27 January 2005

A Horrific Lesson...

This is a lesson the World can not afford to forget...


World Marks Auschwitz Liberation

World leaders and Holocaust survivors are gathering in Poland to mark 60 years since the liberation of the Nazis' Auschwitz death camp.

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.

Events to mark the anniversary 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 also took part, reading out poems by a man murdered in Auschwitz.

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

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

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.

Remembering the dead

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.

'Blood everywhere'

One of the Red Army officers due to attend the ceremony, Anatoly Shapiro, remembers leading his men into the first barracks as they entered the death 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. My men said, 'Comrade major, get us out of here.'"

Eva Kor, who was a 10-year-old prisoner at the camp when it was liberated, was subjected to medical experiments by the notorious Dr Josef Mengele.

She recalled for the BBC the moment when the Russians arrived:

"I ran up to them. They hugged us and they gave us chocolate and cookies. And this was the first kind, human gesture that I have in Auschwitz from the time we arrived.

"I was in Auschwitz nine months. I had been supposed to be dead, because Mengele injected me with a deadly germ.

"He stood by my bed and said, 'Too bad. She's so young.' I knew no matter how sick I was, no matter how hungry I was, I was never ever going to let them win."

You can watch a BBC News special programme "Auschwitz Remembered" from 1325 on BBC Two, BBC News 24 and BBC World on Thursday.

Construction began in 1940 on site which grew to 40 sq km (15 sq mile)
At least 1.1 million deaths, 1 million Jewish
Other victims included Polish political prisoners, Roma (Gypsies), Soviet POWs, homosexuals, disabled people and dissidents
Of 7,000 Nazi guards, 750 were prosecuted and punished after the war

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2005/01/27 10:50:39 GMT



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