International Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremonies under way | News | DW | 27.01.2016
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International Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremonies under way

A number of events are underway around the world to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day. January 27 also marks the 71st anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp.

The guest of honor at the German Bundestag's hour of remembrance on Wednesday was Ruth Klüger, an Austrian Auschwitz survivor who flew from the United States to accept the invitation to speak in front of the Bundestag.

She spoke of "the coldest winter of her life" in 1944 and 1945, when Auschwitz was liberated. She had spent months leading up to the liberation working as a forced laborer.

She lied about her age when she arrived at Auschwitz - she was 12 but was tipped off by another prisoner to say she was 15 - which landed her a spot on the work crew. Other prisoners who arrived with Klüger weren't so lucky, and were sent to the gas chambers at Auschwitz. This would have likely been Klüger's fate had she not been sent to work.

Prior to Klüger's speech, Bundestag President Norbert Lammert opened the hour of remembrance by announcing the opening of a new exhibit outlining the history of the more than 13 million men, women, and children from all over Europe who were forced to work for the Nazi regime.

German politicians spoke in front of a full house in the German Bundestag to mark Germany's annual recognition of its role in the Holocaust of World War II that saw 6 million Jews and other monitories killed at the hands of the Nazi regime.

Israel releases Eichmann letter

On Wednesday, Israel released a hand-written letter from Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann. Eichmann was involved in the logistics of Adolf Hitler's "Final Solution," which saw victims of the Nazi regime rounded up, brought to concentration camps, and executed. The letter was written two days before Eichmann's execution in 1962.

The letter was released by current Israeli President Reuven Rivlin at a ceremony to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day. It was addressed to Yitzhak Ben-Zvi, Israel's president at the time.

"There is a need to draw a line between the leaders responsible and the people like me forced to serve as mere instruments in the hands of the leaders," Eichmann's letter read. "I am not able to recognize the court's ruling as just, and I ask, Your Honor Mr. President, to exercise your right to grant pardons, and order that the death penalty not be carried out."

The letter was signed in Jerusalem on May 29, 1962. On May 31, Eichmann was hanged.

Obama due at Yad Vashem ceremony

In Washington, US President Barack Obama is scheduled to honor four people who risked their lives to protect Jews during the Holocaust. The ceremony is to take place later on Wednesday at the Israeli embassy in Washington and will see four medals awarded posthumously.

The Righteous Among the Nations medals are awarded by the Yad Vashem Holocaust education and research in Jerusalem. It represents an official title awarded on behalf of Israel and the Jewish people to non-Jews who took risks to help Jews during the Holocaust.

Two of the award winners were Americans, while two came from Poland. Their medals will be accepted by relatives.

The Righteous Among the Nations ceremony is taking place in the United States for the first time.

mz/jil (AFP, Reuters)

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