Skip to comments.World Leaders Gather for Auschwitz Ceremony
Posted on 01/26/2005 9:49:34 PM PST by Former Military Chick
KRAKOW, Poland, Jan. 26 - Heads of state, prominent Jews, Nazi death camp survivors and a handful of their liberators began gathering here Wednesday in a heavy snowstorm to commemorate the freeing of thousands of people from the nearby Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp 60 years ago.
As many as 1.5 million people, including 1 million Jews, met their death at the Auschwitz complex, which included three main camps and 39 smaller camps 40 miles southwest of Krakow. Most were killed at Auschwitz-Birkenau, the second of the main camps, that has come to symbolize the much broader Holocaust in which 6 million Jews died.
The commemoration Thursday, the largest ever, marks the liberation of the camp on Jan. 27, 1945. It will take place at a memorial built between the ruins of two of the camp's gas chambers.
The ceremony this year has an air of urgency as Jewish organizations work to ensure that awareness of the Holocaust persists after living memories of it die. This is likely to be the last major anniversary to be attended by both camp survivors and their former Soviet Red Army liberators. Only seven liberators are expected to attend the ceremony Thursday. All of them are in their 90's.
A forum on Thursday, sponsored by the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Israel and the European Jewish Congress, will seek commitments from European leaders to institutionalize the teaching of the Holocaust, drawing on educational programs and materials developed by Yad Vashem.
"The numbers of world leaders coming and the readiness of the media to follow the commemoration is greater than before, but the event is also more important now with a new anti-Semitism building in Europe," said the head of Yad Vashem, Avner Shalev, arguing that without a systematic approach to teaching about the Holocaust, its meaning for future generations may fade. "We need a concrete commitment out of this ceremony."
That commitment is all the more critical now because a growing number of Europe's young Muslims are resisting, even rejecting, efforts to teach them about the Holocaust, arguing that there is not enough attention paid to the killing of innocent Muslims by Israel or the United States-led coalitions in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Teachers are reluctant to teach about the Holocaust in some schools, particularly in France, Belgium and Denmark. Mr. Shalev said that most of his organization's educational exchanges with France are now with the country's private Jewish institutions.
The commemoration will be attended by heads of state from Russia, Poland, Germany, France and Israel along with political leaders from nearly 40 other countries. Vice President Dick Cheney will attend on behalf of the United States. He arrived Wednesday and met with the Polish President, Aleksander Kwasniewski, a staunch supporter of the war in Iraq who is facing increasing public pressure to bring Polish troops home.
"We have to remind our youth that these great evils of history were perpetrated not in some remote uncivilized world but in the very heart of the civilized world," Mr. Cheney told a gathering of survivors and their families at the Galicja Jewish Museum in Krakow Wednesday. Exhibits there trace several centuries of Jewish history in southern Poland.
The commemoration means different things to each nation: for Russia it is a commemoration of its often-overlooked role as liberator, while for Poland and other Central European countries it is both part of a gradual recognition of their complicity in the killing and an opportunity to draw closer to Europe. Poland and several other former Soviet bloc countries joined the European Union last year and the rest are waiting to join.
A recent string of anti-Semitic attacks across Europe and other unsettling events, such as the widely publicized photograph of Prince Harry, third in line to the British throne, wearing a Nazi uniform at a costume party earlier this month and a walkout by far-right German legislators during a minute's silence for Nazi victims on Friday, have raised concerns that the horrors of the Holocaust are being forgotten.
Moshe Kantor, chairman of the European Jewish Congress, warned that the rise in anti-Semitic incidents should not be ignored.
"From broken windows to death camps was the blink of an eye," Mr. Kantor said, referring to the four years between the 1938 attacks on German Jews known as Kristallnacht, or Night of Broken Glass, and the 1942 Wannsee Conference at which German leaders discussed the "final solution to the Jewish question in Europe."
At a dinner Wednesday, Mr. Kantor talked of the need to pass on personal recollections of the Holocaust, not just statistics or historical accounts. As an example, he told of meeting an elderly woman during a visit to the Birkenau camp several years ago. She remarked to him that the camp looked different when she was interned there because there was no grass then; starving prisoners had eaten it all.
Evolutionist World Leaders Gather for Evolutionist Auschwitz Ceremony?
Sad that so many from the WWII generation are passing on.
Note to CNN's Walter Rogers who was whinging this morning about Cheney not being at that conference in Davos: The veep can't be in two places at once now can he, bright boy?
Nazi = Nationalize