World leaders mark 60th anniversary of Auschwitz death camp´s liberation (CP-CANADIAN PRESS) Monika Scislowska BRZEZINKA, Poland 01/27/05)
CANADIAN PRESS Articles-Index-Top
BRZEZINKA, Poland (CP) - Snowflakes swirled around the crematoriums
and barbed wire of Auschwitz, and a shrill train whistle pierced the
silence as frail survivors and humbled world leaders remembered the
victims of the Holocaust on Thursday, the 60th anniversary of the
liberation of the Nazi death camp.
Candles flickered in the darkening winter gloom of the sprawling
site, which Israeli President Moshe Katsav called "the capital of the
kingdom of death."
During the Second World War, 1.5 million people - mostly Jews - were
killed at the site in Nazi-occupied Poland. Others who perished there
included Soviet prisoners of war, Poles, Gypsies, Jehovah´s
Witnesses, homosexuals and political opponents of the Nazis.
The haunting commemoration was held at the place where new arrivals
stumbled out of cattle cars and were met by Nazi doctors who chose a
few to be worked to death while the rest were sent immediately to gas
chambers. Others died of starvation, exhaustion, beatings and
"It seems if you listen hard enough, you can still hear the outcry of
horror of the murdered people," Katsav said. "When I walk the ground
of the concentration camps, I fear that I am walking on the ashes of
As night fell and the ceremony ended with a locomotive whistle
blaring over loudspeakers, almost a kilometre of train tracks leading
from the front gate to the crematoriums were set ablaze in a
pyrotechnic display; two flaming rails amid the snow.
The 30 leaders, including U.S. Vice-President Dick Cheney, Presidents
Aleksander Kwasniewski of Poland, Vladimir Putin of Russia, and
Jacques Chirac of France, placed candles shielded in blue lanterns on
a low stone memorial. Soldiers of a Polish honour guard stood stiffly
in the freezing wind. New Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko
gently set down his candle and made the sign of the cross.
Germany´s President Horst Koehler placed a candle but didn´t speak,
in recognition of his country´s responsibility for the Holocaust,
Adolf Hitler´s attempt to wipe out Europe´s Jews. In all, some six
million Jews died in Hitler´s network of camps, while several million
non-Jews also perished.
Soviet troops liberated Auschwitz and neighbouring Birkenau, the
occupiers´ names for Polish Oswiecim and Brzezinka, on Jan. 27, 1945.
Gov. Gen. Adrienne Clarkson represented Canada at the ceremony.
Prime Minister Paul Martin, attending a Liberal party caucus in
Fredericton, said the commemoration is a reminder that the world must
be constantly on guard against hatred and evil.
"While we cannot erase the horrible suffering that took place at
Auschwitz and other concentration camps, we can and we must honour
both those who lost their lives and those who survived," Martin said.
At the ceremony, young girls brought blankets to survivors sitting in
Auschwitz survivor Gabi Neumann, 68, travelled from his home in
Israel and held up a poster that bore the words, "Stop it before it
happens again" and the yellow stars of the European Union flag
distorted to resemble a swastika.
"I made this poster because anti-Semitism is a big problem in
Europe," said Neumann, who was an eight-year-old boy when he was
freed from the camp. Originally from Slovakia, he lost a grandmother
"But she has no grave," he said. "I am happy there is snow here
because it keeps me from standing on her ashes."
Putin compared the Nazis with modern terrorists.
"Today we shall not only remember the past but also be aware of all
the threats of the modern world," he said. "Terrorism is among them,
and it is no less dangerous and cunning than fascism."
Earlier in Krakow, Cheney noted that the Holocaust did not happen in
some far-off place but "in the heart of the civilized world."
"The story of the camps shows that evil is real and must be called by
its name and must be confronted," he said.
People at the ceremony expressed concern over recent incidents such
as a walkout from an Auschwitz commemoration by far-right local
legislators in Germany, and a statement from far-right National Front
leader Jean-Marie Le Pen in France, who minimized the brutality of
Nazi rule during the occupation by German troops. He said it "was not
particularly inhuman, even if there were a few blunders."
Camp survivor Franczisek Jozefiak, 80, said the world still needed
"Today I´m remembering my father, gassed here. I´m remembering the
atrocious things they did to us here," said Jozefiak, who is from
The Nazi guards lined them up and told some to go right, others left,
he said. Jozefiak went left and his father went right and was taken
to the gas chamber.
"The message today is: No more Auschwitz," he said. "But the world
has learned nothing so far - you see they are fighting and killing
each other everywhere in the world.
"Today they are saying a lot because of the anniversary, but tomorrow
they will forget," he said. (Copyright © 2005 CanWest Interactive
Return to Top
MATERIAL REPRODUCED FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY