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Holocaust remembrance ceremony at Auschwitz death camp

January 27, 2023

Holocaust survivors took taking part in the ceremony 78 years after Soviet forces entered the concentration and extermination camp. An estimated 1.1 million people were murdered at the Auschwitz-Birkenau complex.

A surveillance tower at former Nazi concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz- Birkenau
Auschwitz-Birkenau was the largest Nazi concentration and extermination campImage: Omar Marques/Getty Images

The Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum in Oswiecim, Poland, held a ceremony on Friday to mark the liberation of the Nazi death camp and remember victims of the Holocaust. 

Holocaust survivors attended the ceremony, exactly 78 years after Soviet forces entered the concentration and extermination camp in 1945. 

Survivor recounts trauma of losing family

Eva Umlauf, who was born in 1942, was one of the youngest survivors of the camp. She said during the event Friday that only her mother, sister and herself survived the Nazis, but the rest of her family was murdered.

"For me, Auschwitz is a traumatizing part of my biography," Umlauf said. She said she survived the camp due to a "stroke of luck" but added that she grapples with survivor's guilt.  

Some 1.1 million people were murdered at the Auschwitz complex, which began operations in May 1940. Jews, Poles, Romani and Soviet prisoners of war were among the victims of the death camp.

The ceremony, which was being streamed online, was held under the honorary patronage of Polish President Andrzej Duda. The event's main theme focused on the planning, creation and expansion of the system of dehumanization and genocide at the death camp.

Piotr Cywinski, the director of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, said "Auschwitz did not just fall out of the sky."

"Auschwitz emerged out of the lust for power and megalomania," he said, referring to the Nazi regime. 

Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff and others take part in the event at the Memorial and Museum Auschwitz-Birkenau
Attendees at the event, including US Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff, placed candles in remembrance of the victimsImage: Bartosz Siedlik/AFP/Getty Images

Other guests at the event in Poland include Doug Emhoff, the husband of US Vice President Kamala Harris. Russian officials have not been invited to the event, amid the invasion of Ukraine.  

UN chief Guterres says social media helps fuel extremism

The UN General Assembly has designated January 27 as International Holocaust Rememberence Day, to commemorate the liberation of Auschwitz and remember the 6 million Jews who were murdered, along with other victims of Nazism.

Later on Friday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres spoke during a Holocaust memorial ceremony in New York City.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says that social media platforms are "complicit" in accelerating various forms of extremism, including anti-Semitism. Guterres made the comments during a speech to mark International Holocaust Day.

"They are profit-driven catalysts for moving extremism from the margins to the mainstream," Guterres said.

Guterres argued that social media platforms are complicit "by using algorithms that amplify hate to keep users glued to their screens." He added that advertisers were "subsidising this business model.

"The UN chief urged social media companies and governments to "stop the hate."

"We know how easily hate speech turns to hate crime, how verbal violence breeds physical violence, how diversity and social cohesion are undermined — as are the values and principles that bind us together," Guterres said.

wd/kb (AP, dpa)