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Survivors commemorate Auschwitz liberation with wreaths at execution wall

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TVN24 News in English, Reuters
TVN24Survivors commemorate Auschwitz liberation with wreaths at execution wall

Survivors from Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi death camp returned to Auschwitz on Monday (January 27th) to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the camp's liberation.

In an emotional ceremony, the elderly survivors placed wreaths against the wall inside the camp where many executions were carried out during World War Two.

World leaders will join the ageing Holocaust survivors in a memorial service later on Monday to mark 75 years since the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp by Soviet troops, amid concerns over a global resurgence of anti-Semitism.

More than 1.1 million people, most of them Jews, perished in the camp's gas chambers or from starvation, cold and disease.

Set up by Nazi Germany in occupied Poland in 1940, at first to house Polish political prisoners, it became the largest of the extermination centres where Adolf Hitler's plan to kill all Jews - the "Final Solution" - was put into practice.

The last prosecutor

On the 75th anniversary of the camp's liberation, a former prosecutor remembers his part in processing the horror during the Auschwitz trials which took place in Frankfurt in 1963.

"And even if some people don't like it, you have to keep on reminding people," 91 year-old Gerhard Wiese the last surviving prosecutor from the German trial told Reuters TV, "you were born in this county and you have to live with its history: the good and the bad parts," he said.

"You would think that people would have learnt something from it all. I can't explain what has got into people that they are suddenly starting to come out with things that one actually can't be allowed to say anymore," Wiese said.

The retired lawyer, who was 33 when he was pulled into the trials which lasted until 1965, said he had to distance himself as much as possible to get through the harrowing details.

U.S. House speaker Pelosi visits Auschwitz21.01 | U.S. House speaker Nancy Pelosi visited the museum on the site of the former Auschwitz concentration camp in southern Poland on Tuesday (January 21).TVN24

"When you are dealing with murder and manslaughter everyday it can't be avoided that a certain everyday-normality sets in. But also that you have to distance yourself, so that you don't let it get to you. And that is how I managed to get through it but I was actually always happy when I could get onto a packed tram at the end of the day and could have normal life around me again," he said.

Wiese also travelled to Auschwitz himself to verify statements. One in particular stood out of a father who tried to save his twins by directing them to SS doctor Josef Mengele, who had a particular interest in experiments on twins.

But in this instance Mengele waved the children away, sending them instead to the gas chambers.

"One wave of the hand - that's all it took for a fate to be sealed," Wiese said.

More than 1.1 million people, most of them Jews, perished in the camp's gas chambers or from starvation, cold and diseaseTVN24

Fight against anti-Semitism

The presidents of Israel and Poland called on Monday for greater efforts to combat anti-Semitism as the world marked 75 years since the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp amid concerns over a resurgence of anti-Jewish prejudice.

"Our duty is to fight anti-Semitism, racism and fascist nostalgia, those sick evils that ... threaten to eat away at the foundations of our democracies," Israeli President Reuven Rivlin said at a venue near the former camp, which is now a museum.

Polish President Andrzej Duda, who did not attend Israel's national Holocaust Memorial last Thursday because he was not allowed to speak, thanked Rivlin for his presence at Auschwitz.

"This presence is a sign of remembrance, it is a visible sign of opposition to inhuman treatment, hatred, against all forms of hate, especially racist hate," Duda said.

Stanisław Zalewski. "Death was commonplace"26.01.| "We weren’t just numbers. They only labelled us with numbers, but we remained human. As a matter of fact, they did strip us of our humanity, but that was only in later during our stay in the camp," said Stanisław Zalewski in a conversation with Magda Łucyan, a reporter from "Fakty" TVN. tvn24

Pernicious attitude

Speaking before Monday's ceremonies, David Harris, head of the American Jewish Committee, said groups ranging from far-right white supremacists to jihadis and the far-left were fuelling anti-Semitism worldwide.

"Jews in western Europe think twice before they wear a kippa, they think twice before they go to a synagogue, think twice before they enter a kosher supermarket," he told Reuters.

A 2019 survey by the U.S.-based Anti-Defamation League showed that about one in four Europeans harbour "pernicious and pervasive" attitudes towards Jews, compared with 19% of North Americans.

In Germany, 42% agreed that "Jews still talk too much about what happened to them in the Holocaust", it said. Two people were killed in a shooting near a synagogue in eastern Germany in October, in what officials called an anti-Semitic attack.

After visiting Auschwitz last week, Mohammed al-Issa, the head of a global Muslim missionary society, said governments and Muslim communities should do more to combat anti-Semitism.

"European countries should have stronger and more active laws that would criminalise anti-Semitism," Al-Issa, secretary-general of the Mecca-based Muslim World League (MWL), told Reuters.

Alina Dąbrowska. "I thought to myself then: that’s how hell must look like"25.01 | "When I was at the block, all I felt was despair. Despair that I had to go through all that. I wasn't just a witness, I took a part in this. This was my life," said Alina Dąbrowska in a conversation with Magda Łucyan, a reporter from "Fakty" TVN.tvn24

Źródło: TVN24 News in English, Reuters

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