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January 27 marks Germany's Day of Remembrance for victims of Nazism. The Bundestag has held its annual commemorative ceremony. An Israeli delegation has visited Auschwitz-Birkenau to remember its liberation in 1945.
A number of events across Germany will take time to reflect on the country's Nazi past on Monday, the annual day of commemoration for the victims of National Socialism.
Germany's parliament began its yearly memorial at 1400 local time (1300 UTC) with representatives from the German government, as well as guests from other nations, in attendance. Russian author Daniil Granin gave the keynote speech. The 95-year-old writer is a survivor of both the siege of Leningrad - which also marks its 70th anniversary on Monday - and of Auschwitz.
In his opening remarks, parliamentary President Norbert Lammert remembered the loss of life under Nazi terror, including the some 1 million deaths in the siege of Leningrad and the millions who perished in the Holocaust.
"Today, we remember all those...whose rights, property...and homes were snatched away from them," Lammert said.
Ahead of Monday's events, Israel's ambassador to Germany called on people not to forget the significance of the memorial.
"The holocaust is a tragedy for all of humankind," Israeli ambassador Yakov Hadas-Handelsmann wrote in the Germany newspaper, the Berlin Morgenpost. "[The day of remembrance] reinforces our endeavors that it never happen again."
Also on Monday, German parliamentary President Norbert Lammert was to meet with youth groups for a podium discussion, while the parliament's vice president, was to open an exhibit looking at euthanasia under the Nazi regime.
69th anniversary for Auschwitz
Coinciding with services in Germany, a 61-member parliamentary delegation from Israel's parliament - the Knesset - gathered at Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland on Monday. Guests included a delegation from Germany and Holocaust survivors.
The leader of Israel's delegation and head of the country's labor party, Isaac Herzog, said so many travelled to Auschwitz this year "to cry, but also to be aware that such horror can take place again."
"The world's Jewish population must work to create "a different world, a hopeful future, a world without fear where a Jew will be safe in any and every place," adding that otherwise "we give in to Auschwitz."
The German and Israeli delegations were reportedly scheduled to meet later in the day in Krakow for a roundtable discussion on modern anti-semitism.
In 1996, former German President Roman Herzog proclaimed January 27 the Day of Remembrance for Victims of National Socialism in an effort to stress the importance of vigiliance toward intolerance and hate.
Liberated by Soviet troops
The date was chosen for its significance in Holocaust history: on January 27, 1945, Soviet troops liberated Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi concentration camp in German-occupied Poland where over one million men, women and children were killed.
The United Nations designated the same day in 2006 as the International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust.
Over six million people perished in concentration camps from forced labor, starvation, disease or extermination. The majority of the victims were Jews.
The Nazi regime sent hundreds of thousands of others to their deaths during their reign of terror, whom the state deemed degenerate or a political threat, including the disabled, the mentally ill, homosexuals, Sinti and Roma, political enemies and members of religious organizations.
Ever vigilant, says Ban
In a video message, UN chief Ban Ki-moon recalled a visit he made to Auschwitz last November and said the United Nations was "founded to prevent any such horror from happening again."
"Yet tragedies from Cambodia to Rwanda to Srebrenica show that the poison of genocide still flows, Ban said, adding that Auschwitz was a "systematic murder unique in human history."
"We must be ever vigilant against bigotry, extremist ideologies, communal tensions and discrimination against minorities. And we must teach our children well."
kms/rc, ipj (AFP, dpa, epd)