Survivors and their relatives walk through the gates of the Auschwitz Nazi concentration camp to attend the 75th anniversary of its liberation in Oswiecim, Poland, Monday, Jan. 27, 2020. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

Survivors mark 75th anniversary of Auschwitz camp liberation

Most of the 1.1 million people murdered by the Nazi German forces at the camp were Jews

Survivors of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp prayed and wept as they marked the 75th anniversary of its liberation, returning Monday to the place where they lost entire families and warning about the ominous growth of anti-Semitism and hatred in the world.

“We have with us the last living survivors, the last among those who saw the Holocaust with their own eyes,” Polish President Andrzej Duda told those at the commemoration, which included the German president as well as Jewish, Christian and Muslim leaders.

“The magnitude of the crime perpetrated in this place is terrifying, but we must not look away from it and we must never forget it,” Duda said.

About 200 camp survivors attended, many of them elderly Jews and non-Jews who travelled from Israel, the United States, Australia, Peru, Russia, Slovenia and elsewhere. Many lost parents and grandparents in Auschwitz or other Nazi death camps during World War II, but were joined by children, grandchildren and even great-grandchildren.

They gathered under an enormous, heated tent straddling the train tracks that had transported people to Birkenau, the part of the vast complex where most of the murdered Jews were killed in gas chambers and then cremated. Auschwitz was liberated by the Soviet army on Jan. 27, 1945.

Ronald Lauder, the president of the World Jewish Congress, brought the crowd to tears with the story of a survivor who was separated from his family: The man watched his young daughter, in a red coat, walk to her death, turning into a small red dot in the distance before disappearing forever.

After the end of the war, when “the world finally saw pictures of gas chambers, nobody in their right mind wanted to be associated with the Nazis,” he recalled. “But now I see something I never thought I would see in my lifetime, the open and brazen spread of anti-Jewish hatred.”

“Do not be silent! Do not be complacent! Do not let this ever happen again – to any people!” Lauder said.

As a Jewish survivor recited Hebrew prayers for the dead, the crowd bowed their heads or wiped away tears. Clergymen of other faiths also prayed.

Then, with the famous gate and barbed wire illuminated in the dark and cold evening, guests marched in a procession to place candles at a memorial to the victims set amid the remains of the gas chambers.

Most of the 1.1 million people murdered by the Nazi German forces at the camp were Jews, but other Poles, Russians and Roma were imprisoned and killed there.

READ MORE: Anti-Semitic attacks spike, killing most Jews in decades

A 96-year-old survivor, Jeanette Spiegel, was 20 when she was brought to Auschwitz, where she spent nine months. Today she lives in New York and is fearful of rising anti-Semitic violence in the United States.

“I think they pick on the Jews because we are such a small minority and it is easy to pick on us,” she said, fighting back tears. “Young people should understand that nothing is for sure, that some terrible things can happen and they have to be very careful. And that, God forbid, what happened to the Jewish people then should never be repeated.”

The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Holocaust

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Yevgeny Kovalev, one of the Auschwitz concentration camp’s survivors, shows the camp’s identification number tattooed on his arm, during an interview with the Associated Press at his flat in Moscow, Russia. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

A person lights a candle at the Auschwitz Nazi death camp in Oswiecim, Poland, Monday, Jan. 27, 2020. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

Honour guard soldiers attend a wreath laying ceremony at the Holocaust memorial in Bucharest, Romania, Monday, Jan. 27, 2020. (AP Photo/Andreea Alexandru)

Just Posted

Disaster Aid Canada Receives $60,000 in Donations for Australian Bushfire Relief

Rotary Clubs in the affected areas will be able to apply for rebuilding funds for local projects

Vehicles and welding machines recovered from theft at Geo-Tech Industries

Suspects still not identified from early Tuesday morning break-in at Crofton business

Ladysmith Maritime Society replacing 800-feet of dock at Ladysmith Community Marina

Work on the dock is ongoing, and expected to finish by April 2020

Wonderettes bring the fun while belting out the hits

Four-part harmonies in Chemainus Theatre production sure to be music to your ears

VIDEO: 7 things you need to know about the 2020 B.C. budget

Surplus of $227 million with big spending on infrastructure and capital projects

Trees Cannabis director fined $1.5M for selling marijuana

Fine follows provincial crackdown on popular dispensary

World Cup skier from Okanagan dies suddenly at 19

Kuroda, who made his World Cup debut earlier this year, passed away suddenly Monday night.

Coastal GasLink pipeline investor committed to closing deal despite protests

Developer TC Energy Corp. — formerly TransCanada Corp. — is to remain the operator of the $6.6-billion pipeline

New highway proposed between Alberta and B.C.

The route would connect Red Deer to Kamloops

What’s in a name? The story of Revelstoke’s Mt. Begbie

It’s likely the iconic peak had several Indigenous peoples’ names before settlers arrived

Budget 2020: B.C. Liberals blast ‘Netflix tax,’ lack of economic plan

ICBC rates still go up, except in election year, Shirley Bond says

Teen snowmobiler from Kelowna found after air force’s overnight search

The teen had been missing since just after 6 p.m. on Monday

Two law enforcement trucks ‘deliberately’ set on fire in northern B.C., RCMP say

Police say they have video evidence of a person in the area of the truck fires

Most Read