Dozens of elderly Auschwitz survivors returned to the former Nazi concentration and extermination camp to commemorate International Holocaust Memorial Day, on the 71st anniversary of the camp's liberation by Soviet troops.

They walked through the gate that bears the notorious "Arbeit Macht Frei" (Work Makes You Free) sign and laid wreaths at a former execution site known as the "death wall". Thousands of victims were shot by firing squad at this wall, before methods of mass murder in gas chambers were introduced by the camp's Nazi German administrators.

"I experienced hell on this earth, I'm scared to tell. I have seen the human death, pain and suffering," one survivor, Bronislawa Czeczulowska, told Reuters, showing a tattooed inmate number on her forearm. Jerzy Kucharski, who was 15 years old when he was in the death camp, told Reuters: "The fire from the crematorium chimneys, it is still embedded in the eyes of everyone who saw it."

The theme of this year's anniversary ceremonies is "Returns" and focuses on the return to normal life by liberated survivors after the Second World War.

Around 1.5 million people, mostly Jews, but also Poles, Roma, Soviet prisoners of war, homosexuals and people of other nationalities, were killed at the Nazi camp which has became a symbol of the horrors of the Holocaust.