeded three million 90 per cent of Polish Jews.

The first concentration camp was built at Dachau, near Munich, in March 1933, to imprison German communists, socialists, trade unionists and others opposed to the Nazis.

Three others were built in Germany at Buchenwald near Weimar, Sachsenhausen near Berlin, and Ravensbruck. In addition there were other labour camps.

Medical experiments, including sterilisation and castration, were carried out in camps.