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World marks Auschwitz liberation (BBC) 01/27/05 01:41 GMT)Source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/4210841.stm BBC} BRITISH BROADCASTING COMPANY BBC} BRITISH BROADCASTING COMPANY Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
World leaders are gathering in Poland on Thursday to mark 60 years since the liberation of Auschwitz, the most notorious of the Nazi death camps.

The heads of state of both Israel and Germany will join those of Russia and other countries to remember the arrival of Soviet troops in 1945.

More than a million people, the vast majority of them Jews, were murdered in the Auschwitz "death factory".

Former inmates and Red Army veterans will lead a candle-lighting ceremony.

The anniversary will also be marked in Germany and Israel.

The BBC´s William Horsley notes that since its liberation, Auschwitz has become a unique symbol of the evil that men are capable of, and a warning from history.

Poems from Auschwitz

The start of the ceremony will be signalled by a train whistle at the Auschwitz-Birkenau site where a railway track brought hundreds of thousands to their deaths.

Ecumenical prayers will be said as well as the Jewish prayer for the dead - the Kaddish - and the playing of a Jewish horn - the shofar - will bring the ceremonies to an end

Six former inmates and three Soviet old soldiers will light the first candles at the main memorial there.

Following them will be Israeli President Moshe Katsav, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Polish President Alexander Kwasniewski.

Other world figures will include French President Jacques Chirac, US Vice-President Dick Cheney and UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw.

German President Horst Koehler is due to attend in Auschwitz but will not speak at the main ceremony in recognition of Germany´s role as perpetrator of the Holocaust.

In Berlin, the German parliament will mark the anniversary with an address by a German-Jewish camp survivor, Arno Lustiger.

German poet and singer Biermann will then read out poems by a man murdered in Auschwitz.

´Some cried, some laughed´

One of the Red Army men due to attend the ceremony, Yakov Vinnichenko, told The Associated Press news agency of his impressions.

He and his comrades from the Soviet 322nd Infantry Division cut through the barbed wire and entered the death camp.

"How could people be tortured to make them so frail, skin and bones, that they could hardly stand on their feet?" the Ukrainian old soldier asked.

The Nazis had already evacuated most of their remaining prisoners and the 7,000 who were left behind were "those who couldn´t move", the soldier recalled.

"Some were crying, some were laughing."

Anatoly Shapiro, then a veteran officer, recalled for Reuters news agency the horror the camp inspired in his men before they set about washing and feeding the survivors:

"We saw everything. The chambers used to gas the prisoners, ovens where the bodies were burned. We saw the piles of ash. Some of my men approached me and said ´Major, we cannot stand this. Let´s move on´."

You can watch a BBC News special programme "Auschwitz Remembered" from 1325 on BBC Two, BBC News 24 and BBC World on Thursday. (© BBC MMV 01/27/05)

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