Israeli president attacks Polish Holocaust complicity
The presidents of Israel and Poland have demanded efforts to address anti-Semitism as they marked 75 years since the liberation of Auschwitz.
More than 200 survivors of the camp were among more than 3,000 who attended the ceremony at a specially made tent erected around the “Gate of Death”, where cattle trucks arrived and most arrivals were murdered almost immediately in gas chambers.
More than 1.1 million mostly Jewish people died at the camp, Oświęcim in Polish, that was originally established to house political prisoners.
More than 90 per cent of those sent to Auschwitz were Jewish but approximately 200,000 non-Jewish Poles, Roma, homosexuals, mentally and physically disabled people and Soviet prisoners of war were also sent to the camp.
“Our duty is to fight anti-Semitism, racism and fascist nostalgia, those sick evils that… threaten to eat away at the foundations of our democracies,” Israeli President Reuven Rivlin said the camp.
Poland’s nationalist Law and Justice government has failed to acknowledge the complicity of thousands of Poles in the slaughter of Jews.
The Israeli president said: “We shall forever hold sacred and cherish the courage of the … thousands of Poles. We remember that during the war the Polish nation fought with great courage but we remember too that there were not a few in the Polish nation who stood by and even contributed to the murder of Jews.”
Soviet troops liberated the camp on January 27, 1945, saving around 7,000 prisoners, mostly women, who had been left behind. The Nazis forced around 60,000 inmates away from the camp in so-called death marches.
Polish President Andrzej Duda did not attend Israel’s Holocaust Memorial last week because he was not invited to speak. Duda thanked Rivlin, who has a largely ceremonial political role, for his visit.
“This presence is a sign of remembrance, it is a visible sign of opposition to inhuman treatment, hatred, against all forms of hate, especially racist hate,” the Polish president told the event.
Set up in 1940 for Polish political prisoners, Auschwitz became the largest Nazi death camp.
Holocaust survivor Yvonne Engelman, 92, who travelled from Australia, said:
“We could hear children coughing, crying, choking from the gas and also the smell of human flesh and the great fear we experienced that maybe you will be the next victim.”
The Anti-Defamation League in the US reported last year that 42 per cent of Germans agreed that “Jews still talk too much about what happened to them in the Holocaust”.
Picture credit: Wikimedia