Sharon leads Holocaust memorial at Auschwitz
6 May 2005, WARSAW/OSWIECIM - Auschwitz, the former Nazi concentration camp, was under tight security on Thursday as Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and a record 20,000 young Jews from around the globe gathered to honour Holocaust victims with the 14th annual March of the Living.
6 May 2005
WARSAW/OSWIECIM - Auschwitz, the former Nazi concentration camp, was under tight security on Thursday as Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and a record 20,000 young Jews from around the globe gathered to honour Holocaust victims with the 14th annual March of the Living.
Polish Prime Minister Marek Belka and Hungarian Premier Ferenc Gyurcsany joined Sharon in leading ceremonies honouring the camp's almost 1.5 million victims. The vast majority were European Jews.
This year's March of the Living, which falls just months after the January 60th anniversary of the camp's liberation by Soviet troops, is the largest ever.
The mournful wail of a Shofar, or Jewish ceremonial ram's horn, sounded the beginning of the march on Thursday which coincides with Holocaust Martyrs and Heroes Remembrance Day, honouring the 6 million Jews who fell victim to Nazi genocide during World War Two.
Some 10,000 Jewish youths joined by more than 1,000 young Poles first passed through the black wrought-iron arches of the infamous 'Arbeit Macht Frei' ('Work makes you free') gate at Auschwitz.
They then embarked on the solemn three-kilometre 'death march' between the Auschwitz and Birkenau former death camps.
Many young Jews either waved or wrapped themselves in blue-and- white Israeli flags emblazoned with the Star of David, a Jewish symbol once also used by the Nazis to identify Jews.
Auschwitz survivors joined the young marchers, some for the first time since their imprisonment at the camp.
"I am confident that all my colleagues - world leaders - remember how the world stood by in silence. Do not let them forget - remember the silence of the world," Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon told the more than 20,000 attending the ceremonies.
Speaking among the notorious weather-beaten blackish grey wooden barracks of Birkenau, Sharon also urged thousands of Jewish youths, many of them grandchildren of Holocaust survivors and Polish youths never to forget the crime of genocide which ravaged the Jewish nation.
"You are standing here with your heads bowed, but standing in pride," said Sharon.
"Many of you probably have eyes filled with tears. Do not stop those tears. Let them flow and remember them. Remember the pain and rage which prompted them," he said.
"And remember one more thing - remember who you are: free Jewish youngsters, members of a nation which is spread throughout all continents, in all countries, but whose hearts are in one place: the country which is its own - the State of Israel, the Jewish State."
In a deeply emotional address, Auschwitz survivor and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Eli Wiesel spoke out strongly against fanaticism and racism as the root causes of genocide.
"It is here that we all became orphans," he said of Nazi Germany's largest death camp. "It is here that we all lost our humanity and innocence."
Poland's Prime Minister Marek Belka underscored the vital importance of new projects and initiatives to revive the memory of Poland's pre-war Jewish community, then the largest in Europe.
"The Holocaust committed by the Nazis turned this country - where most of European Jews used to live and where their culture used to flourish - into a massive grave," Belka said. "That is why initiatives to revive Jewish culture in Poland are so important."
The Polish leader pointed to the Jewish Culture Festival in Krakow's ancient Jewish district of Kazimierz, plans for the construction of a Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw, and to teaching young Poles about their country's pre-war Jewish heritage, as examples of remembrance.
"Doing so, we try to restore not only the memory of the Holocaust, but also the memory of the presence of the Jewish people in Poland and their contribution to the development of our society and its culture," he said.
During the tearful ceremonies, mourners said the Kaddish, the Jewish prayer for the dead, and lit candles along the notorious railway line of the Birkenau camp which brought victims to their death from across Europe. Young Jews also sang songs of mourning while names of Holocaust dead were read aloud in tribute.
Before the solemn afternoon march, young Jews and Poles also laid flowers, prayed and paid respect to those who perished at the former Auschwitz camp, which remained closed on Monday to the general public as a special security measure.
Subject: German news