Thursday, January 27, 2005

World Leaders Mark Auschwitz Liberation

If we remain silent about the past, the future will be changed forever. The Children of the next century must be educated and taught that this DID in fact happen. And if we are not careful, will happen again. It has happened again... See other (Genocide ) posts I have written previously. Last night I watched another 2 episodes of Auschwitz, Inside the Nazi State. It made me weep. Take a moment to reflect .

By VANESSA GERA, Associated Press Writer

BRZEZINKA, Poland - As candles flickered in the snowy, winter gloom, world leaders and Auschwitz survivors Thursday remembered victims of the Holocaust on the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camp.

AP Photo

AP Photo Photo
AP Photo
Slideshow Slideshow: 60th Anniversary of Auschwitz Liberation

AP Video World Leaders Mark Auschwitz Liberation
(AP Video)

The ceremony, which opened with the recorded rumble of an approaching train, was held on the spot where new arrivals were brought in by rail to the vast camp and put through "selection" — meaning those few who were deemed able to work were separated from the rest who were taken immediately to the gas chambers.

"It seems if you listen hard enough, you can still hear the outcry of horror of the murdered people," 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."

Joining in the commemoration were Vice President Dick Cheney (news - web sites), and presidents Aleksander Kwasniewski of Poland, Vladimir Putin (news - web sites) of Russia, and Jacques Chirac of France. German President Horst Koehler sat on the platform without speaking in recognition of his country's responsibility for the Holocaust, in which 6 million Jews died during World War II.

Barbed wire and brick barracks stretched as far as the eye could see. The ruined crematoriums loomed nearby, all covered with a layer of fresh snow.

Girl Scouts brought blankets to elderly survivors sitting in the freezing cold.

"For a former inmate of Auschwitz, it is an unimaginable and overwhelming emotion to be able to speak in this cemetery without graves, the largest one in the history of Europe," said Wladyslaw Bartoszewski, a survivor who later became Poland's foreign minister.

When he arrived in 1940, he recalled, "I never imagined I would outlive Hitler or survive World War II."

Soviet troops liberated Auschwitz and the neighboring camp at Birkenau, or Brzezinka in Polish, on Jan. 27, 1945. Some 1.5 million people, most of them Jews, had died at the two camps from gassing, starvation, exhaustion, beatings and disease.

Other victims included Soviet prisoners of war, Poles, Gypsies, homosexuals and political opponents of the Nazis.

"We think of the suffering of our brothers, of the special ties that link us, Poles, with the Jewish nation," Kwasniewski said.

Putin compared the Nazis with the terrorists of today.

"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."

The leaders placed candles, in blue glass holders, at a memorial as they left. New Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko made the sign of the cross after gently setting his down.

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.

Putin won long applause when he acknowledged that anti-Semitism and xenophobia had surfaced in Russia, tackling an issue that the Kremlin had long failed to confront directly. Putin said many in the world should be ashamed of new manifestations of anti-Semitism six decades after the defeat of fascism.

"Even in our country, in Russia, which did more than any to combat fascism ... we sometimes unfortunately see manifestations of this problem and I, too, am ashamed of that," Putin said.

Survivor Franciszek Jozefiak, 80, said efforts to educate new generations about the Holocaust should be strengthened.

"Today I'm remembering my father, gassed here. I'm remembering the atrocious things they did to us here," said Jozefiak, who is from Krakow. "I drank water from a dirty pool and, to punish me, an SS man jumped on my arm and broke it and jumped on my chest and broke two ribs."

One day, he said, the Nazi guards lined them up and told some to go right, others left. He went left and his father went right and was taken to the gas chamber.

"The message today is: No more Auschwitz," Jozefiak 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 warned.

Earlier, at a youth forum in Krakow, participants applauded several surviving Soviet soldiers awarded for liberating the camp, and saw a video message from 92-year-old Maj. Anatoly Shapiro, who commanded the Soviet unit that captured Auschwitz. He was too sick to travel from his home in New York.

"I would like to say to all the people on the earth: Unite, and do not permit this evil that was committed," Shapiro said in the recorded greeting. "This should never be repeated, ever."

In Brussels, members of the European Parliament stood in a minute of silence to mark the anniversary.


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