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Thousands gather for Mauthausen concentration camp memorial

Thousands of people have marked the liberation of Austria's Mauthausen concentration camp by US troops 70 years ago. More than 50 survivors of Austria's largest concentration camp attended the ceremony.

Austrian political leaders and foreign dignitaries joined more than 22,000 people on Sunday to commemorate the liberation of the Mauthausen concentration camp by the US Army in 1945.

An ecumenical church service at the former camp site opened the day's ceremonies.

President Heinz Fischer and Chancellor Werner Faymann were among those in attendance at this year's special 70th anniversary commemoration.

Protestant bishop Michael Bunker told those in attendance to "never forget the victims."

Bunker used his sermon to say that the message of freedom, human dignity and human rights can not and must not be silenced.

Today, Bunker said, the world needs to reflect on historical events and think of all forms of forced labor around the world, especially the textile factories in Asia, child labor, prostitution and human trafficking.

Located about 12 miles (20 kilometers) away from the Austrian city of Linz, Mauthausen was specifically created to exterminate, by means of forced labor, the intelligentsia who opposed the Nazi regime in Germany and the countries it occupied. Around 200,000 prisoners from all over Europe passed through the camp during its seven years of operation, around half of whom died - beaten, gassed, starved, shot or worked to death in the nearby arms factories and granite quarries.

The Mauthausen concentration camp was liberated on May 5, 1945 by US troops, the last camp to have prisoners set free by the Allied forces.

Mauthausen website attacked

On Friday, the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe, the

website for the former concentration camp was the victim of a cyber attack

. Hackers uploaded images of child pornography to the site, and were thought to have carried out the attack with the anniversary of the war's end in mind.

The attack prompted the temporary deactivation of the page, according to the memorial's management.

Willi Mernyi, head of the Mauthausen committee, called the attack "simply disgusting," while Austrian Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner told reporters that her ministry was working with experts to discover the culprits behind this "sick, criminal" act as soon as possible.

"I simply cannot comprehend what sick minds stand behind such deeds," said the minister.

jlw/cmk (kna, dpa, AFP, AP)

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