Czech Republic: Politicians and survivors remember the Holocaust at Terezín
Dozens of chairs and vice-chairs of legislatures from countries all over Europe commemorated the fates of the victims of the Holocaust today at Terezín together with many people who survived the Nazi terror. The event was part of a two-day international forum marking the anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi camp at Auschwitz.
The event took place at the same time as the commemoration in Poland, where world leaders marked the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz extermination camp. Many prisoners of the Nazis were transported from Terezín to Auschwitz during WWII.
They included the parents of the secretary of the Federation of Jewish Communities in the Czech Republic, Tomáš Kraus. He recalled both of them at the ceremony today.
Kraus said those who survived the Holocaust can be divided into two groups. "The first maintain their silence. They mention nothing that might recall that history even in the slightest. The others, on the other hand, want to talk about everything, They want to shout their testimony and they want to warn the world. I know both types of people. My mother was the first kind of person, my father was the second," Kraus said.
Felix Kolmer also passed through the ghetto at Terezín. As a young man he arrived there with the first transport on 24 November 1941.
He experienced making a break for freedom when he joined the resistance movement there and found a corridor that led out of the camp. He gave up his own freedom so he could tell the other prisoners how to find the way out.
In 1944 he, too, was deported to Auschwitz. At today's Terezín ceremony, survivors recalled not just the horrors of the Holocaust, but also the behavior of the local residents of Terezín.
"I thank those in the population of Terezín who helped us. Our teachers, who secretly taught us and who helped us children to cope somehow with our fate," one of the survivors said.
The event at Terezín involved extraordinary security measures and also confusion. Dozens of European journalists were separated from those attending the commemorative ceremony and had only a minimal opportunity to conduct interviews with them or take good quality photographs of them.
In the afternoon activists with the Konexe association commemorated the Romani victims of the Holocaust at the National Cemetery in Terezín. Ivana Čonková of Konexe said almost no one ever remembers the Romani victims of the Holocaust.
"We believe that currently and in the past [the Romani Holocaust] has been forgotten and that it has not yet been fully revealed or commemorated in a dignified way. We can see this in the example of the pig farm at Lety by Písek that is still running on the site of a former concentration camp for Romani people there," she told the Czech News Agency.
The commemorative ceremony at Terezín was the closing event of the "Let My People Live!" forum. In a declaration adopted there, the heads of legislatures from countries around Europe declared that governments, parliaments and societies around the world must adopt a zero-tolerance policy towards anti-Semitism and hate crimes.
From 1940-1945, the Nazis transported more than 200 000 prisoners to the Gestapo prison in the Small Fortress, to the ghetto of Terezín, and to the Richard concentration camp in Litoměřice. Most of them, more than 150 000 people, suffered in the Jewish ghetto.
They included people from Austria, the Czech lands, France, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, Yugoslavia and other countries. Every fifth person died there, while as many as 100 000 perished while being deported from Terezín to other concentration and extermination camps.
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