Leaders mark Auschwitz liberation

  1. Leaders mark Auschwitz liberation

    KRAKOW, Poland -- World leaders have joined elderly Holocaust survivors in Poland to mark the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camp Auschwitz.

    Thursday's ceremony at the site of the main death factory at Birkenau started with the mournful whistle of an imaginary train on the tracks that brought more than a million deportees to the camp.

    Candles flickered atop the track leading into the vast, snow-covered camp amid a steady snowfall and sub-freezing temperatures.

    Elderly survivors, many accompanied by younger relatives, attended the ceremony between the rusting barbed-wire fences, facing a monument to the victims.

    "I am not here to talk about what happened. My only aim is to light a candle for my mother, whose ashes are who knows where in this camp," said Jan Wojciech Topolewski, a former prisoner whose mother died in Auschwitz.

    Girl Scouts brought blankets and coffee to the survivors sitting in the freezing weather.

    "Today I'm remembering my father, gassed here. I'm remembering the atrocious things they did to us here," said Franciszek Jozefiak, 80.

    "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."

    Before the ceremony, survivors and officials met in nearby Krakow for a Holocaust forum, where they heard from one of the Soviet liberators.

    "I would like to say to all the people on the earth: This should never be repeated, ever," said Maj. Anatoly Shapiro, 92, who commanded the first troops who entered Auschwitz.

    "I saw the faces of the people we liberated -- they went through hell," he said in a recorded video greeting from New York, where he lives. Shapiro was too ill to travel to the commemoration.

    The forum at Krakow's Slovacki theater opened with applause for Shapiro and three other Soviet army veterans who helped liberate Auschwitz on January 27, 1945.

    Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski awarded one of the veterans, Yakov Vinnichenko, the Polish Officer's Cross. Two others, Genri Koptev-Gomolov and Nikolai Chertkov, were awarded the Cavalry Cross of the Polish Republic, The Associated Press reported.

    "These commemorations are intended to promote knowledge of Auschwitz as widely as possible and bring the truth about the camps to the younger generation," Kwasniewski told Polish state radio, Reuters reported.

    Russian President Vladimir Putin acknowledged to the gathering that anti-Semitism and xenophobia had surfaced in his country.

    Tackling an issue the Kremlin has been accused of failing 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, AP reported.

    "Even in our country, in Russia, which did more than any to combat fascism, for the victory of fascism, which did most to save the Jewish people, even in our country we sometimes unfortunately see manifestations of this problem and I, too, am ashamed of that," Putin said to long applause.

    Israeli President Moshe Katsav reminded the Krakow gathering that Auschwitz is now part of the European Union, which Poland joined last year.

    "Auschwitz must be placed in the central place of collective memory of the reunited Europe," AP quoted Katsav as saying.

    U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney told the gathering 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.

    "We are reminded that anti-Semitism may begin with words but rarely stops with words and the message of intolerance and hatred must be opposed before it turns into acts of horror."

    Ukraine's newly elected president, Viktor Yushchenko, was greeted with a standing ovation when he entered the hall.

    He said he brought his children to the event and spoke of his father, a wounded Soviet prisoner of war who survived Auschwitz.

    "This is a sacred place for me and my family," Yushchenko said. "This is a place where Andrei Yushchenko, my father, suffered. There will never be a Jewish question in my country, I vow that."

    Candle lighting
    Following the forum, the leaders, survivors and liberators headed to the infamous rail siding at Birkenau, where they will light candles as part of the official commemoration ceremony.

    In Brussels, members of the European Parliament stood in a minute of silence to pay tribute to the victims of the Holocaust and to mark the anniversary.

    "Everyone is surprised such a thing happened, but it did," said EU Parliament President Josep Borrell. "It's difficult to pay just memory to it. It is a battle against the weakness of memory, something which should never happen again."

    The EU assembly then passed a resolution by 617 votes to 0, with 10 abstentions, condemning anti-Semitism and racism and paying homage to the victims of Nazi Germany, AP reported.

    And in Germany, a Holocaust survivor warned his countrymen to be vigilant against anti-Semitism, particularly in the Muslim world. Arno Lustiger told German leaders gathered in parliament for the national Holocaust Remembrance Day that everyone must fight anti-Semitism, AP reported.

    "The hate toward Israel and its people, the denial of the right to life of the Jewish state by the Arab-Muslim world, the violence against Jews and their institutions fills me with pain and anger," Lustiger said.

    "Anti-Semitism and particularly its Islamic stamp should not just be the concern of the Jews because forces are working in Europe that want to bomb our civilization back into the Middle Ages," he said.

    Parliament president Wolfgang Thierse called on Germans to fight continued anti-Semitism in Germany, especially in light of the regional resurgence of the far-right National Democratic Party -- which took nearly 10 percent of the vote in elections in the eastern state of Saxony last year.

    'Death march'
    Birkenau -- the largest of the camps at Auschwitz -- is where Nazi doctors decided which deportees would be sent to forced labor and which would be condemned to immediate death in the gas chambers.

    An estimated 1.1 million to 1.5 million people, most of the Jews, were killed in the gas chambers or died of disease, starvation, abuse and exhaustion at Auschwitz.

    When Soviet troops reached the camp 60 years ago, they found some 7,000 survivors, many barely alive.

    The retreating Nazis had destroyed the gas chambers and crematoria and many of the barracks, and forced most of the remaining prisoners into the snow on a "death march" to camps further west.

    Auschwitz is the most notorious of the death camps set up by Adolf Hitler to carry out his "final solution," the murder of Europe's Jewish population.

    Six million Jews died in the Nazi camps, along with several million others, including Soviet prisoners of war, Gypsies, homosexuals and political opponents of the Nazis.

    Find this article at:
    http://www.cnn.com/2005/WORLD/europe...ary/index.html
    •  
  2. 27 Comments

  3. by   Roy Fokker
    "Arbeit Macht Frei"

    "Work will set you free" - horror that cannot be comprehended was what the KLs and ALs were.

    The Soviets were the first to discover and liberate these camps. Many untold millions lie buried in the soils of western Russia, the Ukrain and Poland - scenes which witnessed both the great terror, famine and purges under Stalin and the Vernichtungskrieg (War of Annihilation) launched by Hitler.

    The ironic result of Hitler's Endlosung was the creation of the Jewish State.

    I do however note the trend of labeling anyone who disagrees with Israel or Zionism as being an anti-Semite. (Funnily enough, the Arabs are also a Semitic people).
  4. by   fergus51
    My grandma was from a Polish, Jewish family and fortunately immigrated to Canada in the 30s. I went to Auschwitz when I was 18 and I will never forget that experience.
  5. by   URO-RN
    My family and I plan a trip there in the next couple of years.
    It's one thing to read it in books, watch it on TV or movies or museums. To actually be there will be a life changing experience. Never forget.
  6. by   Roy Fokker
    I'm a long-standing member of a historical community that deals with the Axis side of the two World Wars (No, we are not nazi lovers or anything. We are trying to find out how and why the things that happened, happened. Trying to get the "other perspective" so to speak).

    We have an excellent section dedicated to Holocaust and Warcrimes research.

    If anyone is interested, I can post and ask our Polish members there on how one might go about planning such a trip or at the very least - tups.
  7. by   bluesky
    My great-grandfather and great grandmother died at Auschwitz. Other relatives went to Matthausen in Austria.
    My husband is a 1st generation (non-jewish) polish emigre and I can tell you that my experience is that MANY poles are still quite anti-semitic and refuse to acknowledge any kind of historical complicity with the germans even though many of the camps were in Poland. Whenever you mention it they get all upset and bitter because they feel that their suffering under Stalinism has gone unnoticed and therefore somehow all the jews who died are not deserving of any sympathy.

    I do agree that the state of Israel is itself engaged in the highest form of Hypocrisy with its oppression of the Palistinians.
  8. by   fergus51
    I've noticed that too Bluesky, and with Czech friends and family members as well. I think no one would have tried to stop Hitler had he just stayed within his own borders (or stopped after taking over Czechoslovakia) and killed Jews. Many of the countries that suffered and sacrificed to rid the world of the Nazis had very antisemitic societies themselves. That's particularly evident with Russia and its history of pogroms prior to the war.
    Last edit by fergus51 on Jan 29, '05
  9. by   BeachNurse
    Quote from bluesky
    My great-grandfather and great grandmother died at Auschwitz. Other relatives went to Matthausen in Austria.
    My husband is a 1st generation (non-jewish) polish emigre and I can tell you that my experience is that MANY poles are still quite anti-semitic and refuse to acknowledge any kind of historical complicity with the germans even though many of the camps were in Poland. Whenever you mention it they get all upset and bitter because they feel that their suffering under Stalinism has gone unnoticed and therefore somehow all the jews who died are not deserving of any sympathy.

    I do agree that the state of Israel is itself engaged in the highest form of Hypocrisy with its oppression of the Palistinians.
    Surely when you say "hypocrisy" you cannot be comparing Israelis to Nazis. ?
  10. by   Roy Fokker
    Quote from BeachNurse
    Surely when you say "hypocrisy" you cannot be comparing Israelis to Nazis. ?
    Some would claim that with the building of the wall and the other internment and concentration camps for Palestinians, indiscriminate rocket and artillery fire, the behaviour borders on such (calling them Nazis might certainly be a stretch though).

    Neither side is innocent there.

    Unfortunately, it's become fashionable to label someone who has misgivings about Israeli actions as an "anti-semite" or a "jew hater".
  11. by   URO-RN
    Hopefully, now that Arafat is gone, and the new PM is making an effort to reel in the Palestinian terrorists, they will have a productive meeting w/Israel next month.
  12. by   Mkue
    Quote from BeachNurse
    Leaders mark Auschwitz liberation

    KRAKOW, Poland -- World leaders have joined elderly Holocaust survivors in Poland to mark the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camp Auschwitz.

    Thursday's ceremony at the site of the main death factory at Birkenau started with the mournful whistle of an imaginary train on the tracks that brought more than a million deportees to the camp.

    Candles flickered atop the track leading into the vast, snow-covered camp amid a steady snowfall and sub-freezing temperatures.

    Elderly survivors, many accompanied by younger relatives, attended the ceremony between the rusting barbed-wire fences, facing a monument to the victims.

    "I am not here to talk about what happened. My only aim is to light a candle for my mother, whose ashes are who knows where in this camp," said Jan Wojciech Topolewski, a former prisoner whose mother died in Auschwitz.

    Girl Scouts brought blankets and coffee to the survivors sitting in the freezing weather.

    "Today I'm remembering my father, gassed here. I'm remembering the atrocious things they did to us here," said Franciszek Jozefiak, 80.

    "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."

    Before the ceremony, survivors and officials met in nearby Krakow for a Holocaust forum, where they heard from one of the Soviet liberators.

    "I would like to say to all the people on the earth: This should never be repeated, ever," said Maj. Anatoly Shapiro, 92, who commanded the first troops who entered Auschwitz.

    "I saw the faces of the people we liberated -- they went through hell," he said in a recorded video greeting from New York, where he lives. Shapiro was too ill to travel to the commemoration.

    The forum at Krakow's Slovacki theater opened with applause for Shapiro and three other Soviet army veterans who helped liberate Auschwitz on January 27, 1945.

    Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski awarded one of the veterans, Yakov Vinnichenko, the Polish Officer's Cross. Two others, Genri Koptev-Gomolov and Nikolai Chertkov, were awarded the Cavalry Cross of the Polish Republic, The Associated Press reported.

    "These commemorations are intended to promote knowledge of Auschwitz as widely as possible and bring the truth about the camps to the younger generation," Kwasniewski told Polish state radio, Reuters reported.

    Russian President Vladimir Putin acknowledged to the gathering that anti-Semitism and xenophobia had surfaced in his country.

    Tackling an issue the Kremlin has been accused of failing 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, AP reported.

    "Even in our country, in Russia, which did more than any to combat fascism, for the victory of fascism, which did most to save the Jewish people, even in our country we sometimes unfortunately see manifestations of this problem and I, too, am ashamed of that," Putin said to long applause.

    Israeli President Moshe Katsav reminded the Krakow gathering that Auschwitz is now part of the European Union, which Poland joined last year.

    "Auschwitz must be placed in the central place of collective memory of the reunited Europe," AP quoted Katsav as saying.

    U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney told the gathering 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.

    "We are reminded that anti-Semitism may begin with words but rarely stops with words and the message of intolerance and hatred must be opposed before it turns into acts of horror."

    Ukraine's newly elected president, Viktor Yushchenko, was greeted with a standing ovation when he entered the hall.

    He said he brought his children to the event and spoke of his father, a wounded Soviet prisoner of war who survived Auschwitz.

    "This is a sacred place for me and my family," Yushchenko said. "This is a place where Andrei Yushchenko, my father, suffered. There will never be a Jewish question in my country, I vow that."

    Candle lighting
    Following the forum, the leaders, survivors and liberators headed to the infamous rail siding at Birkenau, where they will light candles as part of the official commemoration ceremony.

    In Brussels, members of the European Parliament stood in a minute of silence to pay tribute to the victims of the Holocaust and to mark the anniversary.

    "Everyone is surprised such a thing happened, but it did," said EU Parliament President Josep Borrell. "It's difficult to pay just memory to it. It is a battle against the weakness of memory, something which should never happen again."

    The EU assembly then passed a resolution by 617 votes to 0, with 10 abstentions, condemning anti-Semitism and racism and paying homage to the victims of Nazi Germany, AP reported.

    And in Germany, a Holocaust survivor warned his countrymen to be vigilant against anti-Semitism, particularly in the Muslim world. Arno Lustiger told German leaders gathered in parliament for the national Holocaust Remembrance Day that everyone must fight anti-Semitism, AP reported.

    "The hate toward Israel and its people, the denial of the right to life of the Jewish state by the Arab-Muslim world, the violence against Jews and their institutions fills me with pain and anger," Lustiger said.

    "Anti-Semitism and particularly its Islamic stamp should not just be the concern of the Jews because forces are working in Europe that want to bomb our civilization back into the Middle Ages," he said.

    Parliament president Wolfgang Thierse called on Germans to fight continued anti-Semitism in Germany, especially in light of the regional resurgence of the far-right National Democratic Party -- which took nearly 10 percent of the vote in elections in the eastern state of Saxony last year.

    'Death march'
    Birkenau -- the largest of the camps at Auschwitz -- is where Nazi doctors decided which deportees would be sent to forced labor and which would be condemned to immediate death in the gas chambers.

    An estimated 1.1 million to 1.5 million people, most of the Jews, were killed in the gas chambers or died of disease, starvation, abuse and exhaustion at Auschwitz.

    When Soviet troops reached the camp 60 years ago, they found some 7,000 survivors, many barely alive.

    The retreating Nazis had destroyed the gas chambers and crematoria and many of the barracks, and forced most of the remaining prisoners into the snow on a "death march" to camps further west.

    Auschwitz is the most notorious of the death camps set up by Adolf Hitler to carry out his "final solution," the murder of Europe's Jewish population.

    Six million Jews died in the Nazi camps, along with several million others, including Soviet prisoners of war, Gypsies, homosexuals and political opponents of the Nazis.

    Find this article at:
    http://www.cnn.com/2005/WORLD/europe...ary/index.html
    I watched some of the ceremony on CSPAN, it was very moving. Hard to believe it's been 60 years already it seems like yesterday. We will never forget and I'm glad for that.
  13. by   Roy Fokker
    Quote from Jo Anne
    Hopefully, now that Arafat is gone, and the new PM is making an effort to reel in the Palestinian terrorists, they will have a productive meeting w/Israel next month.
    Hopefully someone on the other side can reel in Sharon and his cronies...
  14. by   bluesky
    Quote from BeachNurse
    Surely when you say "hypocrisy" you cannot be comparing Israelis to Nazis. ?
    No. What I am saying is that for a people who has suffered political and religious persecution throughout history, the Israeli state (which does claim to be THE jewish state) is perpetrating religious and ethnic persecution itself. While the killing is not quite on the systematic scale of the nazis, the systematic economic and physical isolation and complete political and land disenfranchisement in addition to the retaliatory killings (far outnumbering the terrorist killings) represent crimes against humanity at the very least. WE ( I am jewish by matrilineage) should know better. Of course not all jews support the policies and actions of Israel. I am also weary of statements along the lines of "the jews" this or "the jewish state" that. Unfortunately, there are those elements in the Palistinian liberation movement which are bigotted against jews. They however don't possess the greatest millitary in the middle east backed up by the good old USA like the most heinous bigotted elements in Israel. I feel more personably responsible for the actions of Israel because they are my people.
    Last edit by bluesky on Jan 30, '05

close