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MOSCOW, January 26. /TASS/. The former prisoner of Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi concentration camp in Oswiecim, Alexandra Garbuzova, and WWII veterans Leonid Brandt and Ivan Martinushkin, who liberated the Auschwitz prisoners, have been awarded commemorative medals issued by the Russian Jewish Congress (REK), its press service said Monday. The awards, issued by REK by the 70st anniversary of victory in WWII, were handed in to the laureates by REK President Yury Kanner.
"All of us should remember not only the victims, but the liberator soldiers. The date when the Auschwitz prisoners were liberated is particularly important for Russia: it was Soviet soldiers who liberated the death camp — Auschwitz , on January 27, 1945; in many countries this date is associated in the minds of the people with the exploit of the Soviet soldiers," Kanner said.
The Red army which put an end to Nazi atrocities had more than 500,000 ethnic Jews in its ranks, including 200,000 killed on war fronts; around 161,000 Soviet soldiers — ethnic Jews, were awarded WWII medals and orders for valor, Kanner said.
The medals to the former Auschwitz prisoner and the two WWII veterans were awarded on the eve of the International Day of commemorating Holocaust victims observed on January 27 in accordance with a UN resolution passed in 2005.
More than 200,000 Soviet soldiers were killed, fighting for the liberation of Auschwitz prisoners and the neighboring town of Oswiecim in the south of Poland, which was the home for the biggest Nazi concentration camp from 1941 until 1945. According to different sources, Nazis tortured to death from 1.5 to 2 million people of different nationalities, including a million ethnic Jews and around 15,000 Soviet prisoners of war and representatives of the Polish intelligentsia.