Dozens of heads of state and government honoring the memory of Holocaust victims at Auschwitz Memorial today
As many as 30 heads of state and government are attending a commemorative ceremony at the Auschwitz Memorial in southern Poland today on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camp. More than 1.1 million people, most of them Jewish, were murdered there during the Second World War.
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, Polish President Andrzej Duda and King Felip VI of Spain are attending. Prime Minister Andrej Babiš is attending on behalf of the Czech Republic.
The commemorative ceremonies began this morning, when Polish President Duda and former prisoners of the camp laid flowers at what is called the Death Wall, where prisoners were executed. Just before noon, Duda and Rivlin were scheduled to lay flowers at the memorial to Polish resistance fighter Witold Pilecki, who voluntarily allowed himself to be captured and sent to Auschwitz in 1940 to investigate reports about Nazi atrocities there and who then informed the world of what was happening.
The main commemorative ceremony will begin at Auschwitz today at 15:30 CET. On the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp, the World Holocaust Forum was held last week in Jerusalem and attended by dozens of heads of state, including French President Emmanuel Macron, Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Vice-President of the United States of America, Mike Pence.
None of those particular figures will visit the Auschwitz Memorial today, although Deutsche Welle has reported that a US delegation was said to be scheduled to attend. The forum in Jerusalem was not attended by a Polish representative because Warsaw is in a dispute with Moscow over how to apportion blame with regard to how the Second World War developed.
The Auschwitz concentration camp was established by the Nazis in 1940 and Polish resistance fighters were among its first prisoners. The following year the more extensive complex of Auschwitz II - Birkenau was built nearby, which became the biggest center designated by the Nazis for the annihilation of European Jews.
According to the Auschwitz Museum, more than 1.1 million people were murdered at the camp, one million of whom were Jewish. As many as 50 000 citizens of Czechoslovakia were also imprisoned there, of whom about 6 000 survived.
Today, 27 January, is International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which was designated by the United Nations General Assembly on 1 November 2005 during the 42nd plenary session and has been annually commemorated since 2006. During the Second World War the Nazis murdered as many as six million people of Jewish origin.
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