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HOLOCAUST ANNIVERSARY January 27, 2005

Posted by wmmbb in Uncategorized.
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Today is the sixtieth anniversary of the holocaust, or more exactly the liberation of Auschwitz concentration camp by the Red Army. Some have sort to deny the holocaust, but it remains an enduring, and by no means the only, twentieth century symbol of inhumanity, and, without exaggeration, evil.

Writing in the Sydney Morning Herald today, Tom Luke observes:

One would have thought that after the experience of World War II, humanity would come to its senses.

Still, since 1945, further millions of innocent men, women and children have been deliberately enslaved, tortured and assassinated by various members of the world community. Their purpose: holding on to or acquiring power, in the name of nationhood, class, creed, or some other doctrine or agenda.

Moreover, society seems to be replete with fanatics who openly preach death to infidels. Meanwhile, in comfortable chambers at a safe distance from scenes of mass murder, distinguished ladies and gentlemen deliberate as to whether this case or that qualifies as genocide.

As we remember Auschwitz, we must also bear in mind that for the vast majority of victims, liberation came too late.

In his essay, The Shadow of Auschwitz, published in The Independent, John Lichfield writes:

Among those at the Birkenau commemoration will be Raphael Esrail, 80, who was taken to Auschwitz from France in February 1944, at the age of 19, and is now secretary general of the French association of Auschwitz victims. “There have been other anniversaries and there will be others still to come,” he said, “but this is maybe the most important. First, because it will be the last big anniversary to have so many living eyewitnesses. Most of us are already in our eighties.”

“But it is crucial also for another reason. The world has changed. And not in the way we had hoped. After the war, we comforted ourselves that this terrible experience might finally teach mankind to love mankind, but what do we see now? We see again the rise of anti-Semitism and we see a world torn apart by fanatical hatreds and by absolute certainties.”

In other words, the most important lesson that we can learn from today is that Auschwitz is not just part of our history. It is part of our present. This is a lesson that seems to have escaped the 45 per cent of Britons – according to a recent poll – who have not heard of Auschwitz.

I have heard of Auschwitz, but not so much the other concentration camps which had been bulldozed over before the end of the war, but it is not a vivid understanding.

I am curious as to why more was not done, perhaps could not be done by the Allies. Why, for example, the railway lines were not bombed.

UPDATE: 28/01/2005

The facts related to the holocaust are important. This ABC Newslist Report provides some of them:

World leaders and survivors stopped to remember the horror of the Holocaust on Thursday at a snow-swept ceremony in Auschwitz-Birkenau on the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camp.

Surrounded by barbed wire fences and remnants of the killing machine used to gas and incinerate some of the 11 million people who died in the Holocaust, the leaders arriving for the ceremony vowed that the World War II atrocity should never be forgotten.

Up to 1.5 million people died in the gas chambers and crematoria of Auschwitz-Birkenau, set up by Nazi Germany in occupied Poland during World War II as the main centre of their “Final Solution”, the genocide of six million European Jews.

Auschwitz was liberated on January 27, 1945 by the advancing Soviet army whose stunned soldiers released 7,000 emaciated prisoners left behind as the Germans withdrew.

“The snow was falling like today, we were dressed in stripes and some of us had bare feet,” Polish survivor Kazimierz Orlowski, 84, said on Thursday. “These were horrible times.”

Elderly survivors, many accompanied by younger relatives, walked slowly past the rusting wire fences under a dark grey sky and heavily falling snow towards 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.

For four years the camp was the centrepiece of Nazi Germany’s “Final Solution”. The site has become the most powerful symbol of the Holocaust and the reminder of one of the darkest chapters in Europe’s history.

“I want to say to all people around the world – this should not happen again,” said Anatoly Shapiro, the commander of the troops who first entered Auschwitz.

“I saw the faces of the people we liberated – they went through hell,” he told an earlier ceremony in the city of Krakow in southern Poland.

World leaders along with scores of survivors lighted candles at the camp’s main extermination centre Birkenau, some 70 km from Krakow.

More than 30 heads of state and top officials attended the ceremonies, including Israeli President Moshe Katsav, US Vice President Dick Cheney, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his German and French counterparts.

French President Jacques Chirac, the first French leader to acknowledge France’s complicity in the Holocaust, said the EU would stand united to counter anti-Semitism.

“We are making an unconditional effort to build Europe united in peace and democracy able to crush hatred, intolerance and fanaticism as they arise,” he said after opening a memorial to French victims at the camp.

Set up in 1940 by the occupying Nazis, Auschwitz was initially a labour camp for Polish prisoners but gradually grew into a death factory for European Jews shipped there from around Europe and Russia.

At its peak the camp could hold 400,000 people, with thousands killed in gas chambers on arrival after travelling in cattle trains for days without food or water.

More than one million Jews were killed but Gypsies, Poles, Russians also died in the camp.

– ABC/Reuters

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