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60 years of pain (NEW YORK DAILYNEWS) BY ELLEN TUMPOSKY in Krakow, Poland and CORKY SIEMASZKO in New York 01/28/05)Source: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/wn_report/story/275571p-235971c.html NEW YORK DAILY NEWS NEW YORK DAILY NEWS Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
A whistle from a phantom train echoed across the Nazis´ biggest killing ground yesterday and signaled the start of a solemn ceremony marking the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.

Standing in the snow on the spot where cattle cars packed with Jews bound for the gas chambers were unloaded, world leaders listened to a recording of an arriving train before lighting candles for the 1.5 million victims.

"It seems as if we can still hear the dead crying out," Israeli President Moshe Katsav said. "When I walk the ground of the concentration camps, I fear that I am walking on the ashes of the victims."

Braving bitter cold, 1,000 Auschwitz survivors returned to the barbed wire fences that held them, the brick barracks that housed them, the ruined crematoriums where the bodies of their loved ones were burned - and they remembered.

"I had to see it again," said Asya Shindelman, 75, of Jackson Heights, Queens, a survivor of the Stutthoff death camp whose grandmother perished at Auschwitz. "I can never, never, never forget what they did to us only because we were Jewish."

Kazimierz Orlowski, 84, a Polish survivor of Auschwitz, said the torture started when the guards made them don striped uniforms with material as thin as pajamas. "The snow was falling like today, we were dressed in stripes, and some of us had bare feet," he said.

Vice President Cheney was one of 30 world leaders who bowed their heads as Cantor Joseph Malovany of Manhattan´s Fifth Avenue Synagogue sang kaddish, the Jewish prayer for the dead. "The story of the camp reminds us that evil is real," Cheney said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who condemned the anti-Semitism plaguing his country at an earlier ceremony, compared the Nazis to terrorists. "It is equally cruel, it has already claimed thousands of innocent lives," he said.

German President Horst Koehler also lit a candle. But in recognition of his country´s responsibility for the Holocaust, he did not speak.

Most of the prisoners at Auschwitz were Jews, but there were also thousands of Poles, gays, Gypsies and Soviet POWs such as the father of newly elected Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko.

Most of those who passed through Auschwitz went straight to the gas chambers. The lucky ones were stripped, shaved, branded with tattoos and sentenced to slave labor.

Shivering in blankets handed out by girl scouts, the now elderly survivors stood beside the railroad tracks that brought them to die at the camp and marveled they were still alive.

"I never imagined I would survive Hitler or survive World War II," former Polish Foreign Minister Wladyslaw Bartoszewski told fellow survivors. (© 2005 Daily News, L.P. 01/28/05)

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