Auschwitz survivors pay homage as world remembers Holocaust

Published 01-27-2019

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WARSAW, Poland (AP) - The world marked International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Sunday amid a revival of hate-inspired violence and signs that younger generations know less and less about the genocide of Jews, Roma and others by Nazi Germany during World War II.

As survivors of Auschwitz marked the 74th anniversary of the notorious death camp's liberation, a far-right activist who served time in prison for burning an effigy of a Jew placed a wreath there with about 50 other Polish nationalists to protest the official observances.

Piotr Rybak said the group opposes the annual ceremony at Auschwitz to mark the camp's liberation by the Soviet army, the event that gave rise to the international Jan. 27 remembrance. Rybak claimed it glorifies the 1 million Jewish victims killed at the Auschwitz-Birkenau death complex and discounts the 70,000 Poles killed there.

"It's time to fight against Jewry and free Poland from them!" Rybak said as he marched to the site, according to a report by Polish daily newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza on its website.

Rybak's claim is incorrect. The ceremony at the state-run memorial site paid homage Sunday, as it does every year, to all of the camp's victims, both Jews and gentiles, while Christian and Jewish religious leaders recited a prayer in unison together. Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki also stressed that the Third Reich targeted Poles as well as Jews.

Since last year's observances, an 85-year-old French Holocaust survivor, Mireille Knoll, was fatally stabbed in Paris and 11 Jews were gunned down in a Pittsburgh synagogue during Shabbat services, the deadliest attack on Jews in U.S. history.

Human Rights First, a U.S. organization, recalled those killings and warned that "today's threats do not come solely from the fringe."

"In places such as Hungary and Poland, once proudly democratic nations, government leaders are traveling the road to authoritarianism," said Ira Forman, the group's senior adviser for combating anti-Semitism. "As they do so, they are distorting history to spin a fable about their nations and the Holocaust."

Former Auschwitz prisoners placed flowers early Sunday at an execution wall at Auschwitz, paying homage before the arrival of the nationalists at the same spot. They wore striped scarves that recalled their uniforms, some with the red letter "P," the symbol the Germans used to mark them as Poles.

Early in World War II, most prisoners were Poles, rounded up by the occupying German forces. Later, Auschwitz was transformed into a mass killing site for Jews, Roma and others, operating until the liberation by Soviet forces on Jan. 27, 1945.

In Germany, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas warned in an op-ed in

Human Rights First, a U.S. organization, recalled those killings and warned that "today's threats do not come solely from the fringe."

"In places such as Hungary and Poland, once proudly democratic nations, government leaders are traveling the road to authoritarianism," said Ira Forman, the group's senior adviser for combating anti-Semitism. "As they do so, they are distorting history to spin a fable about their nations and the Holocaust."

Former Auschwitz prisoners placed flowers early Sunday at an execution wall at Auschwitz, paying homage before the arrival of the nationalists at the same spot. They wore striped scarves that recalled their uniforms, some with the red letter "P," the symbol the Germans used to mark them as Poles.

Early in World War II, most prisoners were Poles, rounded up by the occupying German forces. Later, Auschwitz was transformed into a mass killing site for Jews, Roma and others, operating until the liberation by Soviet forces on Jan. 27, 1945.

In Germany, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas warned in an op-ed in the weekly Welt am Sonntag that across Europe populists are propagating nationalism and "far-right provocateurs are trying to downplay the Holocaust."

"We shall never forget. We shall never be indifferent. We must stand up for our liberal democracy," Maas wrote.

Over the past year, Germany has seen a rising number of often violent attacks against Jews carried out by neo-Nazis and Muslims, prompting the government to appoint a commissioner against anti-Semitism and to start funding a national registration office for anti-Semitic hate crimes.

The appearance by nationalists at Auschwitz comes amid a surge of right-wing extremism in Poland and elsewhere in the West. It is fed by a broader grievance many Poles have that their suffering during the war at German hands is little known abroad while there is greater knowledge of the Jewish tragedy.

However recent surveys show that knowledge of the atrocities during World War II is declining generally.

A new study released in recent days by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Again

Former Auschwitz prisoners placed flowers early Sunday at an execution wall at Auschwitz, paying homage before the arrival of the nationalists at the same spot. They wore striped scarves that recalled their uniforms, some with the red letter "P," the symbol the Germans used to mark them as Poles.

Early in World War II, most prisoners were Poles, rounded up by the occupying German forces. Later, Auschwitz was transformed into a mass killing site for Jews, Roma and others, operating until the liberation by Soviet forces on Jan. 27, 1945.

In Germany, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas warned in an op-ed in the weekly Welt am Sonntag that across Europe populists are propagating nationalism and "far-right provocateurs are trying to downplay the Holocaust."

"We shall never forget. We shall never be indifferent. We must stand up for our liberal democracy," Maas wrote.

Over the past year, Germany has seen a rising number of often violent attacks against Jews carried out by neo-Nazis and Muslims, prompting the government to appoint a commissioner against anti-Semitism and to start funding a national registration office for anti-Semitic hate crimes.

The appearance by nationalists at Auschwitz comes amid a surge of right-wing extremism in Poland and elsewhere in the West. It is fed by a broader grievance many Poles have that their suffering during the war at German hands is little known abroad while there is greater knowledge of the Jewish tragedy.

However recent surveys show that knowledge of the atrocities during World War II is declining generally.

A new study released in recent days by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany and the Azrieli Foundation found that 52 percent of millennials in Canada cannot name even one concentration camp or ghetto and 62 percent of millennials did not know that 6 million Jews were killed in the Holocaust.

Its findings were similar to a similar study carried out a year before in the United States.

In Britain, a new poll by the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust found that one in 20 adults in Britain do not believe the Holocaust took place.

The poll of more than 2,000 people released Sunday also found that nearly two-thirds of those polled either did not know how many Jews had been murdered or greatly underestimated the number killed during the Holocaust.

"Such widespread ignorance and even denial is shocking," chief executive Olivia Marks-Woldman said.

Israel's Ministry of Diaspora Affairs said in its Global Antisemitism Report released Sunday that 13 Jews were murdered in fatal attacks in 2018, marking the highest number of Jews murdered since a wave of attacks on Argentinian Jews in the 1990s.

The report found that around 70 percent of anti-Jewish attacks were anti-Israel in nature and that most of the attacks were led by neo-Nazis and white supremacists.

The United Nations recognized Jan. 27 as International Holocaust Remembrance Day in 2005.

____

Czarek Sokolowski in Oswiecim, Poland, Kirsten Grieshaber in Berlin, Gregory Katz in London and Aron Heller in Jerusalem contributed reporting.

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Survivors of Auschwitz gather on the 74th anniversary of the liberation of the former Nazi German death camp in Oswiecim, Poland, on Sunday, Jan. 27, 2019. They wore striped scarves that recalled their uniforms, some with the red letter "P," the symbol the Germans used to mark them as Poles. The observances come on International Holocaust Remembrance Day.(AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski) - The Associated Press


Polish far-right activists enter the former German Nazi death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau, on International Holocaust Remembrance Day in Oswiecim, Poland, Sunday, Jan. 27, 2019.(AP Photo) - The Associated Press


A Polish far-right activist, Piotr Rybak,right, and other nationalists gather outside the memorial site of Auschwitz in Oswiecim, Poland, on Sunday Jan. 27, 2019. Rybak has been imprisoned for burning the effigy of a Jew. He said his gatherings Sunday was an act of protest against the Polish government, which he accuses of remembering only Jews and not murdered Poles in yearly observances at the memorial site.(AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski) - The Associated Press


A survivor holds a poster at the former Nazi German concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz, as he attends ceremonies marking the 74th anniversary of the liberation of the camp in Oswiecim, Poland, Sunday, Jan. 27, 2019.(AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski) - The Associated Press


Former prisoners and their guests arrive for the ceremony marking the 74th anniversary of the liberation of KL Auschwitz-Birkenau, in Oswiecim, Poland, Sunday, Jan. 27, 2019.(AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski) - The Associated Press


Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki,left, and deputy Prime Minister Beata Szydlo ,right,place candles at the Monument to the Victims at the former Nazi German concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz II-Birkenau, during on International Holocaust Remembrance Day in Oswiecim, Poland, Sunday, Jan. 27, 2019.(AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski) - The Associated Press


A Polish far-right activist, Piotr Rybak,right, and other nationalists gather outside the memorial site of Auschwitz in Oswiecim, Poland, on Sunday Jan. 27, 2019. Rybak has been imprisoned for burning the effigy of a Jew. He said his gatherings Sunday was an act of protest against the Polish government, which he accuses of remembering only Jews and not murdered Poles in yearly observances at the memorial site.(AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski) - The Associated Press


Former prisoners place candles and flowers at the Death Wall marking the 74th anniversary of the liberation of KL Auschwitz-Birkenau, in Oswiecim, Poland, Sunday, Jan. 27, 2019.(AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski) - The Associated Press


Former prisoners place candles and flowers at the Death Wall marking the 74th anniversary of the liberation of KL Auschwitz-Birkenau, in Oswiecim, Poland, Sunday, Jan. 27, 2019.(AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski) - The Associated Press


Police stand between anti-fascist protesters and a group of Polish nationalists who want to place a wreath at Auschwitz in honor of Poles murdered by the Germans, in Oswiecim, Poland, on Jan. 27, 2019. The nationalists are led by a far-right activist, Piotr Rybak, who has been imprisoned for burning the effigy of Jew. He calls it an act of protest against the Polish government, which he accuses of remembering only Jews and not murdered Poles in yearly observances at the memorial site. That claim is false. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski) - The Associated Press


Former prisoners and their guests arrive for the ceremony marking the 74th anniversary of the liberation of KL Auschwitz-Birkenau, in Oswiecim, Poland, Sunday, Jan. 27, 2019.(AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski) - The Associated Press


A survivor is reflected in the window of a barrack at the site of the former Nazi German concentration and extermination camp KL Auschwitz during ceremonies marking the 74th anniversary of the liberation of the camp in Oswiecim, Poland, Sunday, Jan. 27, 2019.(AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski) - The Associated Press


Former prisoners place candles and flowers at the Death Wall marking the 74th anniversary of the liberation of KL Auschwitz-Birkenau, in Oswiecim, Poland, Sunday, Jan. 27, 2019.(AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski) - The Associated Press


Visitor walks at through the former Nazi concentration camp in Terezin, Czech Republic, Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019. A unique collection of some 4,500 drawings by children who were interned at the Theresienstadt concentration camp during the Holocaust now displayed in the Pinkas Synagogue, still attracts attention even after 75 years since their creation. The drawings depict the everyday life as well hopes and dreams of returning home. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek) - The Associated Press


An unnamed monument at the former Nazi concentration camp in Terezin, Czech Republic, Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019. A unique collection of some 4,500 drawings by children who were interned at the Theresienstadt concentration camp during the Holocaust now displayed in the Pinkas Synagogue, still attracts attention even after 75 years since their creation. The drawings depict the everyday life as well hopes and dreams of returning home. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek) - The Associated Press


A cat walks through the cemetery of the former Nazi concentration camp in Terezin, Czech Republic, Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019. A unique collection of some 4,500 drawings by children who were interned at the Theresienstadt concentration camp during the Holocaust now displayed in the Pinkas Synagogue, still attracts attention even after 75 years since their creation. The drawings depict the everyday life as well hopes and dreams of returning home. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek) - The Associated Press


A visitor looks at the collection of drawings at the Jewish Museum in Prague, Czech Republic, Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019, made by Jewish children who passed through the Terezin Ghetto during WWII. A unique collection of some 4,500 drawings by children who were interned at the Theresienstadt concentration camp during the Holocaust still attracts attention even after 75 years since their creation. The drawings depict the everyday life as well hopes and dreams of returning home. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek) - The Associated Press


Visitors walk through the cemetery of the former Nazi concentration camp in Terezin, Czech Republic, Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019. A unique collection of some 4,500 drawings by children who were interned at the Theresienstadt concentration camp during the Holocaust now displayed in the Pinkas Synagogue, still attracts attention even after 75 years since their creation. The drawings depict the everyday life as well hopes and dreams of returning home. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek) - The Associated Press


The cemetery of the former Nazi concentration camp in Terezin, Czech Republic, Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019. A unique collection of some 4,500 drawings by children who were interned at the Theresienstadt concentration camp during the Holocaust now displayed in the Pinkas Synagogue, still attracts attention even after 75 years since their creation. The drawings depict the everyday life as well hopes and dreams of returning home. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek) - The Associated Press


Tourists visit the Pinkas synagogue in Prague, Czech Republic, Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019. A unique collection of some 4,500 drawings by children who were interned at the Theresienstadt concentration camp during the Holocaust now displayed in the Pinkas Synagogue, still attracts attention even after 75 years since their creation. The drawings depict the everyday life as well hopes and dreams of returning home. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek) - The Associated Press


In this Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2019 photo, Holocaust survivor Cipora Feivlovich gives an interview to The Associated Press at her house in Jerusalem. As the world commemorates the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, death camp survivor Feivlovich marks her own personal milestone as she turns 92. She's spent her most recent birthdays recounting to audiences in Israel and Germany her harrowing experiences in the infamous camp, where her parents, brother and best friends all perished. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner) - The Associated Press


Silhouetted against an image of a death camp prisoner, an actress of the Romania's Jewish State Theatre rehearses the musical drama "The Lights of the Ghetto" a mix of music and stories by Holocaust survivors in Bucharest, Romania, Saturday, Jan. 26, 2019, a day before the premiere on International Holocaust Remembrance Day. About 280,000 Romanian Jews and 11,000 Romanian Roma, or Gypsies, were deported and killed during WWII when Romania was ruled by a pro-nazi regime. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda) - The Associated Press


An actor of the Romania's Jewish State Theatre rehearse the musical drama "The Lights of the Ghetto" a mix of music and stories by Holocaust survivors in Bucharest, Romania, Saturday, Jan. 26, 2019, a day before the premiere on International Holocaust Remembrance Day. About 280,000 Romanian Jews and 11,000 Romanian Roma, or Gypsies, were deported and killed during WWII when Romania was ruled by a pro-nazi regime. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda) - The Associated Press


Actors of the Romania's Jewish State Theatre rehearse the musical drama "The Lights of the Ghetto" a mix of music and stories by Holocaust survivors in Bucharest, Romania, Saturday, Jan. 26, 2019, a day before the premiere on International Holocaust Remembrance Day. About 280,000 Romanian Jews and 11,000 Romanian Roma, or Gypsies, were deported and killed during WWII when Romania was ruled by a pro-nazi regime. Text reads "Sing a song for me - Sing with your soul and from your heart". (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda) - The Associated Press


Silhouetted against an image of a death camp prisoner, an actress of the Romania's Jewish State Theatre rehearses the musical drama "The Lights of the Ghetto" a mix of music and stories by Holocaust survivors in Bucharest, Romania, Saturday, Jan. 26, 2019, a day before the premiere on International Holocaust Remembrance Day. About 280,000 Romanian Jews and 11,000 Romanian Roma, or Gypsies, were deported and killed during WWII when Romania was ruled by a pro-nazi regime. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda) - The Associated Press


A young man stands in front of the Holocaust Memorial after he laid down a red rose on a slab of the memorial to commemorate the victims of the Nazis in Berlin, Sunday, Jan. 27, 2019. The International Holocaust Remembrance Day marks the liberation of the Auschwitz Nazi death camp on Jan. 27, 1945. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber) - The Associated Press


A red rose lies on a slab of the Holocaust Memorial to commemorate the victims of the Nazis in Berlin, Sunday, Jan. 27, 2019. The International Holocaust Remembrance Day marks the liberation of the Auschwitz Nazi death camp on Jan. 27, 1945. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber) - The Associated Press


A red rose lies on a slab of the Holocaust Memorial to commemorate the victims of the Nazis in Berlin, Sunday, Jan. 27, 2019. The International Holocaust Remembrance Day marks the liberation of the Auschwitz Nazi death camp on Jan. 27, 1945. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber) - The Associated Press


Survivors of Auschwitz arrive at the International Monument to the Victims of Fascism at the former Nazi German concentration and extermination camp KL Auschwitz II-Birkenau walk to place candles on International Holocaust Remembrance Day in Oswiecim, Poland, Sunday, Jan. 27, 2019.(AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski) - The Associated Press


Survivors attend a commemoration event in the so-called "Sauna" building at the former Nazi German concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz II-Birkenau, on International Holocaust Remembrance Day in Oswiecim, Poland, Sunday, Jan. 27, 2019.(AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski) - The Associated Press


Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki speaks at a commemoration event in the so-called "Sauna" building at the former Nazi German concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz II-Birkenau, former Auschwitz death camp on International Holocaust Remembrance Day in Oswiecim, Poland, Sunday, Jan. 27, 2019.(AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski) - The Associated Press


Polish far-right activists enter the former German Nazi death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau, on International Holocaust Remembrance Day in Oswiecim, Poland, Sunday, Jan. 27, 2019.(AP Photo) - The Associated Press