Auschwitz anniversary marked as peace again shattered by war
Auschwitz-Birkenau survivors and other mourners commemorated the 78th anniversary Friday of the Nazi German death camp’s liberation, some expressing horror that war has again shattered peace in Europe and the lesson of Never Again is being forgotten.
The former concentration and extermination camp is located in the town of Oświęcim in southern Poland, which was under the occupation of German forces during World War II and became a place of systematic murder of Jews, Poles, Soviet prisoners of war, Roma and others targeted for elimination by Adolf Hitler and his henchmen.
In all, some 1.1 million people were killed at the vast complex before it was liberated by Soviet troops on January 27, 1945.
Today the site, with its barracks, barbed wire and ruins of gas chambers, stands as one of the world’s most recognised symbols of evil and a site of pilgrimage for millions.
Jewish and Christian prayers for the dead were recited at the memorial site, which lies only 300 kilometres (185 miles) from Ukraine, where Russian aggression is creating death and destruction — a conflict on the minds of many this year.
“Standing here today at this place of remembrance, Birkenau, I follow with horror the news from the east that the Russian army, which liberated us here, is waging a war there in Ukraine. Why? Why?” lamented survivor Zdzisława Włodarczyk during observances Friday.
Piotr Cywinski, Auschwitz state museum director, compared Nazi crimes to those the Russians have committed in Ukrainian towns like Bucha and Mariupol. He said they were inspired by a “similar sick megalomania” and that free people must not remain indifferent.
“Being silent means giving voice to the perpetrators,” Cywinski said. “Remaining indifferent is tantamount to condoning murder.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin attended observances marking the 60th anniversary of the camp’s liberation in 2005. This year, no Russian official was invited due to the attack on Ukraine.
Valentina Matvienko, speaker of Russia’s upper house of parliament, deplored that as a “cynical” move.
“They refused to invite the liberators so that they could pay tribute to the memory of the victims,” she said. “Of course, this is very worrying.”