World Leaders Mark Auschwitz Liberation
Frail survivors and humbled world leaders mourned the victims of the Holocaust on Thursday, the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, and urged the world to never forget.
Candles flickered in the dusk at the sprawling Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi death camp, which Israeli President Moshe Katsav called “the capital of the kingdom of death.”
During World War II, 1.5 million people, mostly Jews, were killed at the site. Others who perished included Soviet prisoners of war, Poles, Gypsies, Jehovah’s Witnesses, homosexuals and political opponents of the Nazis.
The haunting commemoration was held at the place where new arrivals stumbled out of railroad cattle cars and were met by Nazi doctors, who chose a few to be worked to death; the rest were sent to gas chambers. Others died of starvation, exhaustion, beatings and disease.
“It seems if you listen hard enough, you can still hear the outcry of horror of the murdered people,” said Katsav, one of 30 presidents and prime ministers at the ceremony.
As night fell and the ceremony ended with the recording of a locomotive whistle blaring from loudspeakers, half a mile of train tracks leading from the front gate to the crematoriums were set ablaze -- two flaming straight lines through snow, toward death.
The world leaders, including Vice President Dick Cheney, placed candles in blue lanterns on a low stone memorial.
About 6 million Jews died in Adolf Hitler’s network of camps.
Survivor Franczisek Jozefiak, 80, of Krakow said, “Today I’m remembering my father, gassed here. I’m remembering the atrocious things they did to us here.”