Thousands of youths from Israel and other countries marched Monday between Auschwitz to Birkenau, the two parts of Nazi Germany's most notorious death complex in occupied Poland, to honor the millions killed in the Holocaust.
Among the participants in the annual March of the Living are former Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, Supreme Court justices, and a large group of police officers headed by Police Chief Yohanan Danino.
According to the Yad Vashem Holocaust institute in Jerusalem, 1.1 million Jews were killed in Auschwitz-Birkenau, in addition to 70,000 Poles, 25,000 gypsies and some 15,000 prisoners of war.
The ceremony this year marks 70 years to the annihilation of Hungarian Jewry, which Nazis initiated in 1944. Several hundreds of the marchers traveled to Auschwitz by train from Budapest – the same route of the "death train" which brought about 437,000 of Hungary's Jews to the extermination camps.
Hungarian President Janos Ader and several ministers from the Hungarian cabinet attended the closing ceremony of the March. Áder's attendance has made waves in light of the rise of the extreme right in Hungary and the increase of anti-Semitic activity in the country.
Over the past several months, Hungarian Jewish groups have expressed their frustration at what they say are efforts by Prime Minister Viktor Orban's government to diminish the role local authorities had in the death of about 550,000 Hungarian Jews in the Holocaust.
Government officials have said repeatedly that Hungarians were both perpetrators and victims of the Holocaust. President Janos Ader said that Auschwitz, where a third of those killed in the death camp were Hungarian Jews, "forms part of Hungarian history."
Much of the reproach has been centered around a monument planned to be placed on the south side of Freedom Square, at the opposite end of a Soviet war memorial.
The structure is set to show the figure of Germany's imperial eagle swooping down on the archangel Gabriel, symbolizing Hungary.
Hungary was on Germany's side during the war, but Germany invaded after Adolf Hitler became suspicious that Hungary was looking for a way out and reach a peace deal with the Allied forces.
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