On January 27, International Holocaust Remembrance day, we commemorate the day when the Soviet troops liberated Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi concentration camp and remember the Holocaust, honoring the millions of prisoners of war, disabled persons, homosexuals, Roma and Sinti gypsies, and Jews who were murdered.
The international day of commemoration was designated by the United Nations General Assembly on November 2005. It was decided upon a year after the assembly marked the 60ths anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps and the official end of the Holocaust.
The Holocaust Remembrance Day is also a national event in the UK and Italy.
In a Press Release, President Obama said today that we remember those whose lives were tragically taken due to senseless violence and killing.
“While this is a time for mourning and reflection, it is also the time for action. On this day, we recall the courage, spirit, and determination of those who heroically resisted the Nazis, exemplifying the very best of humanity. And like these courageous individuals, we must commit ourselves to resisting hate and persecution in all its forms.”
In New Zealand, Prime Minister John Key, whose mother escaped Europe on the eve of the Holocaust, launched an exhibition to mark the commemoration. The prime minister officially opened the exhibition, “Shadows of the Shoah” in Auckland on January 25 in front of Israel’s ambassador to New Zealand, Shemi Tzur and several Holocaust survivors.
Tzur said, “The Holocaust is an issue that is really close to my heart as it is for many people and the way New Zealand is taking such a strong interest in teaching about and commemorating the Holocaust is something that should be praised.”
In Poland, Holocaust survivors, politicians and dignitaries took part in ceremonies on Sunday to mark the Holocaust Remembrance Day. Amongst the invited guests were Russian Parliament’s chairman Sergey Naryshkin, Polish Culture Minister Bodgan Zdrojewski, former prisoners of war, clergy and various other politicians.
Serbia also commerated the liberation of the camps and the end of the Holocaust as survivors gathered at the site of former concentration camps in Belgrade.
Not all dignitaries, however, were able to strike the right tone on this day of commemoration, such as the former Italian Premier Silvo Berlusconi who sparked outrage at a ceremony in Milan when he praised Benito Mussolini for “having done good” in spite of the dictator’s anti-Jewish laws. Berlusconi further defended Mussolini for his alliance with Hitler, reasoning that it was always better to be on the winning side.