Survivors of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp are gathering for today’s commemorations marking the 75th anniversary of the Soviet Army’s liberation of the camp – using the testimony of survivors to warn about the signs of rising anti-Semitism and hatred in the world today.
In all, more than 200 survivors of the camp are expected, many of them elderly Jews who have traveled far from homes in Israel, the United States, Australia, Peru, Russia, Slovenia and elsewhere.
Many lost parents and grandparents in Auschwitz or other Nazi death camps, but today were being joined in their journey back by children, grandchildren and even great-grandchildren.
A member of a delegation of survivors of the Auschwitz concentration camp and their families breaks into tears at the execution wall at the former Auschwitz I site on January 27, 2020 in Oswiecim, Poland
A member of the delegation breaks into tears in front of the extermination wall. Despite it being 75 years since the camp’s liberation the memories are still raw for many of the survivors who not only endured the torture of living through years inside, but also lost many of their loved ones
It is an emotional day for many of the elderly survivors for whom memories of being detained, tortured and the loss of loved ones remain raw decades on from being freed
Survivors who gathered at the former Nazi concentration camp shared their harrowing memories of what it was like to be imprisoned during World War II. Many said they returned to the site to keep alive the memories in order that the world would remember and ensure such an atrocity would never happen again
Polish President Andrzej Duda will be one of those leading the official ceremonies to mark the 75th anniversary since the Nazi concentration camp was liberated
Survivors gather for the ceremony to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. Historians estimate more than one million people were killed inside the prison – many of whom were Jews
Most of the 1.1 million people murdered by the Nazi German forces were Jewish, but among those imprisoned there were also Poles and Russians, and they will also be among those at the commemoration led by Polish President Andrzej Duda and the head of the World Jewish Congress, Ronald Lauder.
World leaders gathered in Jerusalem last week to mark the anniversary in what many saw as a competing observance.
Among who those gathered in Israel were Russian President Vladmir Putin, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, French President Emmanuel Macron and Britain’s Prince Charles.
Many of those who attended the ceremony today were in tears as they remembered their lost loved ones. Some of those who survived the concentration camp lost their entire families at the hand of the Nazis
A member of a delegation of survivors of the Auschwitz concentration camp takes a moment to mark the liberation of a camp where more than a million people were killed during WWII
The cold winter’s day cast a gloomy fog over the former death camp where thousands of Jews, Poles and Russians were imprisoned by the Nazis
Today’s ceremony in Auschwitz follows another one marking the 75th anniversary that took place in Israel last week which was marred by controversy after the Russian President claimed Poland played a role in triggering the war
Politics intruded on that event, with Duda boycotting it in protest after Putin claimed that Poland played a role in triggering World War II.
Duda had wanted a chance to speak before or after Putin to defend his nation’s record in face of those false accusations, but was not giving a speaking slot in Jerusalem.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy is expected at the event at Auschwitz, which is located in southern Poland, under German occupation during the war.
Poland’s President Andrzej Duda, seen at today’s commemorations, boycotted the ceremony in Israel last week after he was not given a speaking slot to defend his country
Today the Polish President, Andrezej Duda, and the President of Israel, Reuven Rivlin, could be seen arriving to lay wreaths in front of the monument at the camp in Oswiecim, Poland
President of Israel, Reuven Rivlin and the President of Poland, Andrzej Duda arrive to lay wreaths in front of the Monument to Rotamaster Witold Pilecki. During World War II, Pilecki volunteered for a Polish resistance operation that involved being imprisoned in the Auschwitz concentration camp in order to gather intelligence
People could be seen bowing their head in contemplation at the execution wall at the former Nazi concentration camp in Poland. Survivors who attended the ceremonies were all aged between 75 and 101 came from all over the world
Hundreds gathered on what is also Holocaust Memorial Day, at the site in Oswiecim, Poland to remember loved ones who were killed at the concentration camp. For some it is the only burial site for their parents, grandparents and siblings who were killed in the holocaust
A survivor of the Auschwitz concentration camp hugs a woman after laying wreaths in honor of victims who were killed or died while imprisoned inside its walls
Organizers of the event in Poland, the Auschwitz-Birkenau state memorial museum and the World Jewish Congress, sought to keep the spotlight on survivors.
‘This is about survivors. It’s not about politics,’ Head of the World Jewish Congress, Ronald Lauder said Sunday, gathering at the death camp with several survivors.
Lauder warned that leaders must do more to fight anti-Semitism, including by passing new laws to fight it.
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan can be seen with Holocaust survivor Renee Salt as they arrive to attend the ceremony of unveiling a plaque informing about financial support of London to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation during the ceremonies marking the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the camp and International Holocaust Victims Remembrance Day, in Oswiecim, Poland
Hundreds of the Nazi run camp survivors could be seen arriving at the site in Poland to mark 75 years since the Soviet Army arrived to liberate and free the thousands of prisoners from inside its walls
A delegation of survivors can be seen carrying wreaths towards the execution wall at the former Auschwitz site where so many of their loved ones were killed in the large gas chambers
A survivor talks to one of the officers at the site as the ceremony gets underway on January 27, 2020
Survivors were supported by each other, and their children and grandchildren, as they lay wreaths at the site where they suffered immense hunger, illness and so often faced death
An elderly survivor cries and wipes his face with the cloth hat, which many of them were wearing to symbolise the garments they wore as prisoners during World War Two
Survivors could be seen leaning on their loved ones as they attended the 75th commemoration of the liberation of Auschwitz
On the eve of the commemorations, survivors, many leaning on their children and grandchildren for support, walked through the place where they had been brought in on cattle cars and suffered hunger, illness and near death.
They said they were there to remember, to share their histories with others, and to make a gesture of defiance toward those who had sought their destruction.
‘We want the next generation to know what we went through and that it should never happen again,’ Auschwitz survivor David Marks, 93, said earlier at the former death camp, his voice breaking with emotion.
Thirty-five members of his immediate and extended family of Romanian Jews were killed in Auschwitz, the largest of Nazi Germany’s camps that has come to symbolise the six million European Jews who died in the Holocaust.
Some 200 survivors of the Nazi camp returned to the place to share their stories with others, to remember those who had gone before and to send a gesture of defiance towards those who had sought their destruction
Many of the survivors said they wanted to come to pay homage to those they had lost during the war, as well as to draw the world’s attention to the atrocities as a reminder to not let history repeat itself
A young relative of one of the holocaust survivors can be seen in front of the wreaths and flowers lain in front of a wall at the former Nazi German concentration camp that was also used as one of the main extermination sites by the Nazis during WWII
A man can be seen carrying a wreath during a ceremony that marked 75 years since they were set free from the concentration camp. Auschwitz is the most infamous of all the concentration camps during the war, as it was the biggest of all the Nazi-run camps and was the site of huge gas chambers that were used to kill people
For some, the camp is now the only burial ground for their parents and grandparents, and they will be saying kaddish, the Jewish prayer for the dead.
‘I have no graves to go to and I know my parents were murdered here and burned. So this is how I pay homage to them,’ said Yvonne Engelman, a 92-year-old who came from Australia, joined by three more generations now scattered around the globe.
She recalled being brought in from a ghetto in Czechoslovakia by cattle car, being stripped of her clothes, shaved and put in a gas chamber.
By some miracle, the gas chamber that day did not work, and she went on to survive slave labor and a death march.
Some 200 survivors traipsed through the site on the cold winter’s day, marking the 75 years since the Soviet Army liberated the camp effectively ending the years of torture many of them endured as prisoners during World War Two
These two men were among the 7,000 who survived years of forced labor and torture at the hands of the Nazis inside the camp located in the Polish city of Oswiecim
One of the 7,000 survivors freed from the camp on January 7, 1945 when the Soviet Army liberated it. She looks on 75 years later as officials and fellow survivors mark the anniversary of the day they were finally freed from the continual torture of life inside Auschwitz
Many of the survivors wore striped scarves, which are reminiscent of the uniforms they were made to wear while inside the concentration camps, as they arrived to mark the 75th anniversary of the camp’s liberation
A 96-year-old survivor, Jeanette Spiegel, was 20 when she was brought to Auschwitz, where she spent nine months.
Today she lives in New York City and is fearful of rising anti-Semitic violence in the United States.
‘I think they pick on the Jews because we are such a small minority and it is easy to pick on us,’ she said, fighting back tears.
‘Young people should understand that nothing is for sure, that some terrible things can happen and they have to be very careful. And that, God forbid, what happened to the Jewish people then should never be repeated.’
Survivors hold a large wreath that is to be laid at the execution wall in a camp where an estimated one million people were killed. Those who survived shared their stories of being brought in by cattle car, being stripped of clothes and shaved upon arrival at the camp. Some were even sent to the gas chambers, only to survive by chance as the chamber did not work
Survivor Igor Malicki, in his nineties, arrives to attend a wreath-laying ceremony at the ‘death wall’ at the camp. Many of the survivors who visited the camp were aged from 75 – an elderly woman who was born in the camp – to 101
Mr Malicki was 89 when he first returned to Auschwitz, five years ago, at what was the then 70th anniversary of the camp’s liberation
Holocaust survivors walk below the gate with its inscription ‘Work sets you free’ after a wreath laying at the death wall at the memorial site of the former German Nazi death camp Auschwitz
Polish President Andrzej Duda (C-back) and Director of the State Museum Auschwitz-Birkenau Piotr Cywinski (L-back) can be seen walking with a delegation of survivors and their families as they walk through the former camp that was one of the largest run by the Nazis during the war
London Mayor Sadiq Khan (pictured in Poland) pledged £300,000 to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation, arguing that the institution plays a vital role in educating Londoners visiting the site on the horrors of the Holocaust
Polish President Andrzej Duda (L) and Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin (R) stand next to Zofia Optulowicz (C), daughter of Polish Auschwitz hero Witold Pilecki. During World War II, Pilecki volunteered for a Polish resistance operation that involved being imprisoned in the Auschwitz concentration camp in order to gather intelligence that he sent to the Western Allies
WHAT WAS THE AUSCHWITZ CONCENTRATION CAMP?
Auschwitz was a concentration and extermination camp used by the Nazis during World War Two.
The camp, which is located in Poland, was made up of three main sites. Auschwitz I, the original concentration camp, Auschwitz II-Birkenau, a combined concentration/extermination camp and Auschwitz III–Monowitz, a labour camp, with a further 45 satellite sites.
Birkenau became a major part of the Nazis’ ‘Final Solution’, whereby they sought to rid Europe of Jews.
An estimated 1.3 million people were sent to the camp, of whom at least 1.1 million died – around 90 percent of which were Jews.
Since 1947, it has operated as Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, which in 1979 was named a World Heritage Site by Unesco.
Auschwitz was an extermination camp used by the Nazis in Poland to murder more than 1.1 million Jews
Since 1947, it has operated as Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, which in 1979 was named a World Heritage Site by Unesco