Auschwitz: 75 years after the liberation

January 28, 2020 by J-Wire Newsdesk
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On the site of former German Nazi death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau, Ambassador Ronald S. Lauder, President of the World Jewish Congress (WJC) and Chairman of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial Foundation (ABMF), today rang the alarm bell on the rise of antisemitism, appealing to world leaders to advance Holocaust education before it’s too late.

Ronald S. Lauder with survivors at the gate of Auschwitz

As part of the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz by the Red Army, the ABMF — under Ambassador Lauder’s leadership — organized a survivors’ delegation of more than 100 Auschwitz-Birkenau survivors and their families from the United States, Canada, Israel, Australia, Latin America and several European countries.

The preceding night, Lauder and the ABMF welcomed the survivors at a dinner gathering in Krakow also attended by Jewish community delegations from around the world. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky spoke to those gathered and called the survivors “strong and incredibly courageous” and “rays of sunshine that penetrated the darkness.”

At the January 27 official International Holocaust Remembrance Day memorial ceremony marking the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, Lauder presented keynote remarks on behalf of the Pillars of Remembrance, private donors who support the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation and its mission to preserve the authenticity of the memorial site. Lauder emphasized that it was the scourge of antisemitism combined with world indifference which led to the Holocaust and urged citizens and government leaders everywhere to speak out against intolerance and hatred.

Ambassador Lauder addressed the gathering saying, “Today is about you, the survivors, and I cannot begin to tell you how grateful I am that you are here, and in some cases, here with your children and grandchildren. Seventy-five years ago today, when Soviet troops entered these gates, they had no idea what lay behind them. And since that day, the entire world has struggled with what they found inside.”

He added“When we hear something that is antisemitic when we hear someone talk about Israel unjustly when Jews are attacked on your streets, do not be silent. Do not be indifferent. And do not just do this for the Jewish people around the world. Do this for your children, do this for your grandchildren.”

Marian Turski, a Polish Auschwitz survivor who spoke during the ceremony, warned that Auschwitz “did not fall from the sky.” He said that Auschwitz and its horrors existed as a result of world indifference to antisemitism and discrimination.

In his remarks, Piotr M.A. Cywinski, Director of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum and President of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation, asked, “Where and why did we squander our basic fundamental values? When will Auschwitz become a reality that has been overcome and liberated? In the very essence of the cry of ‘never again,’ the liberation of Auschwitz continues right here, right now, every day.”

After a ceremonial blowing of the shofar, Cantor David S. Wisnia, a member of the ABFM’s survivor delegation, recited the traditional Jewish memorial prayer, El Maleh Rahamim, and invited participants to join him in the Mourner’s Kaddish.

Sydney’s Yvonne Engelman attended the commemoration. The Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial Foundation spoke to her before she left Sydney…

She told the organisers: “Before the war I was an only child who lived in a country town. We were an Orthodox family and lived happily in the town. During the war everything changed drastically. My whole family was turned upside down. I lost my whole family. I was the only survivor. I promised my father I would survive and I did. After the Shoah I managed to rebuild my life. I moved to Australia, married, had three children, and now have 9 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren and still counting.  I have never forgotten my past and am actively involved in the Jewish Holocaust Museum, telling my story to school children of all ages. I am making a difference. My voice is heard.

What does Auschwitz mean to you?

I have survived the hell that I went through and am able to lead a normal life. It does not define me but I Will never forget the horrors it game me. It is a place of true hell but it should never be forgotten and should always remain as a historical record of what can happen.

My message for future generations is…

The only way to perpetuate the memory of the six million murdered is to tell our stories and make sure that the second and third generation keep our memory alive and tell our stories.

Who will be accompanying you on this journey?

My 3 children, their partners and 2 grandchildren.

Auschwitz survivors Catherine Fest, Lotte Weiss, Yvonne Engelman and Gerty Skalsky talk about the camp:

Background on Ronald S. Lauder’s commitment to the preservation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau memorial
Lauder, former U.S. ambassador to Austria, dedicated his efforts to the preservation of the memorial at Auschwitz-Birkenau after visiting the site with his family in 1987 and finding a state of disrepair that threatened its disappearance. He committed to its preservation for future generations, shortly thereafter bringing in curators from the Egyptian Wing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York to assess the needs and create a plan. Lauder, with the help of Auschwitz survivors Kalman Sultanik and Ernest Michel, raised the initial $40 million from 19 countries to ensure the site’s preservation. Lauder has donated tens of millions of dollars toward the memorial site’s preservation.

In 2003, with the financial support of the Ronald S. Lauder Foundation, the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum opened its Conservation Laboratories. The laboratory’s mission is to preserve material traces of the camp, including every shoe, every document and every building that remain at the site.


One Response to “Auschwitz: 75 years after the liberation”
  1. Adrian Jackson says:

    I watched it all on DW TV via ABC24 TV last night and this morning.

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