At Snow-Swept Auschwitz, World Stops to Remember (REUTERS) By Sabina Zawadzki OSWIECIM, Poland 01/27/05 10:31 AM ET)
Reuters News Service
Reuters News Service Articles-Index-Top
OSWIECIM, Poland (Reuters) - World leaders and survivors stopped to
remember the horror of the Holocaust on Thursday at a snow-swept
ceremony in Auschwitz-Birkenau on the 60th anniversary of the
liberation of the Nazi death camp.
Surrounded by barbed wire fences and remnants of the killing machine
used to gas and incinerate some of the six million Jews who died in
the Holocaust, the leaders vowed that the World War II atrocity must
never be forgotten.
Up to 1.5 million people died in the gas chambers and crematoria of
Auschwitz-Birkenau, set up by Nazi Germany in occupied Poland during
World War II as the main center of their "Final Solution," the
genocide of European Jews.
Auschwitz was liberated on Jan. 27, 1945, by the advancing Soviet
army whose stunned soldiers released 7,000 emaciated prisoners left
behind as the Germans withdrew.
"The snow was falling like today, we were dressed in stripes and
some of us had bare feet," Polish survivor Kazimierz Orlowski, 84,
said. "These were horrible times."
Candles were lit along the snow-covered rail tracks used during the
war to take Jews and others in cattle trains to the camp, where many
were gassed to death on arrival.
A whistle, the sound of a stopping train and door being flung open
were played at the start of the ceremony in Birkenau, the camp´s
main extermination center, to symbolize the arrival of the Nazi
Elderly survivors, many accompanied by younger relatives, and some
wrapped in blankets to keep warm, walked slowly past the rusting
wire fences under a dark gray sky and heavily falling snow toward a
monument to the victims.
"I am not here to talk about what happened. My only aim is to light
a candle for my mother, whose ashes are who knows where in this
camp," said Jan Wojciech Topolewski, a former prisoner whose mother
died in Auschwitz.
Next to the ruins of crematoria, huge flames were burning in memory
of the victims.
"I want to say to all people around the world -- this should not
happen again," said Anatoly Shapiro, the commander of the troops who
first entered Auschwitz.
"I saw the faces of the people we liberated -- they went through
hell," he told an earlier ceremony in the southern Polish city of
Krakow, some 70 km (44 miles) from Auschwitz.
VICTIMS, PERPETRATORS AND LIBERATORS
Among the more than 30 heads of state attending the ceremonies were
the presidents of Israel, Germany and Russia, representing the
victims, the perpetrators and the liberators.
"The story of the camps reminds us that evil is real and must be
called by its name and confronted," Vice President Dick Cheney said
"We are reminded that anti-Semitism may begin with words but rarely
stops with words and the message of intolerance and hatred must be
opposed before it turns into acts of horror."
The guilt many European nations still feel at either complicity or
indifference during the Holocaust has prompted fresh vows of "never
again" from their leaders.
But such assurances come against a background of resurging anti-
Semitism in Europe, recent mass-killings in Africa and Bosnia and
the fading memory of the horrors as the war-scarred generation
Jewish leaders urged Europeans not to erase the history of Auschwitz
from their conscience and resist "new anti-Semitism," on the rise in
response to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
"We fear anti-Semitism. We fear Holocaust denial, we fear a
distorted approach by the youth of Europe," Israeli President Moshe
French President Jacques Chirac, the first French leader to
acknowledge France´s complicity in the Holocaust, said the European
Union would stand united to counter anti-Semitism.
Set up in 1940 by the occupying Nazis, Auschwitz was initially a
labor camp for Polish prisoners but grew into a death factory for
European Jews shipped there from around Europe and Russia. At its
peak the camp could hold 400,000 people.
More than one million Jews were killed but Gypsies, Poles, Russians
also died in the camp. Hundreds were subjected to medical
experiments by Nazi doctors trying to prove theories of Aryan
supremacy. (Additional reporting by Wojciech Zurawski, Ron Popeski
and Natalia Reiter) (© Reuters 2005 01/27/05)
Return to Top
MATERIAL REPRODUCED FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY