Auschwitz rite marks 68 years since liberation

The 68th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz was marked with a ceremony at the site.

Ex-prisoners and liberators of the Nazi death camp attended the ceremony on Jan. 27, International Holocaust Memorial Day, at the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum. Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski served as the honorary patron.

Russian former prisoner Ksenia Olchowa, speaking on behalf of the prisoners, appealed to those on hand to remember the horrors of the past and do everything they can to ensure they never recur.

“When our soldiers saw the first group of prisoners, they were afraid to even approach them. They didn’t look like people,” Iwan Martynuszkin, who took part in the liberation of Auschwitz, recalled during the ceremony.

Israeli Ambassador to Poland Zvi Rav-Ner said, “Today we also remember the brave people — the Righteous Among the Nations — who risked their lives to rescue Jews. Poles are the largest group of righteous in Europe.”

The second part of the ceremony took place at the Monument to the Victims of the Camp at the Auschwitz II-Birkenau site. Rabbis and Christian clergy together read Psalm 42 from the Book of Psalms and placed candles at the monument commemorating the victims of Auschwitz.

President Barack Obama said in a statement that the spirit of Holocaust resistance must inspire policy today.

“While this is a time for mourning and reflection, it is also the time for action,” Obama said in the statement released Jan. 27.

“On this day, we recall the courage, spirit and determination of those who heroically resisted the Nazis, exemplifying the very best of humanity,” he said. “And like these courageous individuals, we must commit ourselves to resisting hate and persecution in all its forms.”

The United Nations in 2005 designated Jan. 27, the date of Auschwitz’s liberation in 1945, as International Holocaust Remembrance Day. — jta