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World marks Auschwitz liberation (BBC) 01/27/05 16:48 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
Holocaust survivors and world leaders have held a ceremony in Poland to mark 60 years since the liberation of the Nazis´ Auschwitz death camp.

The ceremony began with a train whistle on the railway track that brought more than a million people to their deaths.

Survivors gathered in heavy snow next to the site of the German gas chambers, where Jews and others were murdered.

Auschwitz, the largest of the Nazi camps, was liberated by the advancing Soviet army on 27 January 1945.

Israeli President Moshe Katsav called the camp "the largest burial ground of the Jewish people".

"It seems as if we can still hear the dead crying out," he told the crowd.

"When I walk the ground of the concentration camps, I fear that I am walking on the ashes of the victims."

Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski and Russian President Vladimir Putin also spoke. But German President Horst Koehler remained silent, in recognition of Germany´s role as perpetrator of the Holocaust.

As the light began to fade, the Jewish prayer for the dead, the Kaddish was sung. It was followed by Christian prayers - Roman Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant.

Then, former inmates and veterans of the Soviet Red Army led a candle-lighting ceremony to remember the dead.

Some of the elderly survivors had been sitting wrapped in blankets against the driving snow for up to two hours before the ceremony got under way.

Some wore tags displaying their prison number - numbers that are still tattooed on their bodies.

Other world figures at the ceremony included US Vice-President Dick Cheney and UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw.

The anniversary events began in the German capital, Berlin, where parliament held a special ceremony including an address by a German- Jewish camp survivor, Arno Lustiger.

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

At a forum in the Polish city of Krakow, attended by members of the Soviet unit which captured the camp, the Israeli president said the history of the Holocaust should never be distorted.

Mr Katsav warned against "negationists who play down the Holocaust" and called on the European Union to prevent a rebirth of Nazism in young Europeans.


Mr Putin spoke out against anti-Semitism and admitted that it was a problem in his country.

"Even in our country, in Russia, which did more than any to combat fascism, for the victory over fascism, which did most to save the Jewish people, even in our country we sometimes unfortunately see manifestations of this problem and I, too, am ashamed of that," he said.

French President Jacques Chirac, inaugurating an exhibit in honour of French nationals interned in Auschwitz, said his country must bear its responsibility for the deportation of Jews from Nazi- occupied France.

One of the Red Army officers who attended the ceremony at Auschwitz, Anatoly Shapiro, remembers leading his men into the first barracks as they entered the camp.

Mr Shapiro, now 92, told the BBC of the horror that the camp inspired in his men before they set about washing and feeding the survivors:

"Just behind the door, we saw naked women´s bodies piled up. There was blood everywhere. The smell was so bad you couldn´t stay in there for more than five minutes." (© BBC MMV 01/27/05)

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