Here is a glance at some of the important events that occurred this week many years ago, and their significance in our shared national and international history.
On Jan. 27, 1945, 75 years ago, Auschwitz, the deadliest concentration camp of World War II, was liberated. Following a month-long siege of Poland and the cities of Krakow and Warsaw, the Soviet Army broke through the complex system of death camps at Auschwitz, finding 7,000 starving survivors. The days leading up to the camp’s liberation were some of the worst in the camp’s existence. Seeing the imminent arrival of the Russians, the German Gestapo murdered thousands of Jews, Poles, Romani and Soviets in the final days of Auschwitz, bombing many of the camp’s buildings to destroy the evidence of their monstrous war crimes.
The arrival of Soviet troops at the camp not only saved the lives of those still living, but also made aware to the world the unspeakable horrors committed by the Nazi Regime during WWII. In total, 1.1 million men, women and children were killed at Auschwitz. In honor of the 75th anniversary of the camp’s liberation, 120 remaining Holocaust survivors will honor the great loss this week at the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum in Poland.
On Jan. 28, 1986, 34 years ago, the space shuttle “Challenger” exploded seconds after liftoff in Cape Canaveral, Florida. What was originally supposed to be an exciting day for the American people turned into tragedy when the “Challenger” engulfed in black smoke and fire 73 seconds after leaving the ground. The entirety of the crew was lost, including 39-year-old Christa McAuliffe, a high school social studies teacher from New Hampshire who won a nationwide competition to be the first U.S. civilian to travel in space. Unfortunately this dream was not able to come true, as millions of spectators both on the ground and on television witnessed their untimely deaths. The “Challenger” disaster proved a defining moment of American history, as it severely damaged Americans’ excitement for outer space exploration, halting further development in NASA for many years.
On Feb. 1, 1887, 133 years ago, Hollywood was officially established in the sleepy countryside of Los Angeles County, California. Harvey Wilcox, a wealthy real estate tycoon from Kansas, bought 160 acres of land in the Cahuenga Valley, in hopes of building a profitable ranch for him and his family. His wife Daeida named the farm, “Hollywood,” after a lake in Ohio, despite the fact that English holly cannot grow in the warm climate of sunny southern California. Ironically, the Wilcox family had hoped to establish a utopian-like society on their new ranch, where all citizens would follow strict Christian morals and live sober lives. Wouldn’t they be surprised to see their perfect little community today?
Hollywood would eventually vote to become a neighborhood of Los Angeles in 1910, allowing the motion-picture industry to boom and establish Hollywood as the center of glitz, glamour and fantasy in the modern world. Prospect Avenue, the dirt road dug by Wilcox to connect his farm to L.A. would later be renamed Hollywood Boulevard, and would be home to the legendary Hollywood Walk of Fame, which attracts more than 10 million visitors every year.
Gino Giansanti is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.