International Holocaust Remembrance Day was observed worldwide Thursday on the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz death camp to commemorate the 6 million Jews annihilated by the Nazis over 60 years ago.
International Holocaust Remembrance Day 2011
Europe, once war torn and largely controlled by Hitler's Third Reich has now devoted itself to the rectification of past wrongs, dedicating memorials and leading ceremonies in honor of those who perished in the Holocaust.
In Osweicim, Poland, the presidents of Germany and Poland gathered with Holocaust survivors at the site of Auschwitz-Birkenau Thursday for ceremonies marking the 66th anniversary of the death camp's liberation.
Nazi Germany killed about 1.1 million Jews, Gypsies and others at the camp, then part of German occupied Poland. Auschwitz was liberated on January 27, 1945 by the Soviet Army.
The anniversary of the camp's liberation has been observed by different groups and nationalities for some time, but it was only in November 2005 that the United Nations General Assembly passed Resolution 60/7, deeming January 27 an international day of remembrance.
Before the commencement of the ceremonies Thursday, German President Christian Wulff said that each generation must grapple anew with the questions of how civilization broke down in the Nazi era and work to prevent such crimes from ever being repeated.
Other commemorative events were held at sites formerly devoted to the extermination of Jews and other minorities, including the Buchenwald concentration camp, where elderly survivors gathered as well as at a new memorial in the former factory of the company that made the crematoria ovens for the death camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau.
In Berlin, the German parliament convened Thursday for a special session commemorating the victims of the Holocaust. Parliamentary President Norbert Lammert reminded lawmakers it is the duty of later generations to keep the memory of those murdered by the Nazis alive.
"To label people as 'unworthy' and order their 'destruction' and, finally, to systematically murder millions in an industrialized fashion - that is unique in human history," Lammert said. "The memory of those events and aberrations obliges us to respect all people equally ... and to confront violations of human rights in Germany and everywhere else in the world."
For the first time, a survivor representing Sinti and Roma (Gypsies) addressed the body, reminding lawmakers of what he called the forgotten Holocaust against 500,000 of his people. Political prisoners, gays and lesbians and Jehovah's witnesses were also killed en mass by the Nazis, along with nearly six million Jews.
France, a country that was only partially occupied by Nazi forces has paid its respects to the auspicious day as well.
This week the national French railway company, SNCF, handed over the former railway station in the Paris suburb of Bobigny to local officials for the creation of a new memorial to the French victims of the Nazi concentration camps. There is no timetable for the construction of this new memorial.
During the occupation, SNCF’s staff collaborated with the Nazis, using the state-owned equipment to transport some 76,000 French and other European Jews to Germany and on to various concentration camps. In fact, it was from the station in Bobigny that many final death bound journeys began.
Fewer than 3000 people are thought to have returned to France.
For the first time, SNCF last year expressed its “sorrow and regret” for the role the company played in the deportation of Jews during World War II.
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