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Auschwitz: 78 Years Post Liberation
News Bytes 01/27/2023 2 Comments

Auschwitz-Birkenau survivors and other mourners commemorated the 78th anniversary Friday of the liberation of the Nazi German death camp. Some expressed their horror that war has again shattered peace in Europe. Has the lesson of “Never Again” been forgotten?

Meanwhile, elsewhere in the world on Friday, events were planned to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day. The annual day of commemoration was established by a United Nations resolution in 2005.

Auschwitz, the former concentration and extermination camp, is located in the town of Oświęcim in southern Poland. Poland was under the occupation of German forces during World War II. The camp became a place of systematic murder of Jews, Poles, Soviet prisoners of war, Roma, and others targeted for elimination by Adolf Hitler and his adherents.

In all, some 1.1 million people were killed at the vast Auschwitz complex before it was liberated by Soviet troops on January 27, 1945.

Today the site, with its barracks and barbed wire and the ruins of gas chambers, stands as one of the world’s most recognized symbols of evil. It’s also a pilgrimage destination for millions from around the world.

Some visiting this year acknowledged a painful irony. Auschwitz lies only 185 miles from Ukraine, where Russia is seen globally not as liberator but as aggressor. The nearly year-old war there has brought unthinkable death and destruction.

One Holocaust survivor, Zdzisława Włodarczyk, said during observances Friday that the war has created a “feeling of horror” in her.

Piotr Cywinski is the Auschwitz state museum director. He compared Nazi crimes to those the Russians are accused of committing in Ukrainian towns like Mariupol. Cywinski says the gruesome actions were inspired by a “similar sick megalomania.” (Megalomania is a delusional need to over-perform.) He asserts that free people must not remain indifferent.

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 Russia’s attack on Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who is Jewish, marked the event. He alluded to his own country’s situation.

“We know and remember that indifference kills along with hatred,” he said in a social media post. Zelenskyy’s family history includes Holocaust horrors. Though his grandfather fought in and survived World War II, that grandfather’s three brothers all died in Nazi executions.

“Everyone who values life should show determination when it comes to saving those whom hatred seeks to destroy,” Zelenskyy said.

Bogdan Bartnikowski is a Pole who was 12 years old when he was transported to Auschwitz. He says images he saw on television last February of refugees fleeing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine triggered traumatic memories. He was stunned by a little girl in a crowd of refugees holding her mother with one hand and grasping a teddy bear in the other.

“I suddenly saw, after almost 80 years, what I had seen in a freight car when I was being transported to Auschwitz. A little girl was sitting next to me, hugging a doll to her chest,” Bartnikowski, now 91, says.

Bartnikowski was among several survivors of Auschwitz who spoke about their experiences on Thursday.

Another, Stefania Wernik, was born at Auschwitz in November 1944, less than three months before its liberation. She says she was so tiny at birth that the Nazis tattooed her number—89136—on her thigh. She was washed in cold water, wrapped in rags, and subjected to medical experiments. And yet her mother had abundant milk. They both survived. After the war, her mother returned home and reunited with her husband. “The whole village came to look at us and said, ‘It’s a miracle,’” Wernik says.

The Germans established Auschwitz in 1940 for Polish prisoners. Later, they expanded the complex, building death chambers and crematoria where Jews from across Europe were brought by train to be murdered.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz says, “The suffering of six million innocently murdered Jews remains unforgotten—as does the suffering of the survivors.”

“We recall our historic responsibility on Holocaust Memorial Day so that our Never Again endures in future,” he wrote on Twitter.

God Himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. — Revelation 21: 3-4

(People visit the former Nazi German concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz-Birkenau in Oswiecim, Poland, on January 26 and 27, 2023. Holocaust survivors gathered to commemorate the 78th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi German death camp in the final months of World War II. AP/Michal Dyjuk)

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Most recent comments

1st comment

As sad as the history of Auschwitz and other camps may be, it is extremely important to remember it. It is when we forget or not pay attention to history that history repeats itself.

So true @RILEY D

Many young people aren’t be told about all of histories horrors, but they need to be told. If no one knows of the past, then history WILL repeat itself!

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