(1913 - 2005)
Lt.-Col. Anatoly Shapiro was a highly decorated Soviet Red Army officer and Ukrainian Jew who commanded the 1085th ‘Tarnopol’ Rifle Regiment that liberated Auschwitz on January 27, 1945.
Shapiro was born in Konstantinograd, Russia on January 18, 1913. He studied engineering in high school before joining the Red Army in 1935. During the war, Shapiro was decorated for gallantry and wounded during the battle of Kursk.
On the morning of the 27th, Shapiro and his men began their siege of Auschwitz and met heavy resistance. After advancing across the Sola River, Shapiro gave the order to enter the camp. By then most of the prisoners had been sent on a death march toward Germany. The soldiers found about 650 corpses inside the barracks and near them — mostly women who died of exhaustion or were shot by the SS the night before. In an interview decades later, Shapiro said:
I had seen many innocent people killed. I had seen hanged people. But I was still unprepared for Auschwitz….The stench was overpowering. It was a women’s barracks, and there were frozen pools of blood, and dead bodies lay on the floor.
In a barracks with the sign Kinder, Shapiro and his men found only two children alive. They found more in the hospital who mistook him for a Nazi soldier there to take them to the gas chambers and screamed, “We are not Jews!” They were Jews. “This was the hardest sight of all,” Shapiro said.
Altogether, the Soviet troops found at least 1,200 emaciated survivors in Auschwitz and another 5,800 at Birkenau. They fed them but most could not eat because they were too malnourished. Ultimately, another soldier said the Red Army managed to save 2,819 inmates in Red Army Military Hospital 2962.
In 1992, Shapiro moved to Long Island. Nearly 80 years old, he decided to write several books on his experiences before his death on October 8, 2005 at the age of 92.
Sources: “Auschwitz hero,” Jerusalem Report, (February 5, 2018):
“Anatoly Shapiro,” Wikipedia.