January 1917 and January 1945

British attacks on the Somme front were stopped during inclement weather. Early January 1917, military operations by both sides were mostly restricted to surviving the rain, snow, fog, mud fields, waterlogged trenches and shell-holes. As preparations for the offensive at Arras continued, the British attempted to keep German attention on the Somme front.

The Fifth Army was instructed by Field Marshall Sir Douglas Haig to prepare systematic attacks to capture portions of the German defences. Short advances could progressively uncover the remaining German positions in the Ancre valley, threaten the German hold on the village of Serre to the north and expose German positions beyond to ground observation.

British operations on the Ancre from 10 January – 22 February 1917, forced the Germans back 5 miles on a 4 mile front ahead the scheduled German retirements of the (Alberich Manoeuvre/Operation Alberich and eventually took 5,284 prisoners.

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Holocaust Memorial Day is marked every year on 27th January, the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau in German-occupied Poland, where around 1.5 million people, most of them Jews, were murdered by the Nazis between 1940 and 1945.

Set up in 1940 by occupying Nazi forces near the town of Oswiecim, in what is now southern Poland, as a labour camp for Poles, Auschwitz gradually became the centrepiece of Nazi Party dictator Adolf Hitler’s “final solution” plan to exterminate the Jews.

Men, women and children – mostly Jewish but also Gypsies, Russians, Poles and homosexuals from all over Nazi-occupied Europe – were transported to Auschwitz in overcrowded cattle trains. Many died of hunger and suffocation during the journey which usually lasted days.

 The scale of the industrialised killing at the camp, the cruelty of the guards and the pseudo-medical experiments conducted on prisoners by Nazi doctors have made Auschwitz synonymous with a coldly efficient genocide and total degradation of humanity.

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