Holocaust commemorations across the globe
AUSCHWITZ, Poland–Commemorations are underway around the world on the occasion of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which coincides with the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp on 27 January 1945 by Soviet troops.
The main commemorative event is to be held in Auschwitz, in the presence of survivors, international statesmen and Jewish leaders, including Polish President Lech Kaczynski, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the president of the World Jewish Congress, Ronald S. Lauder. Prior to that, the third edition of the ‘Let My People Live’ forum is taking place in nearby Krakow, where an estimated 700 participants will discuss the legacy of the Holocaust and related challenges for the future.
In New Zealand, members of the Jewish community have gathered in Wellington’s Makara cemetery to pay tribute to the victims. Stones were laid at the memorial, in Jewish tradition, by survivors and dignitaries, including the German ambassador.
In Russia, for the first time ever, a commemorative event is being held at the site of the former Nazi ghetto in Kaluga, 120 miles southwest of Moscow. It was the first Nazi camp that was liberated. The event is being organized by the Russian Jewish Congress (RJC). “It is important to hold remembrance actions right at the sites where historic events took place,” RJC President Yuri Kanner told journalists.
In Berlin, Israeli President Shimon Peres will give the keynote speech at a special session of the Bundestag, Germany’s parliament. Senior leaders – including President Horst Köhler and Chancellor Angela Merkel – will be present. In his speech Peres is expected to make mention of his grandfather, who was murdered by the Nazis. On Tuesday Peres and Köhler participated in a ceremony at a Berlin train station from which many of the city’s Jews were sent to the Nazi death camps. The German president later spoke of his emotion in shaking the hands of survivors of the Holocaust, adding that he was grateful to Peres for extending a hand in reconciliation to the German people.
In 2005, the United Nations General Assembly voted to make 27 January International Holocaust Remembrance Day. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement “countless men, women and children who survived the horror of the ghettos and Nazi death camps carry the crucial message of triumph of the human spirit. Survivors also play a vital role in keeping their lesson of the Holocaust alive for future generations. Holocaust survivors will not be with us forever, but the legacy of their survival must live on. We must preserve their stories – through memorials – through education, most of all through robust efforts to prevent genocide and other grave crimes. The United Nations is fully committed to this cause. Together, let us pledge to carry forward the mission of Holocaust remembrance – and uphold human dignity for all”.
Meanwhile, a Canadian parliamentarian has apologized after saying that Immigration Minister Jason Kenney’s participation at the Auschwitz commemorations was a “jaunt”. Borys Wrzesnewskyj of Toronto, an MP for the Liberal Party, had said Kenney would be better off traveling to Haiti instead.
Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress