It was 3 p.m. on January 27, 1945, when the Auschwitz concentration camp was liberated by the Soviet Army. The full scope of the Nazi barbarities, which included the extermination of six million Jews, was about to be exposed to the world.

That January afternoon 75 years ago also marks the beginning of the documenting process, the painful but necessary gathering of evidence, accounts, photographs and film that would later be used in the Nuremberg war crimes trials, and stand as the historical record of the Holocaust.

About 1.3 million people (mostly Jews) had been deported to the Polish camp by the Nazi regime. In Auschwitz, 1.1 million people were exterminated. Before they were taken to the gas chamber, they would leave their personal effects behind; eyeglasses, clothing, shoes. These objects were found after the liberation, piled up in the warehouses at the camp.

Liberation of Auschwitz © United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

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