The Auschwitz Concentration Camp was emancipated 69 years ago and on this anniversary, a Jewish leader announced anti-Semitism was now considered a crime. On Monday, Israeli officials and Auschwitz survivors recognized the anniversary with a memorial ceremony.
The Auschwitz-Birkenau memorial ceremony was held on the International Holocaust Remembrance Day, set by the United Nations in remembrance of the six million Holocaust victims, 1.5 million of the victims died at Auschwitz, most of them were Jews.
Some of the participating survivors entered through the gates emblazoned with “Arbeit Macht Frei” meaning, “Work makes you free” and left a wreath at the camp’s Executions Wall, were death camp inmates, mostly Polish resistance participants, were shot.
Approximately sixty members of the Knesset, about half of Israeli’s legislature, joined the Holocaust survivors for observances, which included a visit to Auschwitz red brick barracks. The barracks housed collections of items removed from the victims: shoes, coats, brushes and purses. More gruesome collections contained human body parts: hair, teeth and artificial limbs. A list of names of the victims was also visited where the survivors could read the names of 4.2 million Jews that did not leave Auschwitz alive.
In a memorable observance held at Auschwitz II, also known as Birkenau, the group was treated to the recollections of one of the survivors, Noah Klieger. He described his memories of the most infamous Nazi death march.
The inmates were forced to flee in front of the troops advancing into occupied Poland during January 1945, just nine days prior to the arrival of the Soviets. Forced to march during the freezing weather in thin, tatters for clothes, 60,000 prisoners left Auschwitz heading to Wodzislaw Slaski, approximately 35 miles away. When the prisoners arrived, they were loaded into freight trains destined for other camps. The Nazi death march took the lives of 15,000 victims.
The survivors also recalled when the Red Army arrived at the camp on January 27, 1945 and freed the remaining prisoners who were not forced into the death march, mainly sick people and children.
Yariv Levin, Israeli coalition leader, spoke on behalf of the Knesset legislature. Levin stated, walking on the soil soaked with the blood of our sisters and brothers, the Israeli peoples must assure the children and children of future generations that a better world, full of faith that is free from fear can be created.
During a parliamentary ceremony in Brussels, Moshe Kantor, European Jewish Congress President, dismissed arguments about free speech versus the new anti-Semite law stating, the global spread of anti-Semitism is a crime, not an opinion,
Kantor emphasized the “quenelle,” a salute developed by French comedian Dieudonne that is referred to as the inverted Nazi hail. Dieudonne, who has been convicted almost a dozen times for starting racial antagonism or anti-Semitism, states the gesture is just an anti-establishment salute. The gesture did make headlines when Nicolas Anelks, soccer star, used the salute to celebrate a victory.
Is the gesture a mere poke at the establishment, or the building of more anti-Semitism feelings among the citizens?Kantor stated, the symbol was invented by the comedian which allows people out at the bar, men having a good time or a soccer player scoring a point a means to express their hatred for the Jewish people.
While the world continues to battle with anti-Semitism issues, memorial ceremonies mark the 69th anniversary of the Auschwitz concentration camp.
By Deborah Baran