Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Auschwitz 70th Anniversary

The main gate at the camp

Child survivors at Auschwitz – still taken from footage recorded by Soviet forces

Survivors are unlikely to gather in one place again in such numbers as many are already in their 80s and 90s

Former inmates lay flowers and tributes at the so-called Death Wall. Picture: Jacek Bednarczyk/AFP
On Tuesday, ageing survivors and dignitaries gathered at the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp in Oswiecim, Poland – a site synonymous with the Holocaust to honour more than 1.1 million people who died there. This marked the 70th anniversary of the liberation by the Soviet Red Army of the Nazi concentration and extermination camp. It is said that about one million Jews were killed at the camp between 1940 and 1945. Other victims included Roma (Gypsies), disabled people, homosexuals, dissidents, non-Jewish Poles and Soviet prisoners.
The camp first housed political prisoners from Poland, and captured soldiers from Russia. Then, Jewish families from across Europe were transported here in cattle trucks as the Nazis tried to carry out the Final Solution – the annihilation of Europe's Jews.
The museum was established in 1947 with the help and advice of some of its former prisoners, who fought to secure its future as a permanent memorial to those who did not survive, and a warning to future generations.
The most powerful displays – of human hair shaved from prisoners' heads, or the crumpled leather of children's shoes – are also the most fragile and perishable.

Prisoners' discarded shoes are on display
A chart at the museum shows how all the Nazis' enemies imprisoned in the camp were given special badges to mark them out: yellow stars for the Jews, a pink triangle for gay prisoners, a purple triangle for Jehovah's witnesses, and many more marking out each minority in a hierarchy of human hell.
Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski said that the Nazi Germans had made Poland a "cemetery for Jews".
Even 70 years on, Auschwitz itself stands as mute but concrete testimony to man's inhumanity to man: a place where the very ground still feels contaminated by death on an industrial scale.
Do not believe that we shall not witness human barbarity again. The evil that men do resides amongst us. 

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