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At the end of 1944, in the face of the approaching Red Army offensive, the Auschwitz administration set about removing the traces of the crimes that they had committed. They destroyed documents, dismantled some buildings, and burned others down or demolished them with explosives. The orders for the final evacuation and liquidation of the camp were issued in mid-January 1945.
Prisoners capable of marching were evacuated into the depths of the Third Reich in late January 1945, at the moment when Soviet soldiers were liberating Kraków, some 60 kilometers from the camp. Approximately 56,000 men and women prisoners were led out of Auschwitz from January 17-21 in marching columns escorted by heavily armed SS guards. Many prisoners lost their lives during this tragic evacuation, known as the "Death March." On January 27, 1945, Red Army soldiers liberated the few thousand prisoners whom the Germans had left behind in the camp.