Thousands have paid homage to Holocaust victims, marching in silence at Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi concentration camp. The event coincided with Israel's Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Thousands of people on Monday marched under Auschwitz's infamous gate, which still bears the message "Arbeit macht frei" (Work will set you free); the brazen lie that greeted the camp's inmates on their arrival in the latter years of the Second World War. They proceeded in silence to the other main section of the concentration camp, Birkenau, roughly 3 kilometers (2 miles) away. At Birkenau's stone memorial, they watched a recorded message from Israeli President Shimon Peres.
Former inmates who survived internment in the concentration camp were among the roughly 11,000 people present for the annual display in Poland. As usual, they had come from all over the world.
Participants then lit six torches in tribute, a symbol for the six million dead. The "March of the Living" was first held in 1988.
Israel held a two-minute silence on Monday as the country paid homage to Jews killed during the Holocaust. US Secretary of State John Kerry and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attended a ceremony at the Yad Vashem memorial in Jerusalem. Israel remembers the victims of the Holocaust a week before its national Independence Day, not on the International Holocaust Remembrance Day of January 27.
This year's ceremonies also paid homage to the doomed Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of 1943, just ahead of the 70th anniversary of its launch on April 19. It was the first uprising against Nazi rule of its kind during the war, though it was crushed within a month by Nazi forces with vastly superior numbers and firepower.
Poland was home to pre-war Europe's largest Jewish community. It also became the site of six Nazi concentration and extermination camps.
Auschwitz-Birkenau, in occupied Poland, was the largest Nazi concentration camp. More than a million people, the majority of them Jews, are thought to have died at Auschwitz alone between 1942 and 1945. The Soviet Red Army liberated the camp on January 27, 1945, just over three months before the German surrender.
msh/ccp (AFP, AP, dpa)