For the seventh time in history, Germany has marked an official Day of Remembrance for the Victims of National Socialism. The day was first officially proclaimed in 1996.
A day of guilt, grief and loss
It was no mere chance that Roman Herzog, then president, chose January 27 as the date to annually remember the victims of this most sorrowful chapter of German history.
On this day in 1945, the few surviving victims of concentration camp horror at Auschwitz were liberated. To this day, for Germans and much of human civilization, Auschwitz is the very name of genocide, and to say it evokes memories of the millions of people murdered by the Nazi regime.
Altogether, the regime systematically murdered between 5.3 and 6 million people from all over Europe. Most were Jews, but some 500,000 Sinti and Roma, known as "gypsies" were killed too, as were tens of thousands of political opponents, homosexuals and disabled people.
An hour of remembrance
As during the six previous remembrance days, Germany’s parliament will observe an "hour of remembrance" for all the victims, on Monday, January 28.
Presiding over the hour will be Poland’s ex-foreign minister, Bronislaw Geremek, along with Wolfgang Thierse, president of the Bundestag, the lower house of parliament.
Some 200 youths from around Germany and neighbouring countries have been invited to participate in the parliament’s ceremony.
Afterwards they will have a meeting for discussions with Geremek and Thierse on the theme "Memory and Future – Germans and Poles as Neighbours and Partners in Europe."
Throughout Germany on Monday, schools will present history lessons about the Holocaust as the country’s darkest hour – a mass murder like no other in history, which made prey of Jews and others pursued by the Nazi regime.